Review: U2 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, October 16, 2005* - U2 Feedback

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Old 10-22-2005, 12:18 PM   #1
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Review: U2 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, October 16, 2005*

By Teresa Rivas

Just like everyone who is reading this review, I love U2. I love the band enough to take time off work, wake up before the sun rises, stand in line for countless hours for a chance to be smashed against a railing, denied beverages, seating and the chance to use the bathroom for five hours, just to be able to say that all four members of the band passed within a few feet of me.

But I won't do it again.

It had nothing to do with the actual concert itself, which was absolutely incredible. But honestly, let's not kid ourselves, the waiting is part of the concert experience, and no review should exclude it.

My decision to abandon GA began even before I set foot (and lawn chair and blanket) in line on Sunday. I was in New York on Saturday and regretted having to cut my trip short because I knew I would have to get up at 6 a.m. the next morning. I arrived around 7:30 to find that I was already behind 100 other people (several of whom had brought their own tents). At that point I must say I lost hope and wondered dejectedly why I had even bothered now that I had no chance to get along the rail.

This reality was compounded by the aggravating fact that at the time that they split the lines (around 8:30), and for a good three hours afterward, the members line was quadruple the length of the nonmembers' line. The staff told us that the nonmembers would not walk through as direct a route as the members' line to the arena floor, but this seemed little comfort when people who arrived hours later than I did got a number less than half mine (and saved $40). One woman who was 125 in the members' line switched over to the nonmembers' line and got the number 32.

My feelings against GA were cemented when, after waiting around the back entrance for several hours hoping to catch a glimpse of the band's arrival, the grouchy security woman's predictions proved true—the band was still in New York and would not arrive until at least 5:30 (a time when the staff would have already herded us into bunchy quasi-lines) and did not plan to stop. This bothered me because through both legs of Vertigo Tour the band had not yet taken the time to stop for fans waiting outside for it to arrive in Philadelphia and this time we wouldn't even be treated to a wave. I was also concerned that the show would not have many new surprises since the band wouldn't have time for a sound check and would probably just go with its standby set list. I sadly trotted back to my lawn chair.

Although the staff did not open the doors on time at 6, they made us abandon our chairs, blankets, coats, food, etc. around a quarter to 5. For those of you who don't know, the Wachovia Center stands in the middle of a barren, windswept plane, surrounded by acres of parking and skirted by Interstate 95, not unlike the surface to the moon, so with the waning sun and increasing wind, we were made to stand in loose formation, freezing, for almost an hour-and-a-half. Of course even though we have to go through the entrance one-by-one, the lines are always loose clumps where numbers can be only vaguely adhered to (a frightening prospect when one or two people can cost you a rail spot) and then further confused by the truncated stampede to yet a tighter clump at the door and subsequent bottlenecks at the entrance. It would make so much more sense to put us in real lines by number, I thought as my limbs went numb.

Once we were inside, I admit I didn't pay any attention or enthusiasm to Damian Marley. At that point, the act was just another impediment to seeing U2. I'm really not sure what the rationale was for choosing Marley as an opening act—a misguided attempt to appear hip on U2's part? Marley's talented, but I don't think it benefits either set of fans. Marley's surely don't want to pay the price of a U2 ticket—especially since the announcement came so late they would be subject to the exorbitant amount of eBay's sellers.

But finally the moment came when the Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” filled the room. The music dimmed and as confetti rained down on the screaming crowd, the band appeared belting out "City of Blinding Lights." In that moment, despite all my discomfort and questioning throughout the day, everything was worth it. U2 is a panacea and, as The Edge's guitar rang out those crisp notes, I wouldn't have traded my spot for anything in the world. Because I was standing on Adam Clayton's side of the stage, each band member passed by me on the catwalk at least once so I couldn't have been happier.

The opening to the show was very powerful. "City of Blinding Lights," was followed by "Vertigo," "Elevation" and "Electric Co." It was such a great way to start the concert because everyone was so excited that the show had finally arrived that the crowd was bursting. It was a great mood to set. The last time that U2 was in Philly, on May 22, Bono had a cold, so I was happy for all the extra energy that filled the room. There were times when his voice sounded a bit strained, but when he needed to hold a strong note, like in "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" or "Miss Sarajevo," he sang beautifully and with a force I hadn't heard during the first leg.

So I was a little sad that things quieted down with "The Ocean," but I guess it gives the feet a rest. Things began to pick up a bit with "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" that was reminiscent of the earthy "Rattle and Hum" version.

Things picked up quickly with "Beautiful Day" which at the end segued into The Beatles' "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," followed with "Miracle Drug," "Sometimes" and "Love and Peace or Else." The energy carried over to "Sunday Bloody Sunday,” and into an exceptional version of "Bullet the Blue Sky,” in which a blindfolded Bono had a little boy guide him to the tip of the ellipse allowing The Edge to perform his full guitar solo, which I had missed on this tour, and a little time to improvise. Bono's work doing the Pavarotti vocals in "Miss Sarajevo" that followed was equally impressive and the first part of the show closed out with "Pride," "Where the Streets Have no Name" and "One."

The first encore opened with "The First Time," perhaps a slow beginning but since it is one of U2's sweetest songs and hardly ever done live, I was happy as Bono promenaded past me crooning. "Stuck in a Moment" was next, followed by "Fast Cars," one of my favorite performances of the evening, again probably because it's so rare and one of my favorite "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" tracks. The banded wandered off stage again to "With or Without You,” but the crowd, of course knowing better, kept up until U2 returned to do "All Because of You," "Yahweh" and close with "40."

There is nothing quite like U2 withdraw. As we shuffled out of the building, of course I was ecstatic and overwhelmed at the show, but there is always the tinge of sadness that it is really over. The next morning when I woke up the humming ring was gone from my ears and, confronted with such silence, I could have wept. I sympathize with my fellow fans down under who have yet to see the band, but I do hope that a new album is quickly forthcoming so the cycle may begin again.

The verdict: Well, once the show started, naturally, it was two and a half hours of the sublime, in Kantian proportions. But, honestly, I think I'm just going to try to get some good seats next time around. Being awake, up and exposed to the cold for so long just left me exhausted when I should have been bursting; dread should in no way mar the experience of U2, but I was despairing about the loss of an entire day weeks before the 16th. I know there are people who enjoy the marathon vigil but I am not one of them and, sadly, cannot share in their experience. Why can't we all just agree to arrive later or get numbers at another time and not be tied to the stadium? Why can't ellipse entries be based on number and not chance so that people who arrive during the opening act don't waltz past people who slept there the night before?

Philadelphia was fabulous on the 16th, a show with all the U2 magic and I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did. To those of you who rock the GA line, we salute you.

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Old 10-24-2005, 08:53 AM   #2
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There are many costs to the GA. But it can lead to an incredible payoff

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Old 10-25-2005, 10:02 AM   #3
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I wish I could go back in time and get GA

great review.
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Old 10-25-2005, 06:54 PM   #4
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Yeah, I'm still a little torn myself. As I wrote, when the show finally started I felt like that spot along the rail was worth anything in the world, but when I balance that with the hours and hours of cold anticipation, I think I'm going to give seats a chance and see if I can pry myself away from GA for good - no guarantees.

Also - does anyone else feel like U2 treats "Rattle and Hum" like its red-headed stepchild? Even long-suffering "Pop" and "Zooropa" have gotten a song into the mix once or twice on the tour.
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