The Joys and Troubles of Leading the Pack



By Chris Martin --

Tonight at U2's second Los Angeles show, and thus far in the Vertigo Tour, U2 has acknowledged their age as never before. Tonight, I saw my first U2 concert at the Staples Center- a concert by a band I've listened to since my infancy, back in the October days. Tonight, a self-proclaimed diehard, one that could sing you the lyrics to Pete the Chop or A Celebration, finally got to see the band he's loved for years and years.

As the seats filled and a typical lazy Los Angeles crowd slowly found their seats, the lights dropped, and I saw Edge walk up the stairs onto the Bullseye from my seat just to the side of the stage. The band struck into the already-familiar melody of City of Blinding Lights, as the LED strings of lights descended and showed a brilliant stream of artistic displays.

As the band ended Vertigo, Bono launched into a short snippet of Stories For Boys... and it was then that in retrospect I saw where U2 is today.

Tonight, this was a band that knows they are at the top of their game. They know they've got us in the palm of their hand and they love it- but for all Bono's showmanship, they still show humility and appreciation for the fans that they've got. And this is a band that is all too aware that they are getting old.

Gone is the Adam of the October days, the bass-strumming heartthrob with a massive blonde perm. Today, it's a smirking Adam with sharply-cut silvery hair who humbly acknowledges his fans and giggles at the silliness they engage in.

Gone is the Edge of the Joshua Tree era, the scruffy cowpoke with his long hair pulled back in a ponytail. Today, it's a quiet Edge who shows mastery of his guitar and dresses in tight-fitting clothes and a skullcap to cover up a bald head.

Gone is the Bono of the War era, the youthful clown with energy to spare- the showman who would do anything (even climbing to the top of a set of arena risers once) to fire up his fans. Today, it's a Bono who is still the ultimate showman, but a Bono who can't hit the same high notes he used to and a Bono whose voice cracks and fades.

Gone is the Larry of the Boy era, the drum-slamming teenager who played his instrument as if he were in a marching band. Well... no. I take that back. Larry's as youthful as ever, and man, is he good.

They may have aged... but they only continue to grow in wisdom. Isn't that the way it's supposed to work?

The band was aware of its long past tonight. During The Electric Co., a banner unfurled and a projector showed the Boy himself. During The Ocean, a song not played in 23 years, Edge and Bono traded jokes as the band felt its way through an ancient tune I would never have expected to hear. During The Fly, the LED lights flashed those good old ZooTV slogans... everything from "EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG" to "WATCH MORE TV."

Yet, as I stood in my seat next to the stage and reveled in the opportunity to hear these classic songs and to see flashes of all those tours I was too young to go to, the majority of the audience sat baffled, and one clown was brash enough to yell "HURRY UP" as the band treated us all to "The Ocean."

The languid Los Angeles fans were fired up... but fired up for the radio favorites. Two middle aged couples both asked me "what that song was all about" after The Fly. Many fans sat down, mystified at hearing Boy songs, songs from an album they probably didn't even know existed.

That's the breaks when you're the biggest band in the world. We all want to hear you... but do all of us want to hear you for the right reasons? What would it be like on this tour if an arena were filled with diehard fans who went crazy when treated to an unexpected classic like The Ocean? It's hard to imagine, isn't it. You'll still have those diehard fans, but you'll have all those people just at the show to be seen. Of course, you'll have those new fans, too, and more power to them. They may not have known those old songs tonight, but I hope they'll go out and buy those albums tomorrow so they can get to enjoy them as much as I do. Everyone should get to know this band and have the chance to know their beautiful music as well as I've gotten to. But being the biggest means you also draw plenty of people that just don't belong.

