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Adulation defined: U2’s Seattle Vertigo tour April 25, 2005

April 26th, 2005 · 4 Comments

(this is a bit long but I’m going to post these notes now for their timeliness…I may return to edit later…)

Last night a friend and I went to see U2 at Seattle’s Key Arena. I’d been looking forward to this concert for a while. It was fun to get out and get together with a friend. A luxury, certainly.

This was the second night of the Vertigo tour in Seattle and the first time I had seen U2.

Here are some notes and bad illegal pictures (Ticketmaster declared no cameras):

Not only was it my first time at U2, but it was my first time at a rock concert of this caliber. I’ve been to concerts but never one in an arena, where the tickets cost three digits, and the T-shirts cost nearly the same (one shirt from the Boy album was priced at $90).

Sitting in Key Arena, surrounded by rows of cheering fans, a sea of undulating arms and adoration, was a new experience for me. It felt strange to see a large crowd of thousands of people craving and crazy for four human beings in a band. Perhaps I was having an introvert moment, as someone who likes quiet conversations over big parties. Perhaps smaller concerts in intimate venues spoiled me. Am I too much of an individualist? Or perhaps the awkwardness came from the fact that I’m used to entertaining myself rather than sitting in an arena and paying others to amuse me for an evening. But I wondered whether any human being could be worthy of the kind of reception U2 was receiving.

We had two tickets in separate sections. My seat was in section 228 row 11. The view was good. However, once I sat down in the seat, I realized why the elevated sections are called nosebleed. I could feel it in my nose. So I snuck a seat down by Beth in the first row of section 226 where no one had claimed it. We had to sit up and lean towards the concrete wall in order to see the entire stage, but it was a good view, from the stage right side of the concert, close to the keyboard.

The opening act was Kings of Leon. I confess though that I wasn’t interested in them. The fact that our seats were near the speakers and the band had amped the bass loudly meant that my visceral organs were vibrating along with the beat.

Instead I decided to go strolling and shopping. Here’s a peek at the schwag for sale.


With shirts at $30 or more and programs at $20, I chose a few buttons and bracelets from the One campaign as gifts for my girls. While in line, I missed Eddie Vedder coming on stage to jam with KOL.

The show started, as mentioned in the previous review, around 9 pm. U2 came on stage surrounded by glittery electronic curtains of colorful beads for City of Blinding Lights, one of my favorites from the new album.


Our set list was similiar to this one, since it was the second night of the tour in Key Arena. Beautiful Day emerged with a few new lyrics for Seattle. Of course, one of the intriguing parts for me of a concert is discovering what the band will do new to the songs so familiar from recordings.

One aspect of U2 that doesn’t come across on the CDs is Bono’s high level of energy. He rocked and rolled, jumped, danced, swayed. I hope he doesn’t have to see an orthopedic surgeon anytime soon. I only say that as someone feeling my own age in my knees yet younger than he is. I’m not easy on my knees is a true statement indeed. My two-year-old would have a hard time keeping up with Bono. His voice may not be what it once was, weak at times last night, but his body and soul are still strong.

It’s amazing too that the four have stayed together as long as they have. I can’t find it now but once I saw on the internet somewhere Jason Wade of Lifehouse revealing advice Bono had given him: take care of your band.

Here’s a picture I took during New Year’s Day.


Bono mentioned faith in God at least twice. Before the start of Miracle Drug he began talking about why the band likes Seattle. I’m remembering his words to the best of my ability. He said something to the effect that in Seattle [you get] the feeling that people have faith in the future. This is where people imagined the twentyfirst century, he said (or something similiar). Then he talked about the necessity of both faith in God and faith in science: faith in God inspiring faith in science. The song itself, I believe, was dedicated to Jennifer.

My favorite moment came when the arena sang along with the band to Pride (In the Name of Love). My favorite concert moment, prior to U2, happened at a show where the artist let the fans sing his songs. Of course that song has personal meaning for me, taking me back in time to younger days. But there was something amazing and powerful when thousands of people sang together about One man in the name of love. Bono urged the crowd, Sing it for Dr. King!

Bono talked about dreaming when he described One, the campaign to make poverty history. ( Seattle P-I essay on One) He talked about having a dream, larger than an American dream or European dream, an African dream. During One, colorful flags from African nations streamed down the electronic curtains. A video snippet of a young African woman reading a piece on human rights felt both incomplete and moving. History will ask many questions of this time, the singer warned. How is it that this powerful civilization could allow so many to live in such intense poverty? (not his exact words) Concert goers could participate with cell phones and show support, in return seeing their names on the screens. Bono thanked the Gates Foundation (he bunks with the Gs when in town), Pearl Jam and Peter Buck of REM for their support. He talked about Seattle being involved with music, but somehow that particular train of thought turned into making musicians more active as they were in the 60s and 70s and continuing what was started then.

The show was political but I imagine U2 shows have always had that flavor. I had heard that Bono wore a headband with the Star of David, but that was an incomplete description: this headband also has Islamic and Christian symbols on it. As he pointed to the three and called out co-exist asking the crowd to repeat, I felt the response was weaker than it could have been. I wonder whether Bono was aware that the Northwest is one of the most unchurched/unreligious regions in the US, perhaps in the world. People here, I think, probably are not supporters of organized religion in general. So I wonder whether many in the crowd were disagreeing with the co-exist idea, only because Northwesterners tend not to believe in religion at all. Also we know little of religion-versus-religion conflict, compared to other areas of the country and world.

Pieces of When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again and The Hands that Built America were merged into Bullet the Blue Sky and combined with the headband, the lyrics themselves and various other aspects added to the emotional intensity for me.

