Monday, 4 September 2017

U2 Live Under A Greek Blue Sky

One year and a couple of weeks after I had seen U2 in Cardiff, they came to Athens in Greece, seven years ago. I wasn't going to miss it of course, and although it was the same tour, the experience proved to be a bit different. This time I was going to be in the pitch, whereas in Cardiff I was in the stands towards the back of the stage so that I could sample this "360 experience" from an unusual point.
A friend who used to live close to the Olympic Stadium told us that she could hear the sound check in the early afternoon.

It was at her place where we gathered at around 6 o clock in the early evening to start the (not so long) walk towards the stadium.

After we went through the first few gates we came head to head with that big unsung hero of the Greek concert organizing industry, the "security guard". At first they were guiding us using loudspeakers ordeing us to hold one of our hands up holding the ticket (seriously!) because they were going to "check the orange" (The orange what?). I've never been treated this way in any of the concerts I have been to in Europe. I understand that it may not be so tiring to do that, but I strongly object to being treated like sheep. Another one informed us smiling malevolently that we should not feel so happy that we finally got in because we had to walk for 30 more minutes (as it turned out it was only 5 minutes). It probably has something to do with the feeling of power this job entails that makes them behave this way. Maybe it acts as an aphrodisiac.
So we finally got into the stadium where people who had already been to other U2 concerts could easily be spotted.
First on stage at 19:15 was Aviv Geffen. Rather boring actually, but the funny thing was that I saw him again a few days later at a Placebo gig. One hour later, at 20:15, it was time for Snow Patrol.

After that, we were left watching the big screen where a clock seemed at first to lag behind, then go forward until we realized that the stroke of midnight would be at 21:45. The time that U2 were due to go onstage.

And that's exactly what happened, at that precise moment, while the stadium lights stayed on, U2 came on stage while David Bowie's Space Oddity was playing from the speakers.

The first proper song was "Beautiful Day" (following the instrumental "Return Of The Stingray Guitar"). This time they only played 4 songs from "No Line On The Horizon" ("Magnificent", "Get On Your Boots" "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" and "Moment Of Surrender").

So, since "Unknown Caller" was not played we didn't have the chance to hear the words we had been waiting for ("Athens, you know your name, so punch it in"), however we did hear something new in the form of "Return Of The Stingray Guitar". Personally, I was happy to hear "Hold, Thrill Me...", "Elevation", "Until The End Of The World" this time around which were not played in Cardiff. But, the highlight for me was "In A Little While", a song I had almost forgotten. The crowd enjoyed it and although we were told that not all tickets had been sold the stadium seemed to have been filled by the time U2 came on stage. I can imagine of course that the VIP seats would have been filled by Greek b-list "celelbrities" who thought that they "rocked" when in fact they actually attended the concert in order to be "seen" by the press and media. The same thing happened at Madonna's concert in 2008 and at The Rolling Stones concert in 1998, both at the same stadium. Another nice thing was that Bono didn't preach. Why am I saying that? Well, back in 2010, it was the beginning of Greece's economic crisis and every artist that came for a concert felt obliged to say something like "Don't worry, it will pass" or "Don't worry, you'll get over it" (It is still going on by the way). Instead Bono said something more original : "The Irish and the Greeks have one thing in common: we are both broke" (I'll take that as a compliment.)
01. Return Of The Stingray Guitar
02. Beautiful Day
03. I Will Follow
04. Get On Your Boots
05. Magnificent
06. Mysterious Ways
07. Elevation
08. Until The End Of The World
09. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For / Movin' On Up (snippet)
10. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
11. In A Little While
12. Miss Sarajevo
13. City Of Blinding Lights
14. Vertigo
15. Funky Town (snippet) / I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight / Discothèque (snippet)
16. Sunday Bloody Sunday
17. MLK
18. Walk On / You'll Never Walk Alone (snippet)
19. One
20. Amazing Grace (snippet) / Where The Streets Have No Name
21. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
22. With Or Without You
23. Moment of Surrender
Another thing I realized now that I had seen the concert from the arena, is that you really enjoy it more when experiencing it from the stands since the stage is rather big and Bono and his friends (yes, even Larry) are moving all over the place. On the other hand, if you are in the arena you are compensated by the on-screen effects.
  We were hoping back then that we would see U2 again soon, but it's been 7 years and we are still waiting...

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

U2 Live Under A Cardiff Sky

Now that I have seen U2 live in Rome not just once, but twice, I thought it was time to revisit the previous two times I had seen them, first in Cardiff 8 years ago and then in Athens 7 years ago, both times almost to this day. But first a little bit of history.
I first saw the name "U2" back in 1982 in a Greek (short-lived) magazine called "Phenomenon". I thought it was a strange name for a band but I didn't investigate any further. A year and a half later I read in another Greek magazine, POP+ROCK (the best selling music magazine in Greece at that time) this: "Jim Kerr, lead singer of The Simple Minds got on stage at a U2 concert to sing "Gloria" with their lead singer Bono". Simple Minds were one of my favourite bands at that time so I went and bought the U2 live album that had just been released "U2 Live Under A Blood Red Sky" the opening track of which was "Gloria". The rest is, as they say, history...
I managed to see Simple Minds live for the first time in 2006 when they came to Athens. During that gig I was thinking "now I've seen Simple Minds but I haven't seen U2 yet". I finally managed to do that, 3 years later in Cardiff.

