What a weekend.
Still a 6 hour drive from me, Winnipeg was geographically the closest U2 has ever come to where I live. So to me, this show was my ‘hometown’ gig if you will. U2 has only ever played in Winnipeg one other time which was on the PopMart tour, and unfortunately life circumstance did not allow me to travel to see them in 1997. For the record, The Edge did “Daydream Believer” karaoke that night. I didn’t even need to look that up. That is, by the way, becoming my favourite trivia question for those who tell me they went to a PopMart show. ”Which song did Edge do karaoke?” I don’t have them memorized, of course, but it’s fun to hear fans try to remember.
We drove the 350 miles from Regina to Winnipeg on Saturday AM, the day before the show. There we met HJ who’d flown from Edmonton for the show – we were all excited to do our first Red Zone of the tour. We drew Adam’s side for this one but you’ve got to practice before the main event, right? (I’ve got Edge Red Zone for Edmonton… which at time of writing is tomorrow night, and I can hardly contain my excitement!)
Throughout the weekend we met some awesome local Winnipeg fans, as well as groups from Minnesota, Ontario and Ireland. A lot of Guinness and good times were shared… particularly memorable was a discussion about U2 merchandise which degenerated into suggestions for the design of U2 panties/knickers – the winning entry being a well-known song from War. Think about it.
We had what ended up being quite a successful fan party at Shannon’s Irish Pub, even though the temptation of the band being just around the corner at the Burton Cummings Theatre (herefore known as “The Burt”) was too much for some as U2 inadvertently crashed our party without even showing up. A few people I was hoping to see didn’t make it as they’d gone over to stake out the theatre instead. Part of me wished so much I had went but the other part of me just didn’t think it was my time. I have a long summer ahead of me and as a large believer in fate I decided to let the chips fall wear they may. It was hard to see people I’d only just met going on to meet The Edge over those couple of days, but I tend to enjoy the company of some pretty big fans and I was happy for them to live their dream even if I have still to roll the dice on mine. All that being said – “U2 Live At The Burt” would be the coolest ever title for a bootleg release. Did anyone get a feed? HA!
On show day the three of us began the line for Adam Red Zone in late afternoon and we happened to be right by the gate where U2 arrived at CanadInns, but as I’d suspected they didn’t stop to chat, they were due for the soundcheck. They did drive right past us and my husband Dave and friend HJ actually yelled “hi Bono!” and got a wave while I concentrated on the beanie-shaped shadow in the following vehicle very closely. They drove around to an entrance that happened to be right inside the fence from RZ2 yet unfortunately too far away (I’m feeling a song title here, of course) for them to stop at the fence. We saw all four of them and was pleasantly surprised to see U2′s First Lady (sorry Ali) Morleigh Steinberg walk in with The Mr. I’ve now been to concerts with the knowledge that both his mother and father (Vancouver 2009) and his wife (Winnipeg 2011) were at the same one – just a little bit of amusing EdgeFest trivia. All in Canada. They must like us here, The Edges.
There was a bit of a delay letting us in to the Red Zone gate, but it wasn’t that much of a worry as the Red Zones are exclusive to the ticketholders, it was nice to not have to worry at this show. Doing the all-day-GA thing is definitely much more stressful… if I could do Red Zone on every show, I would. As long as I was guaranteed to draw Red Zone 1, of course! It’s definitely a different experience from the GA line when the lineup for port-a-potties is policed heavily by a woman asking to see your Red Zone wristband. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone turned away from a bathroom line for lacking proper creds, but it sure made me feel cool.
When we got into the stadium we chose comfortable spots along the rail, and within minutes we proved that venue security doesn’t always have to be on a power trip – we met the most amazing guy who was our security for RZ2… originally from Saskatchewan he is naturally a Saskatchewan Roughriders fan – that alone provided an instant comeraderie. He’d never seen U2 before and seemed to be amazed by the spectacle of it all. We of course got in a discussion as to how many shows I’d be attending this summer and he was in awe. When I told him I paled in comparison to some of the biggest fans I know, he looked at it all with a sense of disbelief and wonderment, but we had a great conversation with him between music. Before the show he asked us to let him know when ‘cool stuff’ was happening. We told him he’d be turning around a lot, but we’d give him fair warning. It was so much fun to see his face when we gave him yet another “wait until you see…. THIS!
The provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan do not generally draw many big concerts which is the reason I’m forced to travel to all of my shows, but it makes it all the more fun to go somewhere else and evaluate the crowd at each show. The show itself could very well be my favourite show of the tour… thus far. I didn’t have high expectations for this one, expecting the usual casual arm-crossing “impress-me” crowd to reveal themselves. However, the stadium was packed to the rafters – one of the few events I’ve been to that I’ve not been able to detect any empty seats ANYWHERE, not even in the far reaches of the stadium in the nosebleeds. It seems that everyone who had a ticket for the show used it.
This was the first time I’d seen Willie’s new “facts & figures” opening, and it was at this show that we had the now legendary gaffe of the mis-spelling of Winnipeg on the Willie-world 360 screen, abbreviated instead to Winipeg (as Bono later joked “Wine-peg… we had a bit of wine last night…”). Bono handled it with the usual grace – quipping hello Winnipeg with two N’s”after EBTTRT and charmed the local media at the same time. It was mentioned in all of the papers but the reviews were all positive and shared a common laugh over the mistake.
Edge only came to our side twice (yes, I counted) and I’m very glad that this wasn’t my only show or I would have been very disappointed – he was very elusive when it came time to take his picture. I got some amazing photos of Bono though, he visited our side of the stage many a time, and he ended up pulling up the girls two over from me to read the fixture ‘poem’ which ended up being the lyrics to BTO’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”. In fact, I suspect that the ‘poems’ in Denver and Salt Lake City weren’t really poems but songs – something I’ll be watching for during the rest of the tour. It was great to take some photos of the girls with Bono and thrill them when I showed them the shots I took – getting their emails after the show so I could send them the photos of their special moment! They were some of my best pictures and I was so happy to have captured that for them.
Tonight was the first time I’d attempted to broadcast a live feed from a show. I’d long been the one on the other side, craning over my laptop to hear someone’s muffled cellphone transmission from the far reaches of the world, strugging to hear Bono introduce the band and always waiting for the ‘new song’ as it might happen…. tonight.
As the comments started rolling in during the TwitCast, I realized that I was on to something special. People were using descriptions like “crystal clear” and “best feed of the tour”. When I got home and had the chance to read my Twitter account I was humbled to read all of the lovely comments from fans. I even had a marriage proposal. When I heard the archives myself, I was shocked as to just how great it sounded on my little iPhone I look forward to offering this service when I can – I intend to do all of the Canadian shows as the local network and my data plan allows – should be broadcasting loud and clear from Commonwealth Stadium on Wednesday! Anyone who is interested in hearing the feed again or for the first time will be pleased to find it here:
As a self-proclaimed Edge fashion connoisseur, I was treated to what will likely be the only 360 gig in which The Edge ended the show wearing a scarf. I remember thinking when they’d first announced the show that this might get a bit ugly. The temperature dipped to not far above freezing as the sun set, and had we actually had any precipitation we would surely wonder if “White As Snow” would be debuted at this one. We had to have a giggle being of hardy Canadian stock wearing hoodies with light t-shirts underneath, but when I thought about the four of them up there on that high stage with the wind tunneling down a CFL football field straight in their faces, I thought that yes, that was probably quite uncomfortable. At least we had the body heat of 50,000 blown minds in much closer proximity.
The cold didn’t hamper the band though, they played a storming version of, well, everything. Bono’s voice was as good as I’d heard it on the tour tonight. I’d gone largely spoiler free since Mexico, and knowing that they’d not played anything completely new so far on this North American leg I nearly dropped with the surprise of All I Want Is You. And yes, the guitar solo was perfect!
A lesser band would have cut Moment Of Surrender to wimp out early, but they real reason was that they ran past the curfew and played their hearts out to us as long as they could. It was truly a magic night in Wine-peg, and the warmth in our hearts more than made up for the chilly night air in the Canadian prairie.
One of my favourite parts of the weekend was walking out of the venue to our pre-determined meetup point in the ToysRUs parking lot, which, by the way is a great idea after a show to share some the post-gig euphoria with your new-found friends. My friend from Regina who will remain nameless was crying like a baby after his first ever concert. With an immediate reaction of concern I wanted to ask him what happened but I simply gave him a hug as I’d already knew the answer.
Winnipeg with two N’s just happened… and it was special. With a capital S.