In my seat, I sat pinned by a Los Angeles Laker basketball player and two idiots who cared more about getting stoned than actually watching the band. After choking on pot smoke for most of the show, security finally kicked them out, and realized they weren't even sitting in their correct seats anyway. During 40, while raising my arms and singing along as the concert drew to a close, I felt the rail beside me bang into me and a twenty-something airhead pulled on my shoulder. She asked if she could "stand in front" of me so that Bono could see her shirt, which read "in memory of Bob Hewson." How classy- try to get Bono's attention by wearing a shirt about his dead father... and then annoy fans who are trying to enjoy the special end of the show as you do this.

And let's not forget the obnoxious and crass wiggling and gyrating in sexual positions we were treated to when a second fan found her way onto the ramp, forcing even the Great Showman to run away from her to avoid further embarrassment. Bono walked the catwalk and even ran it with his first guest, playfully trying to avoid the gyrating idiot unleashed on him by his staff. As the second girl caught up, Bono continued to hold onto the first, seemingly attempting to brush off the lewd second... and when he let the first go, she stood giggling and laughing, amazed at what had just happened. And the second, in contrast, humiliated herself in front of 20,000 onlookers by crawling toward Bono and acting so lewd that the Great Showman could only cringe as he walked away. Thankfully the look on the first fan's face was good enough to make up for it- a beautiful girl who was about as delighted, bashful, embarrassed, and pleased as a person could be to have the privilege of getting up on stage. Why can't we have more of those fans at shows?

And in a sense, that's the band's conundrum. As popular as they are... and as the biggest band in the world... they have plenty of new fans and old fans who are willing to have a ball in discovering U2. And they've got to fight off the equally growing menace of those who treat their music and their fans with the kind of obnoxious disrespect that many showed tonight.

Let's be clear- tonight's fans may have been frustrating in a couple ways, but I sure loved tonight's show. U2 was excellent- even when flubbing lines or messing up intros and outros. They're human, after all, and I only realized this further as I sat and watched Edge play the keyboard during Running to Stand Still. No person in the arena was closer to Edge, and I reveled in the moment- but I also thought, "man, that guy is short." And so is Bono, barely equal in stature to the leggy and beautiful Asian girl he brought up on stage during Mysterious Ways. These guys are not rock gods. They're just guys like you and me who have special gifts, and I was glad to share in these gifts tonight.

One can only guess that when U2 sets out on their next tour... or, more appropriately, IF U2 sets out on another tour, they will only continue to acknowledge their age as they did tonight. This evening, we saw endless hints at the various U2's we've been treated to over almost 30 years. Next tour, we may see even more. Video clips, anyone? Video clips so we can giggle at those mullets and Adam's massive curly afro perm in the October era? Video clips so we can marvel at Macphisto's pranks? Video clips so we can see Edge in a comical white cowboy suit?

We can only wait and see. But for now, thanks U2. Tonight was special... and thanks for the faith that pervades your music. Thank you for closing the set with those three Psalms... All Because of You, Yahweh, and 40, songs that David himself would write (and in one case, a song he actually did). Thank you for providing tunes that helped me talk to God and thank Him tonight. It was pretty special... and I hope I'll get to see you again.


Yeah, those Boy songs last night were such a joyous treat. I felt so special to be present for them. And I agree, they were showing their age. Just a little less energentic, just a little more laid back. But that's alright, the music was still there and still phenomenal.
God, I felt so embarrased for that butt wagging chick that forced her way on stage...welcome back to LA Bono.

The people in my section, as stupid as they were, were with me when it came to the attention-grabbing "butt wagger." We didn't know whether to laugh at her stupidity or to bang our heads on the seats in front of us in frustration.

Thank you for writing that article. One of the best articles I've read about the tour.

great tour article

it is refreshing to read this account of LA show #2; i too attended and was rather disappointed in the crowd. who can call oneself a u2 fan yet sit down during 'running to stand still'? people actually were leaving in droves for the bathroom (or elsewhere) during other moving but "lesser known" songs. i kept feeling as though something was missing in comparison to the saturday show i attended in Anaheim; surprisingly the crowd there was into it from the start and all the way through (i think in part due to the band beginning the show with 'love and peace' - a better strategy IMHO), and i could feel the energy eminating even from my nosebleed seats.

