A Wild, Joyful Night With U2 At Heinz Field

Achievement: #33. See 4 New Bands Live

Last night, I had the chance to finally see One Of Those Bands I’d Love To See Someday. I presume that everyone has a list like this. These are the bands that you’ve loved for a long time, but who are a little too ‘big’ for you to casually take in a show. I’ll use the Rolling Stones as an example: how many people see a video of a Rolling Stones performance (like, say, the Superbowl halftime show), and say, “Man, I’d love to see those guys someday”? But how many people actually *get* to do that, due to barriers like insane cost of tickets, rare touring schedule, or living somewhere not on the tour route?

And if you don’t have a list like this, you should make one! We all know I’m a fan of lists (otherwise I wouldn’t have this blog), but just like it’s really important to have a mental list of ‘Top Ten Best Albums of All Time’ (you can ask me mine someday – it shifts around a little from year to year, but stays pretty consistent), it’s important to have a list of bands you’d love to see someday, just in case they come to your town. On my list were The Cure, U2, Rod Stewart, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Bruce Springsteen (and probably more, if I really sit down and think about it). We were lucky enough to catch the Cure at the Hollywood Bowl when we lived in LA, and Michael surprised me with tickets to Rod Stewart for Christmas the first year we were dating. But the other three bands have managed to elude me thus far.

Until last night, that is, when we were able to tick off one on the list!

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Last night, I finally got to realize my childhood dream of seeing U2 live!! And even though I did not get to see the mullet that I loved so dearly as a six-year-old, it was still kind of basically just as awesome as I thought it would be. πŸ™‚

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We arrived early to catch the opener. Traffic was INSANE, as the concert was held at Heinz Field, so the regular downtown rush hour traffic mixed with the concert traffic of 60,000+ fans coming into the city. It took us an hour by bus to get from our house in Squirrel Hill to the Hill District (a distance of just a few miles), so we got out way early and walked 2.5 miles to the stadium. It was apparently worth it: at no point during our walk did a vehicle that we passed ever catch up to or pass us! And once we arrived at the stadium, we were able to explore a bit and get some pictures of the awesome stage setup. That massive beast of a stage is known as The Claw, and it could be seen from the Ft. Duquesne Bridge, among other locations in the city!

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You could tell this was going to be a big show, based on the size of the burgers alone!

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Interpol opened for U2. This is a band that Michael has liked for several years, so he was excited to see them. Unfortunately, the opening bands at stadium shows just never seem to get the right acoustics (we were trying to analyze why this is, and the best explanation we came up with was extra reverb from the fact that the seats are not yet full of human beings, who will dampen the sound, unlike the bright yellow plastic chairs). I think Interpol could be really good in a smaller venue, even like Consol (the hockey arena here in Pittsburgh), but their sound just kind of got lost in the massiveness of Heinz Field.

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After the opener finished, I went on a scavenger hunt to find this specific U2 tour shirt that I’d seen a few people wearing. We were in section 528 (farthest end from the river), and the only vendor selling these shirts was on the river-side of the stadium and first floor. However, my walk allowed me to get some awesome pictures of this lovely city! This is a Pittsburgh tradition: those with boats will sit outside the stadiums to listen to concerts for free on the water!

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I also got a picture of the back view of the Claw, as seen from the river endzone. This kind of gives you an idea of the perspective of how huge this thing was: it is apparently 167 feet high!!

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There was a huuuuuge line at the merch vendor on the ground floor, but with persistence, I got up to the front. It was a crazy experience: they were running out of so much of the stuff, and they would announce, “We’re out of mediums in this style!” and people would drop out of line. My persistence paid off: I got the shirt that I wanted, and it was the absolute last one of its style! I had the guy pull it off the display, so I left the price tag on it for proof to show my fellow concert-goers. (Clearly, I have learned my lesson after missing out on the DMB Caravan tour shirt!)

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As we were waiting for the gentlemen to take the stage, they showed statistics on the screen. Topics ranged from population details, time in different cities worldwide, environmental facts, health facts, and a rolling tally of how many people were at Heinz Field, which kept going up in digits as people entered the gates.

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Here we are, so excited to see U2!!

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Finally, as the sun set on our beautiful city, the sounds of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” filled the main speakers, and amid dramatic smoke and lighting effects, U2 entered the stadium (from the same locker room entrance the Steelers come out of at each game). The crowd went wild!

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I’d read online that we would be hearing a lot from Achtung, Baby in light of its 20th anniversary (doesn’t that make you feel old, that you’ve been in love with a band for more than 20 years???), and they did not disappoint! They opened with “Even Better than the Real Thing.”

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I had, in my mind, a set of songs that I really, really wanted to hear last night. While I knew we pretty certainly wouldn’t get a “Baby Please Come Home for Christmas” (whatever, I freaking love that), I had my hopes up for this one: “Mysterious Ways.” This made three Achtung songs in a row (song #2 was “The Fly”).

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The next highlight of the show for me was “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” This was one of those moments in the show when the crowd was so engaged, across more than 60,000 people, it was like electricity. The whole crowd sang along with Bono.

The next song was “Stay (Faraway, So Close),” which opened after an intro by Bono about the genesis of the song. Although it didn’t appear on an album until Zooropa in 1993, they had begun to write it in their Berlin studio sessions for Achtung, Baby, and Bono described it as being a turning point of sorts in the construction of that album, despite its not being completed for the release. It was performed as a duet by Bono and the Edge on acoustic guitar. I didn’t get a picture of this fabulous moment, because I was just so lost in the song. This was definitely one of the most beautiful moments of the show for me.