On the day of the concert, from early in the morning the city was dancing to the beat of U2.

It took place at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium which was celebrating its 10th anniversary.

They played all those songs I expected to hear, some that I didn't expect ("Mysterious Ways", "Stay" - I thought they wouldn't play anything from Zooropa anymore - Plus their best live track ever "Bad").

There were several songs from their latest - at that time - album "No Line On The Horizon" which I enjoyed since it was the first time I had liked a new U2 album so much since "Achtung Baby".

"Magnificent", "Unknown Caller" and especially the title track "No Line On The Horizon" were my favourites. I didn't think much of "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight", which was the next single, and seemed to have been added to the album at the last minute (I made this assumption based on the fact that it was not featured in the Anton Corbijn film featured on the DVD that is included with some editions of the album). A better choice for a single, in my opinion, would have been "No Line On The Horizon" or "Moment Of Surrender".
The highlights of the night were the Desmond Tutu intro to "One" and the volunteers who walked in front of the stage during "Walk On".

The encore started with "Ultraviolet", and just as we were thinking, during "With Or Without You", that everything was over because they said goodbye and the time was 10:30pm (the curfew), they also played "Moment Of Surrender", one of their best songs of the album.

As can be seen from the photo, the 360 degree stage was not placed exactly at the centre of the stadium.

And although all 4 band members were moving all over its length and width (including the "bridges¨), most of the action was taking place at the front part.

And that's how, with the Cardiff concert, the 2009 European leg of the U2 360 Tour ended.

On another note, Cardiff was a wonderful city, and very easy to move around in, since in a radius of only a few metres the railway station, my hotel and the Millennium Stadium were located.

I was in a very central place, where later at night I could witness all the people coming out of the clubs and pubs. They were mostly eating takeaways and throwing their rubbish on the street. At some point they would go gome and then... that's when the seagulls would appear landing on the high street, walking around it as if they owned it and enjoying all the leftovers that were thrown away. They would only leave in the late morning when the municipal garbage trucks appeared.

So that's what I saw in Cardiff, a year later I would see U2 again in Greece...

01. Breathe
02. No Line On The Horizon
03. Get On Your Boots
04. Magnificent
05. Beautiful Day
06. Mysterious Ways
07. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
08. Stay
09. Unknown Caller
10. Unforgettable Fire
11. City Of Blinding Lights
12. Vertigo
13. I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (Remix)
14. Sunday Bloody Sunday
15. Pride (In The Name of Love)
16. MLK
17. Walk On
18. Where The Streets Have No Name
19. One
20. Bad
21. Ultraviolet
22. With Or Without You
23. Moment Of Surrender

Friday, 25 August 2017

Pet Shop Boys and Goldfrapp @ Brussels Summer Festival

For the whole of last winter, I was on guard for announcements of summer appearances by the Pet Shop Boys. I knew the Super tour was going to be underway and I definitely wanted to catch them somewhere in Europe during the summer. The reason was simple: I had met my girlfriend at their Athens gig in 2013 during their previous ("Electric") tour. But the fact is, I didn't actually meet her at the gig. We were both there, but we didn't know each other. However, on the following day I posted on a Pet Shop Boys fan page and quoted one of their lyrics. She contacted me because of that very post, me met, and the rest is, as they say, history. The only problem was that until this summer, we had never actually seen the Pet Shop Boys together! As luck had it, one of the first summer appearances that they announced was at Brussels Summer Festival and I immediately booked tickets.
The situation might have been a lot more different, if they had announced their appearance in Lucca first. Seeing as most of the gigs I attend are in Italy we might have gone there. But we loved the idea of going to a concert in a different country for a change. Plus, the festival was taking place right there in the capital, so no further travelling apart from our plane journeys would be required. As an added extra, a few days after the Pet Shop Boys appearance was announced, Goldfrapp, who I had also wanted to see live for several years,  were also added to the bill, on the very same day.
What was also great about this festival were the ticket prices. 30 Euros only for a one-day pass giving access to all stages of the festival on any given day. Moreover, if you double that amount and pay 60 Euros instead of 30, you don't get a 2-day pass, but a 10-day pass. Access to all stages for all days of the festival! And the various stages are located at squares and other locations in the city centre.
All we had to do one the day, was to exchange the passes we had bought and printed off the internet with wristbands that would give us immediate access to the stages. Now, one has to be careful with that because entrance is "subject to availability". This means that if a lot of people have one-day passes for a particular day, and they all go to a certain stage, they will not be allowed to enter if that stage is full.
Nevertheless, we arrived just in time for Goldfrapp and we realized we could get very near the front. And then, we realized we could get further to the front and so we did! The band entered the stage right on time and Alison looked fabulous dressed all in red. Wow! I mean, WOW! (I think I'd better continue with the review of the gig because my girlfriend is also reading this...:LOL:). She launched immediately into "Anymore" the lead single of her latest album "Silver Eye" (one of the best of the year so far) and continued with songs old and new.

