So, pardon my 50 gazillion word babbling and skip to whatever part interests you most.
PART I: The Line
We are from the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania, about 1 1/2 hours northeast Philly. We left the house in the rain at 4AM and rolled in to the Wachovia Center at 5:30AM. Wachovia told us the gates would not be open until noon, but that was nonesense. We were able to park, although there was no one at the gates to pay or give us a ticket. (Later I asked the female security guard, and she said as long as we didn't leave the come back, our parking was free. *cackle!*)
We found a group of about 15 huddled in sleeping bags and camp chairs under an overhang (to stay dry) outside the South Broad Street exit doors. We got ourselves on the line list to discover we were 25 and 26. Jackpot! About 10 people had stayed in their cars (smart). About 8AM, security moved us back so their would be room later to put up the rails. Around 8:30, a female security guard asked us to split into Fan Club and regular GA lines. I think this was the earliest this had been done during this tour. We ended up as 6th and 7th in the regular line :). They set up the line barriers, but we didn't go in. Note that no one brought a booklet or a sharpie who was in the regular line, so there was no Line Nazi in that line. I don't really know how well it worked without a Line Nazi, since we were in front. We did have a problem with some jokers trying to get in front of us, but I'll get to that later
The lines kept growing, little by little (the speed picking up as time passed). It was damn windy, and drizzled a lot of the morning. Hints of blue came through the crowds now and again, and about 10:30, the gray clouds were gone. It didn't start getting warm, however, until about noon. My wife and sat in our camp chairs most of the morning, talking with the people in front and behind us, going to the porta-potty when necessary, and snacking on the stuff we brought. We had a whole crapload of drinks and chips, with a sign saying they were free (the food was from my wife's drama club cast party on Friday). We brought deli meat and rolls for lunch and dinner sandwiches, but we weren't sharing that. :) We tried to read or sleep, but it didn't really work at well, at least not until the sun came out around noon.
We met a lot of interesting characters in line, including a few Bono impersonators, groups of fanclub members who have been to several shows this tour, a couple Interference.com members, and Dan the Tattooed Boy. There were some grills in the parking lot, and someone blasting rare and bootlet U2 tracks from their car. All in all, it was a great group of people to be with. We could come and go in line as we pleased without a problem.
About 2:00PM, we decided to try our luck meeting the band. They were to pull in through the back of the center (close to the Lincoln Financial Center; Go Eagles!) We waited with the group of people there, and waited, and waited. About 3:30, we came to the conclusion that: 1. There were too many people in line, the band was not going to stop by and say 'Hi', and 2. We don't want to get screwed in our place in line, which was going to collapse soon. So, we left the group of autograph seekers about 3:45.
(Tip: make sure you know when they are going to "close up the line", i.e. make you put away your stuff. I timed my beverage consumption so that I could take one final bathroom trip before the close up, and wouldn't have to go again until after the show)
It was at this point that we saw some people sitting on benches close to the line barriers, in front of the several hunder people in line. I asked if they had a place in line and they said 'No', and that they were told they could come wait up where they were. I didn't want to be a jerk, but I wasn't going to stand for this. I told them that there was a line, and that we were here since 5:30AM. They basically said to piss off, and that they didn't see a badge on me, etc. etc. So...I got security. Just walking up to the one security person (the only lady) got them to scatter. She said she would try and honor the list, but if there was a lot of trouble about line jumpers, they would throw us all to the back.
Luckily, there were no more problems with line jumpers, at least up at the front of the line. So my first thank you of the day goes to Wachovia Security. You guys were awesome! At 4:30, security started having us pack up. We got word from one of the guys that we could sneak up closer to the actual lines, to prevent any more line jumpers. At 5:30, they openned the actual lines.
After suffering 30 minutes through the "Welcome to the Wachovia Center for U2 Vertigo 2005" announcement it was time to go in (about 6:05PM). First ones in were a man in the fan line with Cerebal Paulsy, and the girl he was with. Nice people. 5 minutes later, they openned the coral gates and let us in. The lines were pretty civil, with no crowding or pushing. Both the U2.com line and the regular line were let in at the same time. Our wand waiver was slow, and a few fan club people were able to get in front of us and over to our desk instead of their own desk. Jerks.
(Quick note about cameras: If you can fit it in your pocket, Wachovia didn't care.)
At the desk, our tickets were scanned for authenticity, then they were marked with a sharpie and we were given a wristband. Another scanner was used to see if we got into the Bomb Shelter. No luck, but we weren't going to complain. I was 2 1/2 hours from seeing my heroes live for the first time in my life.
Then it was a mad dash through the Section 102/103 gate, down the steps, and onto the floor. The first four people in our line got against the "rail" (more like a metal wall) right at the tip of the Ellipse. We ended up on Edge's side, about 10 people off from the center. I was standing right in front of a very small platform that Bono sometimes uses for standing on (remember Bad on the Boston DVD, how we came out at the end onto a little platform. That's where I was. Remember this for later).
