After a 9 year wait, U2 finally made it back to our shores and what followed was an epic night of outstanding musicianship entwined with love and loyalty from fans around Australia and Worldwide.
I could hear Friday night’s gig from my balcony, as I live about 15 minutes away, and the anticipation just grew from that moment. The drums and guitars were thundering along with the light storm behind the clouds, the sound carrying across the skyline as the rain stopped and started throughout. Boy, this was some way to let Sydney know that you have arrived and I couldn’t wait for my turn.
There is much to watch and listen to as I join the queue at 3pm. Many different languages swirl around me as the line quickly lengthens and the poor cyclist who stacked it on the footpath right in front of us receives an ovation as he declares that he is ‘ok’. These are the days that etch into your memory. Moments in life like this are best shared and particular bands have this gift of not just music but of uniting like minds and personalities as we catch up with old friends and make new ones.
I actually think this could be my longest record yet waiting for a gig but the time actually passes quicker than I expected. Once inside, it is wonderful to see so many Sydneysiders make it out early for the support act. Despite a light sprinkling before ‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’, we were lucky the rain held off until the night was over. I have to admit, I didn’t know much of the support act’s songs, only some of the classic Oasis hits, but I’m a convert. I thoroughly enjoyed this band and feel we could be getting a headlining tour in the future that I would see without a doubt. Tunes like ‘Holy Mountain’, ‘It’s A Beautiful World’ and ‘This Is The Place’ stood out for me, with some ‘Wonderwall’ amongst other songs, and finishing with a great rendition of the Beatles ‘All You Need Is Love’. I was so happy with this set and I loved the honest and witty remarks from Gallagher scattered throughout the songs, it’s so refreshing in this day and age of artificial micro management. Now this is a guy you feel you could actually have a good conversation with.
It isn’t long to go now as the stadium fills to capacity. I try and look back but am surrounded by a sea of heads and I’m glad I made the early trek out. The atmosphere is really electric, with the overcast sky and beaming faces all around. The excitement builds throughout your whole body and the hairs stand on your neck as The Waterboys ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ echoes through the arena.. yeaaahh! The screams and whistles start and don’t stop as we know that this is the start of another tour from the legendary U2. Then it’s those Mullen drums, with ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ pulsating along with your heart beat, the Edge and Clayton guitars, and that Bono voice…what a beginning! It’s very hard to contain yourself as the band hammers through ‘I Will Follow’ and then you hear those first few bars of ‘New Year’s Day’ which make my eyes well up. I look around and the emotion is really something to absorb from all the fans. There’s fist pumping and a lot of head banging, me included, which means we will all have whiplash later… There are many my age and older, with quite a few youngins along for the journey with their parents, and it was a joy to watch both band and fans.
I did what I don’t do often this morning, and snuck a peak at some previous setlists. I was praying to hear the same mix of old and newer songs, nestled amongst the brilliance of ‘The Joshua Tree’ album. As you would expect from such a band, there isn’t one disappointment as we move through each song. It’s like old friends have come to visit, and we are all just picking up where we left off. Bono actually mentions this later in the evening, how the band has been touring here for 35 years. You can see why fans are following them all around the world and I meet a Brisbane fan who has virtually followed them around most of Australia. Music has always been one of the main foods for the soul and I hate to think what will happen in the future. We are lucky indeed.
‘Bad’ and ‘Pride (in The Name Of Love)’ make the cut tonight which has my inner child jumping through its skin as I used to thrash my ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ vinyl. With such a long and distinguished catalogue, I really don’t mind which songs I hear. Every tour has been exceptional, but tonight we are celebrating another milestone: 30 years since the classic ‘The Joshua Tree’ album was released, and a tour now running into its second leg since 2017. As the backdrop changes into desert and colour, then multicolour, we are taken onto another road, another chapter of the musical life of U2. This is just another album of theirs we all know from back to front as ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ kicks things off, vibrating along with the Edge as the Sydney Cricket Ground jumps in unison. Absolute pure magic, why would you want to be anywhere else? I envy the fans who can afford to travel anywhere to see as many shows as they can fit into their schedule. We know the order as it’s time for some ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ and then those haunting bass notes which lead into the melancholy which is ‘With Or Without You’. Always gut wrenching while at the same time brilliant, Bono is still tearing it up and the band is just constant perfection. Some ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’ and ‘Running To Stand Still’ follows and we are all putty, glowing in the artistry. The city could be raised and hovering above us among the clouds and no one here would notice. Such is the intensity and focus between entertainer and viewer, it’s a beautiful bond. I love ‘Red Hill Mining Town’ as side 2 of the album continues with ‘In God’s Country’ and ‘Trip Through Your Wires’. Tonight is such a treat, being able to hear ‘One Tree Hill’, ‘Exit’ and ‘Mothers Of The Disappeared’ which completes this stage of the band’s story. Witnessing this album played in full has actually been very fulfilling, there’s an exhilaration that you can’t explain.
How much more can we take? A lot, everything U2 can throw at us. Another treasure is heard tonight, and I’m told by my new Brisbane friend that this is the first time they have played ‘Desire’ on their current New Zealand and Australian leg. It’s nice to get surprise tracks until it’s time for some more in this cranking encore with ‘Elevation’ and ‘Vertigo’. Once again, the venue is thumping and heaving as sweat drips down my back. Lord Have Mercy… it’s ‘Even Better Than The Real Thing’, I think whiplash and many leg pains will be torturing me in the aftermath but we carry on. Bono then brings us down one notch with the gorgeous ‘You’re The Best Thing About Me’ as he reminisces about times gone by with his departed Father. Then it’s back up with ‘Beautiful Day’ as the venue lights up. As you would expect from such a tight knit unit, there is banter and camaraderie between all band members. Those special U2 moments of intimacy which draw you into their own private world for a split second . ‘Ultraviolet (Light My Way)’ was a lovely tribute to the many wonderful women of this world but it was the next tribute to INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence which was especially moving as the band gave us ‘Stuck In a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of’. I had heard about the tribute from the night before, being the anniversary of Hutchence’s untimely death, so it was very pleasing to have another snippet given to us tonight.
Our long and happily indulgent encore still had one more song left, as ‘One’ pulsated over the stadium. Like a wave of emotion, the crowd continued to sing and sway until yet another ovation took over. This isn’t just a gig, it’s a mammoth event and a showcase of U2 brilliance, with the blend of music and visual stimulation, the storytelling in the lyrics taking you here, then over there, and back again. Winding from love and loss, injustice and triumph, to just straight out rock’n’roll heaven. We are reminded exactly why we are all here, together, celebrating this phenomenal band that just doesn’t seem to slow down (thankfully!). More than satisfied, we move out into the spring air, and as if signalling the night’s end, the rain starts to fall. Like a concert miracle from the music Gods, I’m happily cooling down and already wondering when we can all meet again. I look around and the fans are floating and smiling radiantly. You can see and feel the elation and I would bet that this bliss has continued for many days after like it has for me. Despite the recovery and body pain, even 2 days later, it’s all worth it. Thank you once again U2, let’s not wait too long before our next adventure in this lucky country of ours.
© MARINA KNEZEVIC 2019. All rights reserved.
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