Great article! I agree about LA audiences--I saw the band at Anaheim 1 and people were leaving before the encore. Losers, all of them! They missed Vertigo--the high point of the night.

I am also a big McCartney fan, and feel your pain at his shows. People only want to hear Beatles songs, and he delivers them well, but like you, I want to hear the little-heard gems. But most people would act like that dumb-ass who yelled "HURRY UP!" Maybe I should do myself a facor and see concerts back in my native Cleveland from now on. Those audiences KNOW good rock and roll and arent afraid to dance and get into it. its not about being seen, its about the music!

Wish I could have seen the Staples show too, but Anaheim 1 was great, too. Vertigo blew the roof off the place and I will never forget it!

I think I sat right next to you Chris (sec 114). Waited at the box office for 2.5 hours. Finally got in around 9:20. Sat next to the guy fighting with the Laker and the Cheech Marin guy lighting up. Luckily, I also went to the rehearsal show. Though I sat farther away it was much more enjoyable. 99.9% harcore fans, nobody on cell phones, nobody leaving for beer and food. Everybody standing, singing, dancing and cheering for 2 straight hours!


If you really want to appreciate them live come to England or more so Ireland to see them..... You'll get your wish 50,000 fans all singing to the same tune (Even The Early Ones)).... I am going to one of the manchester shows and was thinking of going to the New York Show as i am in town for the weekend. I think i might give New york a miss......

@ the san francisco show, saturday night, the show totally kicked a**. @ the end during the encore, everyone stood standing still (pun intended) singing to "40"-for like 10 straight minutes-just the audience, while each member of the band left one by one...larry the hotness leaving @ the end-and so inspired by the audience he played by himself for a couple of rounds of "how long to sing this song' was unbelievably cool...

This article explains a comment made by the Kings of Leon singer at last night's concert in San Jose. He thanked the audience for being "respectful". I thought it odd and had wondered if the audience in L.A. has been less than.

Being 32, I was pleased to be among a large crowd of people my age. At this stage in my life, I am not as tolerant of the early 20-ish crowd. Usually, I am not the outgoing type but I found myself having many great conversations with people that were closer to my age. I thoroughly enjoyed the crowd in San Jose.

I have found many non-U2 fans at the concerts I have been to and have found them to take away from moment. Nothing upsets me more than a concertgoer with no appreciation or respect for the band.

Side note:

Chris Martin mentions the leggy Asian woman. I am starting to wonder if Bono has Yellow fever. I've been to four U2 concerts and out of those 3 have involved him pulling an Asian from the crowd. It was a thought that was running in head today on the way home. Now that I read this article, my suspicions have been raised.

Saturday Night in San Jose
The boys out did themselves--from start to finish! We need more of what hapened last night--in the name of love!

I was never a huge fan. But then I never really listened to the anything but an occasional "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" on my car radio as I hauled ass to my early morning shift at NBC in San Diego. How could I have missed this lyrical genius called Bono? ...the potency of Edge? ...the perfection of U2? No explanations, no excuses.

So my time of discovery is now and here's my concert story:

Toting the prerequisite binoculars and earpIugs, along with the $35-$50 for the completely overpriced, but necessary T-shirt, my "concert buddy", Deb and I went to U2's second show in SD...The Vertigo Tour.

Now, I have been to lots and lots of concerts. Just let me say...It was fucking great! The thing they had and were offeriing up to me was exactly the thing I needed.

The staging and effects only enhanced the sound; never a distraction. The playlist was a fine mix of old and new that took everyone somewhere.

The band, created a beautifully tight wall of sound. The mix was damn near perfect! This being a huge bonus since the venue was the SD Sports Arena, and it was just the second show of their 9-month tour.

The evening was filled with realism, hope and choices.

