U2 live at The Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, PA
October 17, 2005
Concert Review by Mike D'Ariano


Set list
City of Blinding Lights
Vertigo/Rock 'N' Roll
I Will Follow
The Electric Co./
Bullet With Butterfly
Wings/See Me,
Feel Me
I Still Haven't
Found What I'm
Looking For /
The Promised Land
Beautiful Day /
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely
Hearts Club Band/
All You Need Is
Love / Blackbird
Miracle Drug
  Sometimes You Can't
Make It On Your Own
  Love and Peace
or Else
  Sunday Bloody
Sunday / Exodus
  Bullet The Blue
Sky / The Hands That
Built America/
When Johnny Comes
Marching Home
  Miss Sarajevo
  Pride (In The Name
0f Love)
  Where The Streets
Have No Name

  Walk On
  Fast Cars
  People Get Ready
  With Or Without You
  All Because of You



The day started out wrong.

We drove down to Philly from New York early so that we could get a cheese steak somewhere before the show. I know it's touristy, but it was seemingly a good idea all the same. By around 3 in the afternoon we were standing at Geno's, one of the two most famous cheese steak joints in a city known for the dish. We were paying for the sandwiches when suddenly the guy standing next to us pulls a giant dildo out of his jacket, and slaps it down on the counter while shouting, "Hey Geno, I bet you never seen a salami like this!" When I say giant dildo, I'm talking like a foot and a half of penis shaped rubber, bouncing around just inches from my lunch. Geno and his guys thought this was so funny, that they called the guy back over later and asked him to see it again. That incident, coupled with a junkie-looking black dude asking us for change, and a junkie-looking white dude eating from the garbage can next to us, was how Philadelphia welcomed us, and I realized later, that dildo man, and the guy eating the garbage were actually part of the nicer side of the city.

Up next on the agenda after a wonderful lunch, we were planning to find a bar near the venue and hang out for an hour or two before getting on line to get a good space in the general admission floor section. In our quest to find a bar, we turned this way and that way, and found ourselves in what I can only describe as the single worst sprawl of urban decay I've ever seen in my life. Now, I ride through both Harlem, and the notorious South Bronx, everyday on my way to work, and I've never seen anything even remotely as fucked up as this neighborhood in Philadelphia. You can't even call it a neighborhood really, because that sounds to quaint. This was huge. Block after block after block of tree-less streets full of boarded up windows and broken glass. Street after street of graffiti, and decay. It went on for miles, and I'm not too macho to say that when we couldn't find our way out of the endless mire, it was kinda scary.

Finally after about 40 minutes of driving through close to 100 blocks of squalor, we found some trees, and followed them straight to the shiny new billion-dollar sports complex on the other side of town. The complex features 4 venues (2 stadiums and 2 arenas) and at least two of them are brand new. After seeing the city, I can honestly say that if more than fifteen cents of tax-payer money went into the sports complex, whoever made that decision should be lynched. We decided that rather than risk another adventure through the underbelly of our host city, we'd just hang out at the complex instead. They had a sign in front that said they have a bar that opened before events, and that was good enough for us. Of course as things turned out we couldn't get into the bar, but that's a whole other story. In the end, we just stood on the curb for an hour and a half with a few thousand other people waiting to get inside.

Getting inside was another blood pressure raising experience. You'd have to try really hard to make the process more complicated. First off, if you had general admission tickets, like we did, you had to go in through a separate door from everyone else. So far, we're not dealing with anything out of the ordinary. But there's more. At the general admission door, there are two separate lines forming. One line is for people in the U2 fan club, which you have to pay to be in, and the other is just for the regular people that like the band enough to spend hundreds of dollars on tickets and drive a couple hundred miles from another state to see them on a Monday night . . . that was us. Now, after getting on the not-so-general admission line, we waited around for a while and were then herded into the venue . . . of course at a slower rate than those that paid the band to favor them. To get in, you needed to show your ticket about five times. You had to show it to get on line. You had to show it to get into the queue to get frisked, which came after the line led out of the parking lot and into the venue proper. You had to show it to the guy that frisked you. You had to show it at the door, and finally you had to show it to the guy right inside the door that scanned it, and then handed it to another guy who drew a line on the back for no apparent reason.

