Sunday, July 10, 2011

I'll see you again

One Tree Hill

Tuesday night's show at Soldier Field in Chicago marked the longest elapsed time between my purchase and use of a concert ticket: because of the 2010 show's rescheduling, I bought this ticket in November of 2009. At the time, I managed to pull up a GA ticket after 20 minutes of fruitless refreshing on Ticketmaster. I was thrilled, envisioning one last major line wait for my U2 concert-going resume. I wanted to do the crazy line thing one more time.

A year and a half later, the day finally came around. July 5th, 2011 instead of July 6th, 2010. And as it turned out, with the show coming on the heels of a major weekend of shows and a holiday, I just didn't have it in me to show up the night before and wait in line. So came a major first for me and U2: I had a general admission ticket, and I showed up after gates had opened. I know! It's like I hardly know me!

As it turned out, I didn't wind up in a bad spot. I was about ten rows back from the outside ramp, on the Edge side. Really, not too different from a seat on the side of the stadium, except closer. (Though without the option to sit down, which admittedly would have been nice after about five hours in the heat and humidity.)

U2 took the stage around 8:50. They started off with four songs from Achtung Baby and a snippet of "Tryin' to Throw Your Arms Around the World." Those were joined later by "One," prompting Bono to claim they'd played a whole side of Achtung. "Well, almost a whole side." In addition the usual suspects, the band also dusted off nuggets like "Out of Control" and "Zooropa." This was my first time seeing "Zooropa" live. That, plus an acoustic Bono and Edge version of "Stay," comprised a welcome duo of Zooropa songs. In my opinion, one of the best U2 albums.

As the concert drew to a close I'd had a very good time, but decided that there hadn't been any huge surprises in the setlist. Not having looked at any setlists prior to the show, I wasn't even sure what I'd consider a huge surprise. That is, I wasn't sure until Bono started saying his thank you's at the end of the night. He mentioned that the twenty-fifth anniversary of band friend Greg Carroll's death had been a few days before, and that they'd written a song for him. My brain at that point: "OH MY GOD."

One disadvantage of not standing up front among the crazy fans was that I was the only person in my immediate vicinity who understood what might be coming: "One Tree Hill." A song I never dreamed I'd hear live. I knew only that the band had played it in New Zealand (and Chile) a few years ago. Of course, Bono dashed my hopes right away as he sensed what at least some of the crowd as thinking. He smiled and added, "We're not going to play it tonight." A few moments' pause. "Well, maybe we are going to play it." He turned to the band. "Are we going to play it?" Back to the crowd. "Let me check with the professor." Bono conferred with The Edge for a minute, and came back to the microphone. "Well, we'll play 'Moment of Surrender' and let them figure it out down below."

The band launched into their usual closing number, which was very pretty, but I was utterly distracted. They couldn't tease us with the possibility of "One Tree Hill" and then not play it, could they? At least try to play it? After "Moment of Surrender," there was more onstage conferring. Finally Bono came back to the microphone. "Here's the deal," he said. "If we screw up really badly, you can't put it on the internet." OH MY GOD. After a couple of false beginnings (Bono: "How does it start?"), Edge got the chiming guitar riff going. Holy shit. "One Tree Hill." I visited One Tree Hill in 2008. I wrote a report about "One Tree Hill" in the eleventh grade. And now I've heard "One Tree Hill" in concert. The U2 setlist websites were happy to provide the statistics: first time the whole song has been played in North America since 1987. For me, it made the night.

Next time U2 comes around, I'm hoping it will be to somewhere a little smaller than a stadium. And I think I'd still be up for one more crazy GA line wait, since I took a pass on this one. I can't wait to see what the band comes up with next ... but I'm there.

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