There is no acceptable reason why anyone on this planet should die of hunger. People have change and choose and demand...sustenance for all human life on this planet.

I left thanking U2 for a focus that eased the frustration and depression of liviing in a country that's been hijacked in the name of homeland security, christian morality and corporate greed.

I felt rejuvinated, inspired, high on the knowledge that the shameless and self-important will never achieve more than an annoying mediocrity. The depth of the human spirit will never allow it.

Thank you, U2.
I love Bono's heart and mind. I absolutely trust in his ability to caress and nuture my soul.

London, June 18 2005 !

I cannot wait, I cannot wait !

Missed every tour since Joshua Tree, for 1 reason or another.

Arrgh ! 2 months - It's too long !

Going to see u2 a croke park they havent been there since the hoshua tree tour. I also think that when u2 come home thats where they are there insecure and raise to the occaision but wasnt slane castle concert boring .........faviorate concert mexico city POPMART

I can see where the excellent article at the top of the page was going, and I agree. In spite of their age, I still feel there is a great amount of energy from these 40 year olds. I think their slightly calmer nature makes for a much better show, and they still defiently at the top of the rock world.

Together tonight on 4/10 our three thirty something friends left the SAN JOSE SHOW with ears ringing and hearts rejoicing about the return of U2. Their old stuff was sung with power and a purpose especially with 20,000 fans singing along. The new stuff was loud and powerful as the guitar playing could rip holes in your ears drums.

The only thing was that while the rear view seats were the best view in the house next to the general admission within the eclipse the sound sometimes seemed to distort. While I I'm no sound engineer I think it was bouncing off the rear of the auditorium and back to the rear of the stage. I don't know.

I have bought tickets to the return in 11/05 to the Oakland Area. Maybe the sound issues will be resolved by then. But maybe not I will still enjoy the show all the more.

I have been a fan since the October days as well....October being one of my favorite albums. My buddy from LA who saw the same show you did called me right before the first San Jose show and said "Get ready to see the best worship band around". It is true.....seeing U2 in concert is very similiar to being at a worship night at my church. Last Saturday night was the 10th time I have seen U2 dating back to the Unforgettable Fire tour. Over the last couple of years, Bono and U2 have been much more outfront about their Faith. This has shaped the feel of their concerts, first on the Elevation Tour and now the Vertigo Tour. There is something about music that touches your heart. U2's music has been a soundtrack to my life. I love a ton of different bands and have been to a ton of concerts....but a U2's a life event. I'm so thankful for their music and their message.
It's hard to think that U2 are getting old and that at some point....there may not be any more new music. Then again, they have given us enough to last us a lifetime already.
God Bless and keep up the excellent site.


I have been a U2 fan since 1982..rocked my babies to Joshua Tree...Had tickets to the old OMNI in Atlanta for that show and a sick baby...hope Bono and the boys understand that the baby came first. This will be my first U2 show and I don't think that anything or anyone could make it a bad experience for me. I have waited a long time to see them live and I am thrilled for the opportunity. Thanks to all of you who have posted for getting me even more excited for what is to come!

I'm 17 and it is thanks to my uncle that I'm a U2 fan today. When I was a little he used to babysit me, thats when he introduced me to this great band, anyways I have yet to attend to a u2 concert, and I didn't get any tickets for this tour. But I hope that one day I expirience what all of you are taking about. Thousands of people on the same frequency, singing along to one of the greatest bands in the world. God, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. Great article Chris.

Ps. 40 is one of my favorite songs, but the song I would really love to hear live is "where the streets have no name".

Only nine more days until I get to experience U2 live for the very first time, and I can hardly contain myself. I read all of these posts and they fill me with such an immense joy, that sometimes I almost worry if I will be a touch dissapointed when I finally do get to see them for myself... Of course I know in my heart that is complete rubbish and I am probably going to be totally blown away!
Anybody out there going to either of the concerts in Vancouver, BC?

Vancouver, april 28 - see you in the ellipse.

