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"[M]usic has lost the personality of human beings and musicians. It's got so shiny that it's as if there's a surface of Formica over it. And it's something that doesn't let you in."

-- Edge, 2003

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by Martin Putnam

Well, finally, Saturday 18th June has arrived and we’re off to see U2 at Twickenham. It’s a three-hour drive away but we’ll set off early to avoid traffic

At the stadium we spot the GA line – well organised in zigzag barriers, but in the open sunlight – queuers are being allowed out for food, drink and toilets but then have to get back into line in the open sun again, wristbands are given out for the “bomb shelter” area before going through security and ticket checks so no fear of the debacle that affected Manchester’s queues. We have seats as our two sons are too small to survive the crush of GA so at least we can take shelter.

Admission is due for four p.m. but U2 choose to run over their sound check by 45 minutes so no one gets admitted until almost five pm.

We make our way up to our seats, a giddy fifteen flights of stairs to the third level of seating, the view from the top overlooks the car park and franchise food area – a wonderful view – but I hastily remind the wife that if she fancies fried chicken she can take the fifteen flights down and back up. I think she’s gone rapidly off the idea!

There is a bar serving cold drinks and hot pies about fifteen yards from our seats so we’re well sorted for now.

We make our way to our seats – we’re block 206 row E five rows back from the edge – but to our delight the front two rows have been covered with netting for safety so only two rows between us and the view over the stage – as suspected the view is great – about a 40 degree angle down to the stage, we’re side view and can only see about 60% of the main screen but the knowledge that the kids’ll see easily is recompense for that loss.

One worrying thing is the nicely phrased leaflet stating that we “might feel the third level move and that, that is normal, but that in the interests of our own comfort could we restrict excessive excitement during the show”! Fat chance, I suspect.

The two support Bands – Doves and Athlete are well received, I’ve taken the trouble to download and listen to their albums so the music come familiar to me.

I’ve given my children “Hear Plugs” designed to diminish volume rather than block sound altogether and as soon as the sound system cranks up in earnest they stuff them in and keep them in!

Then the place fills up, with latecomers and those of us that have been there all along feel crowded all of a sudden.

Wake Up by Arcade Fire sounds out – no one other than I realise that’s the signal song for the bands arrival and there’s a scamper for the seats as the band arrives onstage.

I’m not going to post a song-by-song review or analysis. I was there to see "my U2's stadium show" and that’s what I saw, I loved every minute of it – The first section had only rudimentary light show until City Of Blinding Lights rang out and the spectacular screen erupted into action from then on it was a brilliant sound and light show to the end.

My one criticism is that the stage flooring that has shipped from the US has the fantastic lighting effects built in and they feature well, the runways and b-stages don’t and clearly look like an afterthought during those moments.

Those that cite arenas above stadium don’t really “get it”, watching a sea of fans rise to the occasion in a common cause is so electrifying. Yes, it would be nice to be up close and personal but the charge of a stadium has to be felt to be understood. Somehow to the naked eye Bono and the band appear larger than life and work the stage set to it's full.

As suspected no one takes any notice of the advice about “excessive excitement” and the whole stadium is jumping to the music – Bono offers several sing-along moments and the atmosphere is electric as 70 thousand fans sing out in unison.

Twickenham council has set a strict curfew of ten thirty and Bono ever the politician rouses the crowd with a defiant “couldn’t care less” type of statement yet manages to wind things up on the dot of ten thirty!

The atmosphere is fantastic and we all wend our way home wearily.

The video recorder set-up has worked, capturing the radio transmission from Radio 2 some 90 minutes of the concert – missing the first 40 minutes which were not transmitted.

And that’s it done and dusted for how long? Two - three years I suppose until their next tour.

Thank you U2 for passing by my way.

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