If you are fortunate enough to get on the rail, make sure to put your arms on the rail, elbows out. You don't have to let people squeeze in next to you. I was able to get a few inches of all sides of myself and my wife. We are lucky we got the rail, since my wife is claustraphic. If we didn't get up front, we would have gone in the back by the soundboard. :)
PART II: The Show
We stood against the rail for 1 hour, watching various techs getting stuff ready. It was a good waste of time, since there wasn't much else to do. We were surrounded by people who had been to this or other U2 tours, with the exception of one lady behind us who had come with her friend. The friend was sweet, but when she danced she kept bumping into me. A bit creepy to have a lady in her late 40s rub her breasts against my back, especially with my wife next to me. My wife didn't really think much of it, so that was OK. And the lady ended up moving over a little later anyway. Anyway, the people around us said they would save our space if we wanted food or drink. It's been 13 hours since I got here, I wasn't going to get out of my space for a freaking hot dog. I just didn't trust them. *shrug*
7:30, about 70 minutes after getting our spot on the rail, Kings of Leon took the stage. My wife hated them. I was a bit iffy about them. I though they played well, but the music was louder than the singer, I couldn't understand a single word he said ("I paint my fingers, I paint my toes, I let my furry nipples show"?). The bass player was pretty good, and I think the drummer had a ONE bracelet on. Besides that, I didn't care for them. Most of their songs sounded alike, and they looked like some odd combination of country/The Doors/Marilyn Manson. It was funny, seeing how small the drumset was compaired to Larry's in the background. I cheered anyway, to be nice. They seemed happy with the audience, which made me feel good. By 8:20, they were off stage. I was about to wait the longest 50 minutes of my life.
I didn't pay too much attention to the songs being played. I was watching Dallas, Stuart, and the other tech people checking equipment. I got to see a girl checking mics and the small drum (used during Love and Peace (Or Else) and Sunday Bloody Sunday) that was hidden in the secure area between us and the ellipse. The crowd perked up when they heard "Children, wake up! Hold your mistakes up!" (the openning lines of Wake Up! by Arcade Fire). Obviously, a lot of the floor has been to one of these concerts (or heard bootlegs like I did). Everyone sang through the "Oh oh oh oh oh oh"'s. The energy on the floor was enormous. Finally, after 16 hours of waiting, we hear the recorded voice of Bono: "Everyone! Everyone! Everyone!"
We saw Edge first, strapping in to his guitar on stage. Larry and Adam took their places, and finally, Bono emerged at the tip of the ellipse and the place caught on fire...
City of Blinding Lights: The perfect openning song for this tour. A love letter from the band to its fans. The blinding lights that used to accompany Streets now light up the floor with the beginning of this song. Confetti fills the air, falling over the lucky fans in the Bomb Shelter "Oh, you look so beautiful tonight!"
Vertigo: The riff is rocking, the floor hops up and down, singing along to the chorus. Bono falters on the last "feeeeel" before the middle eight (he doesn't even try). That's OK, we love you! I've been told that they do part of Stories For Boys (I've heard bootlegs too), but at this point my ears are ringing and I just can't make it out. Bono goes around the ellipse. I've never been this close to something this famous in my life.
Elevation: I was a bit iffy on this song through the first couple of bootlegs, but moving it up really helps keep the pace and the audience is into it. We break into the "ooo oooo oo"'s unprompted, and Bono looks impressed. "Only in Philly!" he says, near the end of the song. Larry singing was awesome! I'm glad he's singing. :)
Gloria: The crowd sings along, even though they don't know the words. The floor was into it, at least. Not sure about the seats.
The Ocean: They should have played The Electric Co., then Gloria, and skipped this. I'm sorry, but they just didn't connect with this song. It's digging a little too deep, I think.
Beautiful Day: Awesome song, with beautiful lighting. The lights around the ellipse were awesome. If memory serves, Bono got Adam to sing into his mic. First time I've heard Adam sing. Dan the Tattoed Man came up on stage. We met him in the GA line, and he seems pretty cool. Apparently this is his 5th time on stage (3 times during Elevation and twice this tour). There is a snippet of Ultraviolet (Light My Way!) which I barely hear. Bad ears!
Miracle Drug: I think of Sian and Terry Schiavo (I know, I know...) when I hear this song. In the intro, Bono talks about a pregnant woman they saw at the airport, but I didn't get to hear much about the details.
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own: Such a sad and beautiful song. I doesn't feel right for me to sing along; this is a song to his father. I like the figure animated in the light beads. Bono looks so sad. His voice is spot on and crystal clear with "Do you hear me siiiiiinnnng...". He walks by us, and as he sings the "No Regrets" snippet, he changes one of the lines to "I want to die." :(
Love and Peace (or Else): The Boys rock the house. Peace signs wave all over the place. It was great to see Larry up at the tip on the drums (and singing, again!). Bono was really into this song, and goes wild on the drums at the end. One of my favorite songs on the album, just awesome.