Years of meditation then reemerging and looking for a soundtrack. The seventies had gone by, now almost half way into the eighties, dust off my rock and roll ears, open up the moldy old lp's, Tull, Hendrix, Airplane, Beatles, Dylan, etc., etc., but where's the inspired soundtrack for a new life and a new decade? The radio is a mix of mash and I'm still seeking musical light.

Then one day driving homeward I hear "Pride". I'm stopped hot in my tracks, the guitar and voice intertwine in a passionate evocation, recognition is instant; THIS is what I've been looking for. How had I missed this? I rush out and buy my first record in over ten years. The Unforgettable Fire. I listen night after night after night for a year and more. My babies young bones are formed of this stuff as she bounces to sleep every night bathed in the sound. A Sort of Homecoming - the landscape of a new day, a new dream as I daily run a national border from work to home and back. Promenade a delicate spiral up and up into heavenly heights. Indian Summer Sky, like an Arabian locomotive, a churning chariot carrying my soulful passions.

I catch a new wave and find the melodic grace of Love Comes Tumbling and the dreamy bliss of Bass Trap. Finally go into the back catalogue and discover genius from the beginning that inspires and enlivens. Twilight! Rejoice! Drowning Man!
Life IS good...

These are just tracings on the long journey. Glad to share it with you all...

Hey Chris you sound like me except maybe younger. I first saw U2 back in 1982 on a riverboat here in New Orleans called the USS President. The boat left every Friday and Saturday night at ten pm for a four hour cruise. Booze, music, and New Orleans ladies. Really went on the boat to drink and chase the ladies not for the band. Had heard of U2 but not their music. After the first song I gave up the women and just listened to U2 and have been hooked ever since.

I went to see them in San Jose, Calif. on Sunday April 11th, and I'm glad I did. The crowed was great, a lot of 30,40, and even some 50 somethings!! amazing!! Everybody sang and danced. U2 should have called it their "Karoke tour", the band served as back up for fans to sing to their tunes! Bono kept holding out the mike, "go ahead you know this one, sing with me!"...and we all did of course. During
"elevation" we almost took the roof off! When he sang "Sunday Bloody Sunday" during the chorus part, everyone yelled as loud as they could "WAR I'M SO SICK OF IT!!" with such depth of feeling...
Like so many of you here, I am an "older" U2 fan going back to my days in high school and college. I first seen them in Austin, Tx. when I was a University student. We were all so young then, Gloria, Party Girl, 40, I know them all by heart..Bono used to wear a blond streak in his hair, the Edge was amazing even back then. I remember thinking the drummer was so young, he couldnt have been more than 14 when they first started out...
I think I continue to enjoy their songs because they still fill me with such joy and hope, and in the best Irish tradition, their songs tell a compelling story. And whats amazing is, I think they really do get better with age! I've seen all their concerts and this one was pretty much the best one yet.
I danced and jumped and sang as much as I did 20 odd years ago... I thought I would feel tired afterwards, but I was'ent. I just wanted to keep dancing and singing. I felt so uplifted and rejunivated. I felt good and I felt hopeful. I have not felt that way in a long long time.
I'm also very greatful for the fact that U2 continues their work with Amnesty International and Debt relief for Africa and continues to spread the we are in the year 2005, and we still have not eraticated disease, poverty and hunger. We can help out as well by sending a message to our representatives.
I think or rather I hope U2 will continue to tour until their little old men, because this little old lady will be their to see my favorite band!

i was at the first night in dublin in Croke Park and let me tell you i was one of 82,000 crazed fans .what an experience!i only disagree with one thing you said ,I thought Bono sounded incredible, with no signs of crackling or fading,infact his technique is far beter now than it has ever been .

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Chris Martin published on April 7, 2005 6:02 PM.

Brad Pitt, Bono Among Celebs on New PSA was the previous entry in this blog.

Bono's in the Book is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives


OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID