04.28.2001 U2 America West Arena, Phoenix, AZ
Opener: PJ Harvey
In April of 2001, I received an acceptance to the Boyd School of Law. It will always be for as long as Universities continue to send out paper accepts and rejects, that the formula is simple: a large envelope means acceptance and a #10 is a rejection. So once you open the mailbox and see your big fatty with the law school’s name on it, there isn’t much else to report. As a celebratory last minute trip, my friend and I went to see U2 in Phoenix, Arizona.
We drove from Las Vegas. It’s about a 4 hour drive, but there are spots on the highway in Arizona where the speed limit drops to 35 miles an hour. And there are small towns one must traverse where cops park on street corners just waiting for the mf driving through who has never met a Wickenburg speed trap. We went at night and topics of conversation included how death was a virtual certainty if we collided head-on with a semi going 90 miles an hour. For our entertainment, a pre-determined list of music was compiled to be played on the plug-and-play cd player, which for this trip, had more U2 than anything else.
Somewhere along the way, I became aware of the fact that we did not actually have tickets to the concert. I took a dim view of a long weekend drive having never investigated the availability of tickets. In the morning before the show, we began a cursory drive around town and made a few inquiries at ticket houses about how much same day U2 tickets would cost us. The price was exorbitant, making me wonder just who is the fool that pays them their tickets surcharge. In the end, though, we bought our tickets directly from America West Arena, sans the broker fee.
My friend parked in a tow-zone and left me in the car to find tickets for us. He encountered at least two scalpers milling about, but rejected their tickets because he wasn’t willing to pay the premium. By luck or casual stupidity, he went up to the box office and purchased, at face value, two tickets to see the show. They were in the lower loge section, 4th row off the floor but the first occupied row in that section. The only thing obstructing our view of the stage was the soundboard.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in Scottsdale marveling at the universe over fondue. Then, parking at the venue. The equation is simple; the closer to the stadium, the more ridiculous the cost. We were trying to find a happy medium between distance and price for parking, but so were 5,000 or so other fans. In the course of driving around, we made a turn down a road following the train tracks into a rundown residential neighborhood. A little child motioned to us to park on his parent’s property, on the grass adjacent to the driveway. His parents were no where in sight, but we negotiated a rate of a measly 5 bucks, paid it three times over and left wondering if the car would be there when we got back.
The distance wasn’t killer, but we missed a 1/3 of the opening act. We settled in comfortably in an empty row and waited through the set change. U2 used a heart-shaped extension for the stage and created a pit for a select group of fans. They came on with the house lights up and just waved and settled into their performance. I was surprised that they don’t use extra musicians but manage their sound remarkably with just the four of them. We had a straight-on view and any time Bono or the Edge used the extension, they were pretty fucking close.
Bono is goddamn sexual onstage, he practically gives me a boner. If he writhed and kissed the Edge any more than he did, it would have been porn. There music was seductive and sensual, quiet and then obscenely loud and violent. They interspersed quite a few snippets of cover songs into their set and it all worked. Joey Ramone died that month, so they sang in his memory. They played pretty much every song I wanted to hear and managed to shift set pieces enough for some visual stimulation. Risers in the back of the stage moved upward and downward with Bono riding them like a surfer.
U2 is the best band I have ever seen that I didn’t like before the concert. Now, who hasn’t memorized every U2 song on the radio? They are as ubiquitous as Phil Collins for radio play. But I just was never sold on them, with the exception of Achtung Baby which is on my top ten of best albums of all time list. This concert changed all that. I still haven’t bought another U2 album before or since, but I sing along to the radio with the best of them.
Postscript: Remarkably, the car was still there, intact and with our overnight bags unmolested in the trunk.
Elevation / In Gods Country
Until the End of the World
New Year’s Day
I Will Follow
Sunday Bloody Sunday / Could You Be Loved / Get Up Stand Up
Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
In A Little While
Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
Bad / 40
Where The Streets Have No Name
Mysterious Ways / Sexual Healing
Bullet the Blue Sky / Young Americans
With or Without You
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
I Remember You
Walk On / Hallelujah