3rd Time's the Charm - A Fan Account of U2 Live at Toronto's Rogers Centre, July 11, 2011
Seeing U2 live is an experience almost beyond words. If you've ever been lucky enough to stand or sit in the crowd and listen to Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr., you'll understand what I mean. The powerful emotions their songs evoke translates into a live show that fills you with the most incredible, indescribable feeling. Beyond the men and their music is the fans - the way they come together, the love and friendship that develop just from being a fan of U2.
July 11, 2011 was my third time seeing U2 live. I saw them twice on the Vertigo tour, the first time in September 2005 in Toronto, and the second time in Ottawa just two months later. Both times, I had seats, but that didn't bother me; I didn't care if we were inches or miles away from the stage, it was just the experience of being there that I was excited for. This time was different though. When U2 started the 360 Tour for their 2009 album No Line on the Horizon, I couldn't afford tickets. They were in Toronto - just two hours away - twice, and I wasn't able to make either show. Rumors began to circulate that they would add more dates and that Toronto would be one of them, and I promised myself that no matter what, even if I had to go without groceries for a few weeks, I would see U2, and would do it right by getting general admission (GA) tickets.
The rumors were true, the tickets went on sale, and because I was a U2.com member, I had my tickets within minutes. I thought I had nine months to wait, but those nine months turned into 21, after the July 3rd, 2010 date was postponed until July 2011 due to a back injury that Bono sustained and the subsequent surgery that put him out of commission for several months.
I can say with complete honesty that the show was worth the wait. My sister-in-law Amanda and I lined up at 6:30 am the morning of Monday July 11, 2011 and we were in for a long, hot day. We instantly made friends with two girls - Laura and Lisa - from the west coast who had met through U2. A pro, after a total of 25 U2 shows, Laura took us under her wing, told us what to expect, took care of us, and made an unbelievably long day not only bearable but fun. For years, I had heard stories about how amazing U2 fans are, that they're the best fans in the world because they came together and make friends, and I found out that day how true all the stories were. The camaraderie among the fans was like nothing I had ever seen before. The fact that a complete stranger helped us out as if we were long lost friends, along with watching other people strike up conversations, share U2 stories, along with little bits of their lives, it made me proud to be a U2 fan.
I also have to give a lot of credit to the staff at the Rogers Centre. I had heard a few horror stories from people who attended other shows, about unruly lines, people cutting in, barricades getting knocked down, and various other things that had me fairly worried. The line in Toronto was so well organized, they told us what to expect, what they expected of us, and it ran so smoothly, it was practically seamless.
Interpol opened for U2
When the gates were finally opened and we were allowed in, thanks to Laura we made it to the third row inside the pit, just to the right of where Bono would be. I was so shocked, I was speechless. I sank to the floor and stared at the stage, unable to believe our luck. Interpol opened the show, and the crowd really got into their music, dancing and cheering. I always feel bad for the opening band because people are so anxious to see the main act that the opener is often all but ignored, but as a lover of live music, and a fan of Interpol for several years, I was excited to get the chance to see them live, and pleased to see and hear the crowd's reaction.
Besides Interpol, one of the pre-show highlights for me was when the dome came off the Rogers Centre. I had been on Twitter all day, and had read a bunch of tweets from people saying that unless the forecast changed (they were forecasting rain and thunderstorms), the dome would stay closed. When we got inside, the dome was still closed, but I wasn't too worried because the air conditioning was a nice change from the unforgiving heat we'd experienced outside all day. At one point, I heard a girl to my left tell some people that in a few minutes, they were going to start chanting for the roof to open. I have to admit, I scoffed inwardly, thinking it wasn't going to happen, but within minutes of people chanting "open roof, open roof!" there was a crack in the dome and there was the beautiful blue sky above, and the CN Tower to my right. It was incredible.
As for the main attraction - when David Bowie's Space Oddity began playing on the sound system, signaling the arrival of U2, the crowd went crazy, screaming, cheering, clapping, surging forward. My breath caught in my throat as Larry appeared at his drums, sat down, then popped up again to peek out at us, before Edge, then Adam, and finally Bono came on the stage and Even Better Than the Real Thing blasted through the stadium and blew us all away. There were so many songs from Achtung Baby and Zooropa on the set list that I felt like I'd been transported back to the 1990s and the ZooTV tour, which I was too young to attend, and which I had always regretted missing out on.
There was something for everyone, from every era of U2, jerking us back to the past one minute before thrusting us into the present, all the while performing like they were born for the stage. All four of them are in their element on stage, feeding off the crowd and reveling in our reactions. People can say what they want about Bono being egotistical and big-headed, but when we were singing along and he stopped to listen to us, I saw his face, and it was obvious he was humbled. The biggest rock star in the world, having performed for 30-plus years, humbled by a crowd of 60,000-plus fans, singing his own words back to him. It brought tears to my eyes, and still does, just thinking about it.
Highlights of the show
I enjoyed every single second of the concert, but a few highlights for me included:
*Bono and Edge's a capella version of Stay (Faraway, So Close!), a favorite of mine for many years, so beautiful and heartfelt.
*Bono's rendition of Miss Sarajevo, when he sings the opera part in Italian that Luciano Pavaroti sang on the original song, and when he hits that high note, his voice is so full of raw emotion that it breaks your heart.
*Zooropa, from the album of the same title, which is largely underrated, but which is one of my favorites. The song has such a sexy, almost eerie beat to it, and when the screen came down and covered the band members and they just stood there behind it playing, I was in awe.
*Seeing Commander Mark Kelly, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford's husband from the space station introducing Beautiful Day from up in space.
*Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, which I'll admit was never a favorite of mine - I liked it but didn't love it. When Bono came swinging out on his glowing microphone, in his lit-up jacket and stopped in front of us, he looked right at me and waited for me to get a picture before swinging away again. Needless to say, HMTMKMKM is now one of my favorite songs!
U2 setlist for July 11, 2011
Even Better Than The Real Thing
Until The End Of The World
I Will Follow
Get On Your Boots
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
City Of Blinding Lights
I'll Go Crazy / Discotheque
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow - Where The Streets Have No Name
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
With Or Without You
Moment Of Surrender
I could honestly go on and on, it was such an incredible night with so many great, memorable moments. It felt so surreal to be that close to the band I listen to on a daily basis, the man who sings into my ear at night when I have my headphones on, the musicians of the soundtrack of my life, who have gotten me through good times and bad, and everything in between. I didn't want the night to end, despite the fact that I was in agony from being on my feet for 17 hours, hot, tired, and dehydrated. I'd have gladly suffered through all of that for just a few more minutes. I'm ever-hopeful that the next time they tour, I'll get the chance to be one of those crazy fans who follows them from city to city, seeing show after show, living night after night in a dream come true.