Sunday Bloody Sunday: A good rendition, although I think Bono might have lost us somewhere talking about conexistance. It seems like he wanted us to respond (scream Coexist, maybe?), but quite frankly I couldn't hear a damn thing he was saying. We all did manage to scream "No More! No War!"
Bullet the Blue Sky: To be honest, I think I liked the John Lennon/gun version on the Elevation DVD better, but they did a bangup job. It was great to hear live. We also sang along with Edge's background vocals.
Running to Stand Still: Very sweet and sad. Edge was awesome on keyboards, Bono did well (as well as Bono does) on guitar. The harmoica was great. The audience did a great job with the "la la la la de dayeyay!"'s
Pride (In the Name of Love): A great performance of a song I don't love as much as I used to.
Where the Streets Have No Name: God enters the house. My favorite U2 song, and the one I was most excited to hear. While i love the red background with the blinding lights on the crowd, I think the flags were more appropriate for the context (being part of the Africa Set). Besides, we got the blinding lights earlier, so I'm good.
One: Bono talks a little about Live Aid and the One Campaign. He points out that Dikemebe Mutumbo is in the audience (DIkemebe helped launch the one campaign last year in Philly. He also used to play for the 76ers). The cellphones at the end of the song were just beautiful.
Break: Some people in the stands actually start getting up to leave. Oh, ye of little faith!
Zoo Station: The Achtung Baby ("Mama!") slot machine comes on the screen, and we are back in business. Edge appears as if out of no where from the smoke and light, and starts his strut down our end of the ellipse. The song is tight, and Edge is rocking the house. Just fantastic.
The Fly: One of my favorites. It was good, but I ended up getting mesmoried by the words on the monitors and didn't pay close attention to the music. Silly!
Mysterious Ways: The audience is aswaying and away we go! Awesome song. According to one of the ladies behind me, the girl Bono picks from the Bomb Shelter was 16 and had gotten the tickets for her birthday. What a present. She's shy and dances a little, but wants a hug more than to dance. I can understand.
With Or Without You: Depending on who you talk to, this was a last minute addition to the set. Very good, with the possible exception of deafening feedback from Edge's guitar. Bono pops his earpieces out before the end.
Break 2: Again, people start to leave. *sigh*
They set Larry's keyboard and a mic up at the tip, but they come back down again sometime later. Hmmm, are they going to skip Yahweh? If so, my wife would be really upset.
All Because of You: I didn't really like this song on the album, but it is incredible live. Everybody sings along, the floor is hoppin!
As the song draws to a close, Larry's keyboard makes its appearance on the main stage. It's a bit of a disapointment they decided against going out to the tip, but they are going to play Yahweh, so what right do I have to complain?
Yahweh: God enters the house once again. I so love this song, especially live. I feel compelled to raise my arm high to the heaven, lift my face, and close my eyes as I sing praises to my Creator. I start to cry (as does my wife), for I know the end is near.
"40": And so it ends. I half wanted to hear Bad, but my day would not be complete without a full version of "40". My hopes were confirmed as Adam and Edge strip guitars and change sides of the stage. This performace was the best I had heard (probably because I was there *grin*). Bono leaves, making the experience bittersweet. Every good thing must come to an end. Next Adam, and then Edge. We continue to sing as Larry drums, then stops. 1...2...3...4, and Larry's drum solos kicks back in, before he, too finally gets up and leaves with a wave. "How long, to sing this song?" How long, indeed.
Until October! (hopefully we can get tickets)
Part III: Final Thoughts
Bono's voice was not in top form, but I didn't notice any major foibales. He seemed to be sufferring, and drank a lot of water, but he was a constant showman.
I wasn't sure if it was me, or the sound. My left ear is still ringing and the right one (the bad one) is clogged. I have heard from others on Interference.com that the sound wasn't top quality. The feedback during WOWY probably also affected my hearing.
Traffic wasn't as bad as I had thought, and we didn't get lost.
The fans range widely to "eh, I'm just here to see them", to "this is my 6th show this tour!" Freaks and geeks everywhere, but everyone was civil. A good time was had by all.
Even with sunscreen, my nose and cheeks are sunburned. I didn't put it on early enough, I guess.
I didn't talk enough about the lighting, or the band in general. Everyone was excellent. The music was top notch, and the lighting fit each song. It's hard to cover it all with each song though.
Finally, a confession: I missed my kid's dance recital to see this. That makes me a Bad Parent(tm). We saw dress rehearsal on Friday, and Grandma was there for the performance. We asked them first, and they said it was fine for us to go. I love them so much.
If you got through it all, thanks for reading. :)
x-posted to my journal.
Edit: Fixed some spelling. :)