Our encore included Original of the Species, Mysterious Ways and All Because of You. However, the band chose to end with Vertigo again, instead of 40. Perhaps reading U2 blogs and reviews isn’t helpful: I felt disappointed when the concert ended differently than I had read it would. (Also, Bono didn’t take a woman from the audience to dance with him, only a boy during Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own) Plus, I’m not crazy about the dizzy song with concentric circles. The second version featured a strobe light that sped up the intensity. During the first version, earlier in the night, Bono changed the end of the bridge Give me what I want.. to something that sounded like Shut up and F*** off! I don’t know if he was elaborating on the original lyrics or responding to them.

According to @U2 blog, this is the first time the set has ended without 40 which U2 Log described as as if they were a young band on their first tour and ran out of songs to play. How. very. odd.

Bono declared he was going to give an English lesson….the word encore comes from Latin(or was it Italian?)…which means to play the same f***ing song again! before breaking into Vertigo…

Afterwards, I took the time on the way home to process the concert. My ears rang for the rest of the night. I tried to sort through what it was that made me feel uncomfortable in Key Arena.

It was the first time in my life I had seen a large crowd devoted to someone. It was the first time I had seen a crowd so huge, and one so passionate in its adulation, waiting hours and spending hundreds of dollars for a 90 minute (plus encore) set. If Bono said Jump! no one would even stop to ask How high?! or Why?.

I think I know now why I didn’t become a rock star. Yes, I’m sure it’s obvious for many reasons, including the fact that I can’t carry a tune well even though I love writing lyrics. But I don’t think I would be comfortable with the crowds. I don’t believe any human being deserves that intense adoration. Okay, maybe the person who found the cure for cancer. Maybe. Yes, my biochemistry bias is showing.

But I’ve got to give Bono and the band credit for trying to channel that energy into ways that could change the world forever, not just one night of entertainment in an arena. Bono has a way with words. That was clear through the night. He chooses them carefully. The name of One has multiple meanings, from the statistics of one billion people living off of one dollar a day, to the idea of coming together as a whole, every one (or is it everyone), which were the first words called across the stage to open the show.

I suspect others, like me, enjoy the concert experience of coming together and singing songs everyone knows. There’s a powerful sense of unity. We’re all together here. We were all crazy enough to buy tickets and T-shirts. We’ve loved this band for decades, as I heard one woman murmur behind me. In the worship, which may or may not be misplaced, there’s a sense of oneness between band and crowd of thousands. And I think that’s what everyone desires somewhere inside. That sense of belonging. The mutual love and devotion. We want to believe we can be one.


For other Seattle reviews, see Moody Babe blog (including a U2 sighting), notes from a truth seeker or use Technorati and Feedster searches.

Tags: culture

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kirsten // Apr 26, 2005 at 11:00 am

    A few thoughts on the fanatic/adulation thing: I’m a fairly rabid Radiohead fan who’s been to eight concerts so far. (That seems like a lot until you meet the people who’ve been to twenty or thirty.) I can’t really speak about U2’s shows – I like them OK, but haven’t really listened to them since high school – but since U2 and Radiohead are often declared to have the best live shows, there may be some similarities.

    In some ways it feels glorious to temporarily surrender control to the person up on the stage. I am certainly not the slightest bit religious, but Radiohead shows are the closest thing to a religious experience for me. Does that mean I worship them? No no no. Does it mean I think Thom Yorke is a deity, or think I should do whatever he says? Certainly not. But he and the rest of Radiohead have the ability to conjure up such an intense feeling of exhilaration in a huge crowd, to make us feel like we just wouldn’t feel otherwise, for those few hours that we’re there. Perhaps it’s because I can’t get that emotion from religion that I love being able to find it in this musical environment instead. It is an addictive feeling, and many people follow the band around on tour because they just want more of it.

    But one of the things that’s key for me is that they don’t act like rock stars; Thom Yorke doesn’t swagger around the stage and yell at you to join in singing. The five of them seem like normal guys who just happen to have lucked into an incredible combined talent and are actually somewhat surprised about the whole thing. I think that’s part of what draws me to them – they don’t lord their power over the crowd; they don’t abuse your respect. I get the impression that Bono is more obviously manipulative.

    At these mega-concerts, it does help to be right up near the front. Nosebleed seats can still give you a good show, but the intensity fades dramatically the further away you get. Some of it is because when you’re up close to the band you’re constantly seeking eye contact with them, and when you get it, even for a flash, it’s an electric moment. You feel connected; you feel truly *there*. I’m starting to get too old to hold my ground in the pit, though, so I’ve gotta enjoy it while I can…

  • 2 Steven Noels // Apr 26, 2005 at 12:50 pm

    Hi Julie! Re: “glittery electronic curtains of colorful beads”: did you know those beads are “Made in Belgium”? http://www.barco.com/events/en/pressreleases/show.asp?index=1490

    Cheers, Steven.

  • 3 Chas Redmond // Apr 26, 2005 at 9:28 pm

    Great review. Really glad you feeling better, too. I agree with you that Bono is pushing a positive, “get-involved,” attitude and because of that he can get away with being somewhat arrogant. As for the whole religious thing, “enh!” I don’t get too excited by other’s subscriptions to this or that faith anymore. What’s so appealing about the Northwest is this sense of self-sufficiency and therefore no need for an assist from “god.” But, for those that need it or feel comfortable, “enh,” let ’em have their moment. I’d have been there for the rhythms and feeling of unity anyway – I’m just to parsimonious to spend that kind of money (that would buy a lot of food for a lot of folks!). Glad you got to go and had a good time. I do like their music and especially their early albums, before they got so electrified.

  • 4 joann // Apr 28, 2005 at 9:49 am

    thanks for sharing your experience.

    i think he’s trying to “make a difference” knowing he is in an influential position

    i think it is a good thing

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