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Old 06-22-2015, 04:55 AM   #1
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Me & U2 Around the World



Hi guys

This is a wee spot of self-promotion.

I'm self-publishing a couple of books I've written about the grand, exciting but often very challenging adventure I had following the U2 360 tour.

Part 1 is about the 2009 European leg and Part 2 is about the 2009 North American leg.

Interference and many members feature throughout.

A few U2 fans / friends who have proofread the books have said they're very well written, engaging, funny, insightful, moving. However it's quite possible they were too polite / intimidated to dare say anything else

I'm taking pre-orders until Sunday 28th June. I'll add the name of anyone who orders before then to the Acknowledgements section at the back of that (or those!) book(s).

You can read more about the books and order a copy here:

Me & U2 Around the World

You can read some extracts from both books here:

Extracts

I really think U2 fans will very much enjoy both books - but I concede there may be a little bias in this view

Thanks!

Here/'s a mash-up of some of my videos from following the tour:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=27&v=FIcXcY8wdts
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Old 06-22-2015, 11:27 AM   #2
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an extract from Part 1 ...

The Most Spectacular Moment of the U2 360˚ Tour
Chorzow, Poland
6th August 2009




Śląski Stadium was situated in a lush, woody park. The roads surrounding the stadium were dense with trees in full leafy flourish.



Ania arrived from Gliwice after work. We entered the stadium during the sunny, warm evening. The Claw had been set up across the length of the pitch, not along the width as in other stadiums. We bought two beers, drank them, then found our seats on Adam’s side to watch the end of Snow Patrol’s set.



The stadium was like a low, flat bowl, with a single tier of seats in a low, flat gradient with no roof covering the seats. When the sun set, I noticed that there were no emergency exit lights anywhere in the stadium. In fact, there were no lights in the stadium at all apart from the stage lights, which added an atmospheric murkiness to the show. When the stage lights were off, the stadium was in near perfect darkness with no distracting, residual glow. All eyes had to be on the stage, until the Polish *special song* that is – New Year’s Day.



U2 had played their second ever koncert in Poland in Śląski Stadium during the Vertigo tour in 2005. (Their first Polish concert had been in Warsaw during the PopMart tour in 1997.) The Polish U2 fan club had prepared a very special surprise for the 2005 show. Assuming that U2 would play New Year’s Day, a group of fans had organised a campaign on the internet suggesting that when Adam started playing the intro to the song, the audience would transform Śląski Stadium into a massive, seething Polish flag. Fans on the pitch held up red paper, fans in the stands held up white paper. The cumulative effect, even on video, was stunning.



Moments like that surely could not be comparable when repeated, so I struggle to imagine the adrenalin rush that must have surged through the crowd and through the band in 2005. In 2009, in a numinously dark arena under a Frankenstein full moon, seven songs in, when Adam started thumbing New Year’s Day, the Polish audience repeated the old trick. It still worked. A tangible, scintillating rush of energy coursed through the stadium as soon as Adam began playing the unmistakeable bass line. “O mój Boże!” There was a palpable intake of breath when a tribe of sixty thousand people simultaneously lifted up their colour, their pledge of allegiance in response. I lifted up a white T-shirt I had brought along especially. I pledged. And I gasped. “O mój feckin Boże!” The stadium underwent a transfiguration, becoming alive, astoundingly, self-consciously alive. “Look at us! Look at all of us!” Everyone was participating in and revelling in a moment of shared wonder that they had created themselves. Hands everywhere were holding up colour as heads everywhere were looking at the accumulated result of what all the other hands were doing. It was a simple individual gesture that created a profound collective result. This wasn’t like a coordinated display by fans of a football club. This was much bigger and much deeper. This was memory, celebration, patriotism. It was a fervent demonstration of Polish solidarity, a jubilant but reflective communal expression of a proud and recently trodden-upon identity. During centuries of adversity under expansionist empires and belligerent nations, Poles had developed solidarity. In the early 1980s under a puppet government in liege to the Soviet Union, some Poles had founded a movement to challenge the communist status quo, Solidarity. All this history, trauma, repression, release and hope of a people were implicit in the New Year’s Day display. And even though the display had been expected, it still had fundamental, implosive intensity. It was utterly magical, far, far and away the most visceral, electric, spectacular moment of the entire tour. I was absolutely moved by it. I’m getting goosebumps and a lump in my throat recalling it.