Man, that was a lot of work just to get in . . . but it's not over yet! After going through all of that, you have to show your ticket to another employee who gives you a wristband and puts you on another line. At the end of the line I bet you can guess you show your ticket to someone else. Now this part is actually interesting. This latest person demanding to see your papers is offering you something kind of neat. They scan your ticket again and at random, some fans are selected to move even closer to the band than the regular general admission folks. Supposedly the chance of getting closer is not affected by being in the fan club, but the only four people I saw win their way closer, were on the fan club line. My friends and I struck out. The folks that won were tattooed with a special ultra violet U2 logo that granted them admission to the inner circle . . . okay actually they just got a second wristband, but at that point nothing would have surprised me.

With all of that out of the way, we were finally inside. We hit the respective restrooms, and headed into the arena to pick out our spot. We of course had to show our tickets and our wristbands not once but twice before we were finally on the floor. Now, I want to try to describe the stage setup, but it's a little tricky. The band's equipment and the majority of the lighting were set up on a regular-looking stage at one end to the venue. There was no backdrop of any kind, because all of the seats behind the stage were also sold out. What made the setup unique, was the catwalk which extended out from one side of the stage about seventy-five feet before curving and looping back around to the other side of the stage. The center of the giant circle that the catwalk created was where the people who won upgraded tickets went. The rest of us who paid top dollar for tickets that let us be as close to the band as possible, were left trying to pretend we were happy standing a hundred feet away at best from the main show. Being more than six feet tall (that means I could still see the band), and not much of a U2 fan ( I was there with a friend that I got the tickets for as a gift), helped me not be too pissed off at the arrangement, but if that wasn't the case, I would've been ready to explode.

Two other things that helped me keep my rage in check were the first round of drinks that we got after we claimed our space, and a very good set of music by the opening act, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley. In case it's not obvious, Damian is the son of reggae legend Bob Marley. He performed a set that was a mixture of the laid-back style of reggae that his father made famous, and the more intense hip-hopish style popular today. Joining him on stage was his brother Stephen, who sounds so much like their father, it's eerie. Their set was great, and the highlights were of course, when they performed their father's music along with their own hit single, "Welcome to Jamrock". I also learned something during their performance. In my next life, I want to come back as the guy with three foot long dreadlocks who's job is to dance around on stage waving a Jamaican flag for a half hour, while one of Bob Marley's kids performs. It looks like a great gig.

Alright . . . now it was time to start the big show. The arena was packed to the gills with fans. Every seat was filled, and every space there was to stand in, had someone standing in it. At just about nine, the lights went down, and the room erupted. The crowd was screaming louder than just about any rock show crowd I'd ever heard as The Edge, Adam and Larry took the stage and began playing. Then all of a sudden, confetti starts raining down on the crowd, and Bono raises out of the stage, at the tip of the catwalk. The crowd roared even loader as he stood statue still, staring at the ceiling and soaking it all in. It was majestic. I was almost caught in the moment, when my girlfriend turned to me and said, "Man he really loves himself, huh?" And there it was, she had summed up the whole Bono experience after watching the man for just thirty seconds. I would have said something wordy like "The king of stylized pre-fabricated cool" but she hit the nail on the head. He's just another rock star who loves himself. All the same, I was enjoying myself. They played "Vertigo" second, and I know a few of the words to that one, so I sang along and took in the spectacle of if all. Then all of a sudden, I thought I heard a snippet of a Ramones song but before I could figure out which song it was or even if I had actually heard it, they were playing Patti Smith's "Rock N Roll Nigger". Yeah, really . . . I was surprised too.

The next day I hit the U2 websites to see if they really played The Ramones or if I'd imagined it, and found that not only was no one mentioning it when reporting the set list, no one was mentioning the Patti Smith thing either. Weird. Upon further review, I learned two things. First, lately the band has been sticking Smith's version of "Gloria" into their set, and second, Patti is opening for them for two nights only when they return to New York City in late November. I smell collaboration. As for the Ramones thing, we may never know. The show progressed and along with a kinda neat, but far from revolutionary light show, the guys played a decent mixture of new stuff, which the crowd loved like the sheep that they are, and the older stuff that the crowd actually loved in their hearts. The only other notable moment in the first hour was the three song Beatles medley. I think it went Sgt. Pepper into All You Need Is Love into Blackbird. It was a cool idea, especially the end which featured just Bono and Edge, but it didn't really do justice to the songs, especially Sgt Pepper which featured nothing but chorus. I kinda feel like if the song is good enough to pay homage to, it's good enough to play the whole thing . . . but that's just me.