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And after this amazing performance, they cut to a video of astronaut Mark Kelly in the international space station, saying hello to Pittsburgh. He held up different words, which floated in front of him in the zero gravity. The last two words? Beautiful Day. You know what came next! The part of the song that lists all of the different sights with “see the ____” was performed, kind of spoken-word-style by Mark Kelly, and then Bono came in, singing along with the last two. Such a neat event!!

They followed this up with “Elevation,” and then slipped into some more political songs with “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Miss Sarajevo.” I’ve always loved “Pride,” and I think it goes back to my fourth grade English teacher, Mrs. Vandenhengel, who used the song as an exercise with us while we were learning to analyze stories and poems. I remember breaking the song down and trying to figure out the symbolism, and who each of the people Bono sings about were (since none are named by name). I don’t think I ever hear that song without thinking about that moment of 4th grade English class, and Mrs. V is one of the reasons that I love writing so much today. I loved being able to share this story with Michael, too!

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Then, during “Zooropa,” the stage began to shift. The screen above the stage expanded into this honeycomb-like structure that reached from the top of the Claw straight to the stage floor!

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Here’s another shot of the honeycomb (both of these photos were taken during “Vertigo”). “Vertigo” got the crowd dancing again. So cool to see the people down in the GA sections jumping up and down together, like one big, massive being!

“Sunday, Bloody Sunday” was next, and I somehow did not get a picture of that, either. It was so, SO good. I’ve always loved the drum intro to that, and as soon as it started, the crowd went wild. Look, U2: I love all your hard-hitting straight rock stuff, like “Vertigo”, but I love, love, LOVE your early political stuff!!

Speaking of which, they next did a brief piece on the different humanitarian organizations that were being represented at the concert, including the One Campaign, Greenpeace, and Amnesty International, before launching into “Walk On,” which was written for and dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi, who was elected prime minister of Burma, but forced into house arrest for twenty years, finally being released in November of 2010. At the end, they played a video of her talking about the efforts of good-hearted people who protested for her release. Volunteers came onto the outside circle part of the stage with paper lanterns, which they placed on the floor and kept lit during the next song as well.

I am not really much of one for politics, but I really respect the way that U2 brings their political and humanitarian efforts to the front of their music and performance. It’s not the angry battles being debated on the floors of Congress here in the US – it’s a feeling of community, of a need to take care of each other, and a drive to do the right thing, the good thing, and the thing that most helps to remind us that we are all brothers and sisters, fighting the same fight. I know I have a tendency to be a bit of a silly hippy, but I was so moved by all of this last night. The statistics of the horrible things out there in this world are many, but often overshadowed by these are the statistics of the incredible things that people every day (and everyday people) are doing to help out those in need, and to protect those who cannot protect themselves. This is why I so very much love the old activist U2 songs – it is something very unique that they do.

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The next song was “One,” which is just the perfect example of this, and one of the most beautiful songs ever written. “One life / But we’re not the same / We get to carry each other, carry each other.”

This reminds me of something Dave Matthews used to say at the end of each concert: “You all take care of each other, byebye.” I love that. I love that we can all be brought together by incredible music like this, and go out with a new feeling of community, of the idea that we are all brothers and sisters, different as we may be in so many ways.

See, I meant it about the silly hippy stuff!

They closed the night after “One” with “Where the Streets Have No Name,” which was another great crowd-pleaser. Everyone was singing along, our voices filling the entire stadium. It was the perfect song to end the set.

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What then, would be the perfect song to open the encore? “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me,” of course! Yes, the song from the old Batman Forever soundtrack! This is one of the best soundtracks of all time, by the way, so go to your local used CD shop and get a copy and really appreciate it. This was a surprise, but I figured what better location than the place where they’ll be filming parts of the newest Batman movie in a month! I tried to capture the ‘Gotham City-ness’ of Pittsburgh behind the stage. Bono had a special microphone suspended from the ceiling that he could actually swing around the stage on.

Bono, you sexy older gentlemen, you can come to my city in your leather pants and leather jacket and swing around on a crazy microphone any time ::wink::

They went into “With or Without You” next, which was so emotional and beautiful, and then asked everyone to hold up their cell phones as they turned down the lights in the stadium to create ‘our own milky way’.

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The effect was pretty neat, and they finished off the night with “Moment of Surrender,” and then went into “Bad,” which once again had the crowd singing.

This was the last US date on the 360 tour, and the show had all the feelings of a ‘last tour date’ to it. This is now the third last tour date show I’ve been to (the previous two were Dave shows, at the Hollywood Bowl in 2007 and Wrigley Field last year), and there is such a different feeling in the air at the end of the night. You just see the guys standing there on the stage, hoping to stretch the last song out forever and ever and ever. You know they don’t want to leave, because they love this thing so much. You can’t help but catch that emotion from your seat in the crowd.

All in all, a fantastic night. It was worth the crazy traffic and the fact that my feet hurt after all that walking to get to the stadium. I mean, even though Bono and the Edge did not kiss (boy they got close several times!! way to ruin my fangirl dreams!), and the Edge did not perform any feats of strength (Michael assures me that just because the Edge wears skullcaps does not mean he performs feats of strength), it was still a phenomenal show. Thanks, U2, for helping me realize one of my childhood dreams!! πŸ™‚

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