Thursday, December 02, 2010

Reflections on the U2 Spaceship touching down in Melbourne...

I went with my friend Carmen from singing to see the initial touchdown of the U2 Spaceship in Melbourne last night. We kind of tried to miss the support act (Rapper Jayzee) by turning up around 7.30 (after an advertised starting time of 5.30) only to find that Jayzee hadn't even started his thing. Prior to getting in the door we were forced to check our umbrellas (even after a day of pouring December rain) an aspect of huge overseas concerts I could have done without. Of course on reflection Etihad Stadiums usual attendees could have cornered the market on the Neanderthal demographic (so maybe their concerns for the use of umbrellas were valid) but perhaps not for a U2 audience.

So then there came an hour of doof doof slightly augmented by the occasional nod to Islam in a musical sense but the content was as subtle as rap and it became clear that the size of the venue was needed in order to accommodate Jayzee's ego. This faculty will not be enhanced by my only notion of his fame stemming from the fact that he's Beyonce's husband.

After JZ had finished there was half an hour of set up for the main gig with entertaining graphics on the spaceship claw. 60,000 were there, essentially separated into ground floor residents (obediently obeying every rapper demand for arm and shirt waving and the "make some noise" command – limited vocab is apparently prerequisite for rapping). This was augmented by 3 rows of seating that remarkably reiterated the Coliseum, with some minor drawbacks; ground floor seating would have had difficulty viewing anything but the huge projected figures on the 360° screen; 2nd level (where we were seated) gave an OK view of all but the "real" people were pretty small; 3rd level could look down on everything but would clearly have only viewed the ant version of U2 so would have been entirely dependent on the projections. These projections were extraordinarily well crafted and choreographed and a state of the art experience which produced the effect of a monster spaceship bearing Rock Gods introduced appropriately by David Bowies MAJOR TOM. Still, for a group as sophisticated and with the range of U2 you have to wonder about the need for stadium rock, apart from of course producing the largest amount of money with the smallest amount of effort and scheduled playing dates.

The music was exquisite anthem rock all superbly done (everybody, including me, sang along to the favourites) which covered material as far back as the BOY album, touched on everything since, and provided glimpses of new material to come (cynically I'm predicting a double live album of this tour – perhaps with DVD – and with "previously unreleased material"). I may say this cynically, but I'll be buying: they remain a great band.

Mind you Carmen, who can be moved to move with delightful facility by music , stayed in her seat the entire evening and could not be drawn beyond the enigmatic when asked to comment on the event. Of course we had seen Leonard Cohen, The Master, (slightly smaller venue, better feel) about a fortnight before. I did sneak a quick glance at her when Bono included one of her favourite Cohen quotations "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in" in the midst of a U2 lyric.

Other aspects worth noting: Political and spiritual messages seemed lost on the beer swilling morons in front of us (hope they weren't driving home – you can bet they were – come on Australia "GET A LIFE" alcoholism is no replacement for personality) and it was less than edifying to be treated exactly like cattle during the exit process. At over $ 200 a ticket, not good enough. This was not power to the people Bono, this was animalising the people.

I know: tired and grumpy the day after. Remember the take home message: "The music was exquisite anthem rock all superbly done..... I'm predicting a double live album of this tour – perhaps with DVD – and with "previously unreleased material"). I may say this cynically, but I'll be buying: they remain a great band."




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