The moment visibly affected Bono. He was singing to his “Polish cousins”, his favourite non-Irish tribe. During New Year’s Day, with an image of the Poland flag translucently combined with live footage of U2 on the video screen, Bono received a Solidarność banner from the crowd and draped it over an amp on the stage, where it remained for the rest of the show. He effusively complimented the Polish audience in Chorzow like he did for no other country or city. “EUROPE. NEEDS. MORE. COUNTRIES. LIKE. POLAND,” he staccatoed ardently before the following song, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. And before the second verse of this song, when the crowd had finished singing the chorus, he declared softly, “This comes close.” Then during Walk On he appeared to choke up momentarily.



Chorzow was a concert where singer, band and audience were in deep communion. And the religious metaphor, sometimes overused with regard to U2, was particularly apt for this show. During New Year’s Day, Bono fell to his knees and bowed down in homage to the audience. Before Moment of Surrender, the final song of the show, which Bono dedicated to Karol Józef Wojtyła, Pope John Paul II, the Polish pope with whom he had traded a pair of shades for the set of rosary beads which he habitually wore under his shirt, he fell to his knees again, with his head lowered to say a prayer. Although prayers are private and it’s inappropriate to intrude on and speculate about them, it looked like Bono, so humbled by his audience, was publicly praising and thanking God for the blessings that had been bestowed upon him to experience such a profound response to U2’s music, and asking for blessings for the audience. He stood up and blessed himself with the Sign of the Cross, the ritual gesture used by Roman Catholics across Ireland and Poland. Rock-star super-egos were not usually moved to openly pray onstage at the end of gigs, perhaps for blessings for their audience. They chose cute girls to invite backstage by chucking sweaty towels to them. They stormed offstage quickly to display their emotionless detachment. They picked up their beer and sauntered offstage nonchalantly. In Chorzow, Bono dropped to his knees to pray, palpably consumed and moved by the fervid emotion of the event. I was consumed and moved by the fervid emotion of the event. Only an asbestos soul would have been untouched.
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Old 06-22-2015, 11:33 AM   #3
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How can I turn down such a lovely bit of self-promotion?

I'm in!
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Old 06-22-2015, 02:58 PM   #4
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Old 06-22-2015, 03:49 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by corianderstem View Post
How can I turn down such a lovely bit of self-promotion?

I'm in!
That's great cori, thanks! Seeing how you've already read a hefty wedge of it
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Old 06-24-2015, 03:04 PM   #6
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An Immersive America

Thursday, Sept. 10 2009


When the plane started descending I was spellbound by the vista far below as we cruised over Ohio or Indiana or Illinois. As we approached the runway, I was transfixed by the roads. Tangled knots of freeways ran into other freeways which had yet more freeways running parallel to them. The roads led confusingly in all directions at once. All were insanely busy, with thousands of automobiles and juggernauts steaming towards who knew where.

I was reasonably well traveled. I’d been around much of Europe, visited southeast Asia a few times, popped across to north Africa twice, and South America once. Yet I’d never been to the United States. I had always claimed I’d no great interest in crossing the pond, partly because America is an English-speaking country and I preferred to go somewhere more linguistically exotic, but principally because America already felt familiar and therefore unexciting. I wondered how many American movies I’ve seen. How many American television shows? How many sitcoms and police dramas? How many news bulletins or sports events or award ceremonies or documentaries or cartoons or whatever? How many episodes of The Simpsons? And how many American cities have I seen in those shows? New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Las Vegas, Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, Kansas City, Springfield. America ruled the airwaves because in a way America was the movies, America was television. I was sure I already knew America. I didn’t need to go there.

And yet I was mildly giddy disembarking the plane, hyper-alert to the all-American look and feel and sound of O’Hare Airport’s décor and signage and announcements. Everything was a delight, even the usually tedious processes in passing immigration. Walking through the airport to the passport check I saw uniformed officers with handguns in holsters on their belts and shiny sheriff badges on their navy blue, short-sleeved police shirts. Many of the male officers had bushy Ned Flanders moustaches like the male police officers in cop shows always did.

Flatscreen TVs over the immigration booths looped a snazzy 'Welcome to America' video scored with invigorating music. ‘Welcome to America’

Footage circled through dramatic swooping vistas of Manhattan and the George Washington monument and the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas and the Hollywood sign, and homey shots of smiling families having barbeques outside clapboard houses fronted by ample gardens, and action shots of a touchdown at a football game, and very many golden-tinged close-ups of shiny happy photogenic Americans enjoying richly hued lives. I’d seen it all before on television, but now here I was going to see it for really real. Excited? You betcha. Exotic? Darn right.

I answered a few routine questions, exchanged my face and fingerprints for an oval stamp in my passport saying ‘Department of Homeland Security’ and lo, was permitted to enter the United States of America.