"Systemagic", "Ride On A White Horse" and "Strict Machine" were particularly enjoyable although she didn't play "Happiness" no matter how loudly someone in the audience kept asking for it!

In fact, "Strict Machine" was announced as "our last song for tonight. I bet you can't wait". I hope she didn't mean that we were bored and we couldn't wait for them to finish because we were waiting for the Pet Shop Boys. 

At least, as far as we're concerned, we went there early because we wanted to see them as well! ("We're going to see Goldfrapp! WOW!" was my reaction back in March when they were added to the bill). All in all, they played just a few minutes short of an hour. Having looked at the day's schedule, I thought they were going to play for much longer, but then the time needed to prepare the stage for the Pet Shop Boys must be taken into account.
Although we were at the front of the stage, it was easy for me to walk towards the back during the break to get a beer (which came with a souvenir plastic glass!) and then walk my way back to the front and find our place.

Now, the festival website strongly advised that drink tickets should be bought in advance from the internet, however, the queues, both for the tickets and the drinks themselves were negligible. (Totally unlike Terra Vibe! :LOL:)
At 22:30 the stage was set for the Pet Shop Boys. I had not looked at the internet for setlists or videos from the Super tour. And I did that on purpose. I wanted  to be surprised on the night.
But their set started just I imagined it would. While on the Electric tour the mostly instrumental "Axis" served as an opener, here on the Super tour the again mostly instrumental "Inner Sanctum" served the same purpose as Neil and Chris appeared on stage from behind  a couple of circular props.

"Inner Sanctum" segued into "Opportunities" and that was followed by "The Pop Kids" segued with "In The Night" and "Burn" our first big surprise of the night. I had noticed the song on the "Super" album, but I had ever imagined that it would work so well live.

And then came "Love Is A Bourgeois Construct". This was my favourite song from the "Electric" album, but they did not play it on the Electric tour. They are playing it however on the Super tour and of course they played it on the night with one of their accompanying musicians on electric violin. It's like they owed it to us.

They did not, once again, forget "Love Etc.", but I did not expect its follow up "The Dictator Decides" to be one of the highlights of the evening. This slow song from "Super" is more important for its lyrics rather than its melody, but it worked so well live (and with another costume change from Neil).
"West End Girls" was sung in its extended version form (with the extra verse) and the surprises continued with "Home And Dry" a song I had never expected to see live. Then they proved to us that they don't forget their immediately previous album like a lot of bands who usually play only tracks from their latest album combined with their "early stuff". So they played "Vocal" again on this tour. But the biggest surprise came after that with one of my favourite songs from the "Fundamental" album: "The Sodom And Gomorrah Show".
I was starting to wonder whether they wanted to promote their recent "Further Listening" reissues, but when I looked at the setlist again, I realized they played nothing from "Nightlife", nothing from "Elysium" (understandable, probably) and, here comes the big surprise, nothing from "Behaviour"!

After "It's A Sin", the version of "Left To My Own Devices" that followed was expected and already familiar from the 12 inch of "Undertow". 
For the end of their set they announced "an old song in a new version" and although Neil started singing "Heart" he immediately moved into "Go West"

They returned for an encore of course, treating us to "Domino Dancing", the obligatory "Always On My Mind" (the following day was, after all the 40th anniversary of Elvis leaving us) and they wrapped up the proceedings with an extra dose of "The Pop Kids"
And that was it! The balloons were deflated, the square was slowly emptied and we started walking back to our hotel. You see, that's the beauty of a festival like this which takes place in a city centre: No need to worry about public transport or taxis, your accommodation is probably within walking distance. All we had to do now was go to sleep and dream of our next Pet Shop Boys gig...


01. Anymore
02. Train
03. Ocean
04. You Never Know
05. Slide In
06. Everything Is Never Enough
07. Become The One
08. Systemagic
09. Number 1
10. Ride A White Horse
11. Strict Machine

01. Inner Sanctum
02. Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)
03. The Pop Kids
04. In The Night
05. Burn
06. Love Is A Bourgeois Construct
07. Se A Vida É (That's The Way Life Is)
08. Love Etc.
09. The Dictator Decides
10. Inside A Dream
11. West End Girls
12. Home And Dry
13. Vocal
14. The Sodom And Gomorrah Show
15. It's A Sin
16. Left To My Own Devices
17. Heart / Go West
18. Domino Dancing
19. Always On My Mind
20. The Pop Kids (Reprise)