Thursday, September 24, 2009

U2 - 360° Tour / part 1 [concert review]

* September 16th, Rogers Centre, Toronto
Here's a breakdown of my day waiting in the general admission line...because the only thing more fun than waiting in a line for 12 hours is, of course, reading about someone waiting in a line for 12 hours. Part 2 (the show review) coming shortly...
I arrive at the Rogers Centre at 6:30 in the morning on show day, dreading the thought of spending the next 12 hours queuing in a lineup, but pumped for what was sure to be a great concert. The fan-operated numbering system, which usually seems to operate at shows where there's general admission tickets, was up and running smoothly. My alter ego for the next half day had a name: "#154". Yes, there were 153 before me who faced the dark and chilly Toronto morning to line up for their favourite band. Word is that the people in a handful of tents at the front of the line got there at 6 p.m. the day before. Now that is friggin' nuts, although perhaps not as nuts as the numerous people I met from all over the globe who were in town following the tour. Fans from Mexico, Germany, Italy, Chicago, Vermont, Brazil, plus numerous Canadians from places like Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal and Newfoundland. As massive a fan I am of music, I'm always humbled meeting people who go to such lengths to follow their favourite music artists. The furthest I've traveled to a show is twice making a five hour trip to Ottawa to see Bruce Springsteen and I think that's about my limit as far as what lengths I can handle in my pursuit of a great live music experience.
After checking out the lineup situation I returned to my car to grab my anti-gravity lounge chair and "supplies" for the day (iPod, food, reading material). When I initially arrived at the lot I paid a flat fee of $11 at the lot's pay machine, which only lasted me until 6 p.m. Now I noticed the lot attendant had begun work and I was informed it'd cost me another $20 for parking up until midnight (damn "Event Parking" rates!). Normally I'd be peeved at such a raw deal but, (n)ever the optimist, I didn't sweat it that morning. I rationalized that the concert ticket only cost me $70 (including TicketBastard charges) for what would likely be a spot right up at the stage.
Back to the lineup underneath a Rogers Centre overhang - perfect if there had been rain in the forecast (there wasn't), but not great considering a brisk breeze was whipping through the lineup area and the lack of sunshine made for (literally) knee knocking temperatures at times over the next few hours. Chatted a little with some of my neighbors and then settled in with an audio book on my iPod (The Yankee Years by Joe Torre). Couldn't help but notice that some guys came dressed with just shorts and heavy hoodies, which confounded me. If you're wearing something heavy and warm on the top part of your body then why not do the same for your lower part? This is the kind of inane thing one mulls over when they have plenty of time to kill in a 3' x 4' space for hours on end.
My brother Jay joined me at around noon, after a brief period of stress over whether those in the lineup behind me would mind if he joined the line where I was and not have to go to the end of the line (which by that point was in the 300's). That got sorted out and Jay was #155 (I had added his name on the sign-up sheet when I first got there). Having him there was a nice change. This was my fourth time doing the all-day general admission (aka "GA") lineup routine for U2 (and three times for Springsteen), and aside from my first couple of GA experiences for U2 in 2001 I've done the rest solo. Although the fans are always friendly and there's obvious common ground as far as conversation, it was a refreshing change spending the time with someone I actually knew.
A few washroom breaks and coffee runs provided a welcome relief from the coolness of the shady overhang out into the warm sun. I even walked backed to my car once to heat up my bones - it's the first time in the five years I've owned my car that I gave praise for the black leather interior. The line was informed that by 2:00 we needed to get all lawn chairs, tents and sleeping bags put away and that by 4:30 we'd be let into the stadium. Having a tenuous schedule helped set up the rest of the waiting time - most importantly, no more consumption of beverages that you can't get out of your system before being let into the building. It's possible that one can claim their spot in front of the stage and then try and have it held while they use the washroom, but it's also just as likely that you'll come back from emptying your bladder and find some knob inhabiting your slice of temporary real estate and refusing to give it up. There's a method to this thing, people!
So Jay and I kill a few more hours, during which the lineup is condensed with the removal of the aforementioned "luxury" items. Shortly after mentioning to Jay (about 2 or 3 p.m.) that I still felt surprisingly good and not too drained I proceeded to hit the wall. My legs, ass and back started aching and the boredom became more oppressive. It might sound odd to say that sitting around doing nothing for hours on end is grueling, but folks, it is tough to do. I've described my previous GA experiences to Jay, but it's the kind of thing you have to actually do to appreciate, and I believe that 'round about hour three or four he was getting a sense of what I'd described to him. After about three separate announcements between 4 and 5:30 that insinuated the doors would be open imminently, we finally got in shortly before 6:00. I swear that the sadistic security personnel were purposely screwing with the impatient lineup, yanking the proverbial dollar bill on a string just a little out of our reach while we were at their mercy.
Finally, we're let in and most of the crowd (including Jay and I) partake in some weird running/speed walking hybrid...basically, moving as quickly as possible to the stadium floor without catching the ire of the stadium officials yelling at people to slow down and not run. Down to the field we go and the impressive stage comes into view, momentarily evaporating the aches and grind of the day's wait. We claim a spot on the barricade gate by the stage's outer catwalk/ramp, a little to the left facing the stage. Most people head for the inner pit closer to the main stage but I'm confident that we're close enough to the action while far enough back to take in the whole production, specifically the massive cylinder shaped video screen hanging over the stage. The anticipation levels out a little as the aches return during the hour long wait for openers Snow Patrol to start the evening. Once they hit the stage a feeling of satisfaction hits and the body aches disappear once again, as the reason for enduring this whole long and crazy day lies just around the corner.
Me, pre-show. This is what an excited Drew Kerr (aka #154) looks like.