I had a slight worry about importing sixty copies of Me & U2, the slim memoir I’d recently self-published which I hoped I could sell to help fund my travels. I didn’t know if the books would be allowed or not. I had assumed I would most certainly not be allowed to sell them. A question on the customs declaration form asked, ‘Are you carrying … goods or samples for commercial purposes?’ I ticked ‘Yes’. I collected my large rucksack from the luggage carousel, approached the customs checkpoint, and passed the customs declaration form to the customs officer.

“Good afternoon, sir. Do you have commercial goods?”

“Yes.”

“Proceed this way please.”

I was directed to a second desk and approached it with trepidation. Would the books be confiscated? Would I have to pay import duty? Would I be warned against selling them?

“Good afternoon, sir,” the officer said with his hand, palm up, extended towards me. I passed him the form. “What commercial goods do you have?”

“Books.”

“Have a nice day, sir,” he said with a wave of his hand.

“Sorry?”

“Have a nice day,” he repeated, holding his hand up and behind him, gesturing for me to pass.

“Eh? Um. Okay. Thanks,” I said, confused, but moving on before he changed his mind.

It appeared that imported books were not illicit contraband in the United States of America after all. It hadn’t occurred to me that America’s fundamental commitment to freedom of speech meant that books would not be impounded on entry into the country nor carry import duty



I reveled in a litany of humdrum American firsts: first parking lot, first purchase, first metro ride, first struggle to find a seat. O’Hare Airport was the last stop on the Blue line on the ‘L’, Chicago’s part underground and part elevated metro network. The train at the platform was filling quickly. I walked past the first two carriages but couldn’t spot a vacant seat. I saw one available in the third carriage and ducked in to claim it. I was the peripatetic patty in a bulging rucksack bun, carrying my larger pack on my back and my smaller pack on my chest.



Beyond the airport, the train passed alongside a freeway. I recalled one of Bono’s lyrics from Heartland: “Freeway like a river cuts through this land”. Huge eighteen wheeler juggernauts roared along the road, surrounded and overtaken by nippier cars, like oxpeckers around rhinos, driving, as in mainland Europe, on the right hand side.

At Rosemont, the first stop, a woman pushing a pram and a man boarded the train. They were arguing, loudly.

“I ain’t gonna tell you nuthin.”

“You gotta tell me cos I gonna find out anyways.”

“I ain’t tellin you a goddam thing.”

I was struck by the ferocity of the accent more than the ferocity of the row. It was coarse, gritty, slangy, throaty, American. I lowered my head guiltily because hearing their accent made me smile. I was definitively in America, where people commuted, stared blankly at the floor, gripped an overhead rail, argued. There were no cuts to a different scene, no mood music. This scene wasn’t inside a box in the corner of my living room. This was an immersive America.

The train rattled and screeched over the rails. The carriages jiggled and leaned. I read the mostly ignored advertisements in the train and the billboards along the freeway for companies and products and people I didn’t know, intrigued at the maelstrom of mundane details. I was just another Irishman freshly landed in America and probably wider-eyed than most.
When the train entered the city precincts, the view out the window changed from freeways to clapboard houses, those American homes I’d associated with Little House on the Prairie, where grandmas sat on rocking chairs in porches watching sunsets over rolling pastures in the countryside, not neighboring apartment blocks in cities.



One particularly welcoming and hospitable gentleman in Chicago had accepted my couchsurf request. I luckily fell on my couchsurfing feet, for David was the model host. As arranged, I had texted David when I was through immigration at O’Hare Airport. He suggested meeting at a bar close to his office in downtown Chicago as he would be finishing work soon after I hit town.

Re-shouldering my rucksacks, I disembarked the L at Clark / Lake and descended onto a blocky city street lined with immense, blocky, clean sandstone buildings radiating intense late afternoon, late summer heat, too much for jeans and rucksacks. Along a sidewalk in the shade of the overhead train track, half a block west of the station, was the cooled comfort of the Midtown Kitchen and Bar. I chose a table near the window to observe the start of an American rush hour. A waitress approached me, greeted me effusively and passed me a menu. I ordered a promotion of a pint of Sam Adams and a hamburger for $7, and made an offering out to the universe for my latest virginal moment: my first beer and first burger in America. It was almost 5:00 p.m. It would be approaching 11:00 p.m. in London where I would ordinarily have been in bed, but in Chicago I was still sizzling with excitement.

David arrived soon after.

”Hey! Welcome to America!” he said warmly.

Hearing this was the last unticked item on my arrival list. I lifted my burger as a toast.

“Cheers!”
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