Hour two saw the band ratchet up the pretentious factor to ten and beyond mine goes to eleven with song selection, theatrics and banter. I don't remember the sequence of these sections of the show, but here's what happened. Bono announced that Edge was actually from outer space and the crowd actually cheered as if it wasn't even a little silly, let alone completely retarded. They played the song "Miss Sarajevo" which they originally recorded with Lucciano Pavarotti, and Bono sang the operatic style Italian part himself of course he screwed up the high notes and of course the crowd responded as if he was doing it on purpose. They did a very long thing about religious unity, which contained a section where Bono was blindfolded with a headband featuring a graphic that made various religious iconography spell out "Coexist" The "T" was a crucifix, and the "X" was the star of David, and the whole thing was corny. Finally, they started asking for money. Before playing the song "One" Bono gave a lecture about The One Campaign, which is his campaign to end poverty in Africa. The tag line for the campaign is something like "we don't want your money, we just want your voice." But what that leaves out is that they just want your voice . . . to tell the government to give them your money. The One Campaign is actually about getting the U.S. government to donate 1percent of its annual budget to poverty relief in Africa. They present it as "it's not a lot, only 1 percent."

Let me explain something to Bono and his flock here. The U.S. budget is calculated in the trillions; 2.338 trillion dollars in 2004. One percent of that is 23 billion dollars, and that . . . IS A SHITLOAD OF MONEY!!!! Now if everything in this country was coming up roses, it would still be presumptuous for four guys from Ireland to lobby for a 23 billion dollar gift from U.S. tax payers, but guess what, everything is not coming up roses. In fact, this country is fucked up and full of crime, drug abuse, corruption, and DING DING DING we have a winner . . . POVERTY. Philadelphia, as I learned first hand, is a perfect example of why all Americans should look Bono in the eye and tell him to go fuck himself every time he asks for 23 billion dollars of their money like it's nothing. When you can go to a U2 concert in every single city in America with absolutely no chance of driving through an enormous ghetto or watching someone eat garbage, then you can think about adding your name to Bono's list without being an ill-informed asshole for doing so. Till then, fuck him. That's how I feel about it, but as he rambled on, thousands of people pulled out their cell phones and added their names to the list. The people who signed up during the show, had their names displayed on the giant screen above the stage later in the night. It was disconcerting but I was reassured by another Bono statement involving numbers, which I now understand he has absolutely no grasp of.

He was happy to announce that in the next few years, they estimate 5 million Americans will have signed on for the One Campaign. That's good news, because America is a big country, and 5 million of us is about as big in reality as 1% of the budget is small. Five million Americans is actually only 1.25% of the 300,000,000 people that live here, and that means that this ridiculous plan is only appealing to a very small minority, and has no chance of actually happening. Whew . . . that was close. Anyway, the night went on and came to a head during the first encore when the band announced they needed another guitar player. They got one. As I overheard it described after the show by some idiot who probably added her name to the One Campaign, "it was some local guy from Jersey." I guess that's true, but most people would think of some other way to describe Bruce Springsteen.

Yeah . . . The Boss. I can't stand the guy, and I was excited when he walked out. Hey, the way I look at it, now for the rest of my life I can truthfully say I saw Bruce Springsteen once, and it didn't cost me $300 or 3 hours of my life. Score! He played one song with the band, Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready". They improvised a lot of the words, and I'll admit, it was pretty cool. Of course they blew it all the same, when they didn't add the Marley's to the mix . . . their Dad did the song so often that a lot of folks think he wrote it. Oh well. My favorite moment of the show came when Bono thanked Philadelphia mayor, John Street, and was met by a thunderous chorus of boos. He looked at the crowd and asked "Did I miss something?" Yeah Bono, you did, but don't worry, the majority of your fan base isn't quick enough to pick up on it.

When the show finally ended, after two encores that consisted of a total of six songs, I fought my way off the floor with the rest of the cattle, hit the men's room, and got the fuck out of Philly, and of course on the way out, I put a little hoo-doo on the Eagles home turf. Giants fans everywhere, you owe me one.


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