The back of the t-shirt I bought.
My friend Katie in Auckland central city, on the morning of the concert, on a little back street we thought was pretty.
.... Well. It was FLIPPIN' FANTASTIC. What an experience. This is going to be one massive blog entry. Unfortunately I don't have any photos of the concert - my camera's too big to take in - but my friend took heaps of great ones, and when I get hold of them I'll post them on here. In the meantime, I will post the pages I scribbled down furiously this morning and have added to numerous times since, as I don't want to forget a single thing about this weekend. Here they are, slightly shortened, from Thursday to Saturday:
THURSDAY 23 NOVEMBER
1.30pm Flight departs for Auckland. Sitting next to French guy and German girl who are very nice, on their way to Tonga, and kissing half the time.
3pm Arrive Auckland. Find my friend Katie, who came on a different flight up.
4pm My sister Felicity picks us up and takes us round to her and Mike's flat in Ellerslie.
8pm Burger Fuel for dinner, mmm! And home-made mulled wine - makes us sleepy!
9.45pm Exhausted, we head to bed. We are on squeaky airbeds in the lounge.
FRIDAY 24 NOVEMBER
6.30am Our alarms go off! Katie and I dress in a hurry, and it's off to the bus stop. She has an appointment at 8am at the US Embassy to get a visa that allows her to stay in Canada for five months. Don't ask why.
7.40am We arrive in town. Not too hard to find the US Embassy - it's the one with the huge flag in front of it.
8am Katie goes in to get her visa. I'm not allowed to go up without an appointment. I sit in a cafe next door with a large flat white, and the Samoan man at the table next to me tries to hit on me. He tells me he's a diplomat working at the US Embassy which I find very hard to believe, and then asks me a succession of questions:
- Do you have children? Why not?
- Do you have a boyfriend? Do you want one?
- Would you like me to come with you today?
- Do you want to sit with me?
- Want some gum? (Final desperate approach)
Honestly, I don't understand what makes some people keep asking stupid questions!
8.45am Katie comes back and rescues me, and we go shopping - see photo above, in Auckland city. We laugh at the huge dodgy Santa on top of the Whitcoulls building, with a beckoning finger and a leery eye.
10.30am We catch a bus back to Ellerslie.
12.00pm I have a shower and wash my hair, and get into my concert clothes. I'm not feeling great and am worried I'll be sick, so I lie down, but don't feel any better. We put on the U2 Live at Boston DVD and suddenly I feel a lot better! Tony, my brother-in-law, arrives from Christchurch.
2.45pm We rush away to the Ellerslie train station to be on a train that goes to Penrose, from which there is a 10 minute walk to Mt Smart Stadium. One Tree Hill can be clearly seen not far from the stadium. We arrive there, I buy a t-shirt (see photos above). My umbrella is confiscated because apparently I could poke people with it, and they take our bottle lids off our bottles of water. Somehow Mike manages to keep his Swiss Army knife, which we all think is very funny when umbrellas can be viewed as weapons!
3.30pm We start queueing! We are at Gate A, in a big marquee, lined up like sheep in pens. We sit down, eat the food they didn't confiscate, and discover ingenious ways to drink without breaking the seal on our lidless bottles. We play a game trying to think of a U2 song for every letter of the alphabet. Get to N and give up. Graham, James and Anna Early are not far away from us in the queue, people we've known for years who used to go to our church in Christchurch.
5pm The gates open! We pour onto the field and power-walk/run/sprint up to the front. We get into the front section! The stage is made up of a main section where the drums and electronics are, and then two jutting out bits on either side. We are almost right at the front but for one row of people on the end of one of the sticking out bits, a fantastic spot. We plonk ourselves down to save our places, stretching out even more when one of us five goes off to the loo, or to buy a t-shirt or food. A drunk man called Dan introduces himself and tells us repeatedly that we're doing a "stellar job", while offering us his beer.
7pm It starts raining hard. Felicity and I go to get her a t-shirt, and end up also buying five dorky water-proof poncho-things - very sexy. We see our cousin-in-law Justin, who is even closer to the front than we are.
7.45pm Kanye West starts playing. Can't distinguish a word he says. His backing singer starts stripper dancing at one point, and he has a small string collection and a harpist who are completely superfluous as it seems to be all just noise. This is the point I pick for going to the toilets.
8.30pm Kanye West stops, the rain stops. We wait impatiently for U2 - have been waiting almost exactly a year since tickets went on sale. The crowd starts clapping in time while the crew sets up the stage, or singing the Ole ole ole ole song. Someone gets a Mexican wave going around the entire stadium, about ten times - a cool sight with 45,000 people and when you're on an absolute high of anticipation. The U2 crew soundtest what seem like a gazillion guitars.
9.10pm Finally, U2 COME ON STAGE!!!!! The place goes wild. They are real, and 3-D!! Bono is wearing a jacket with an Auckland Warriors logo sown on the back, and tells us we are "sexy people, in the rain". The lights are awesome, completely indescribable, hundreds of them towering over the stage and wowing everyone. This is the set:
City of Blinding Lights - amazing opening to the show.
Vertigo - everyone sings along to the "uno, dos, tres, catorce!"
Elevation - a verse of Crowded House's Four Seasons in One Day inserted in here, which pleased all us Kiwis very much indeed.
I Will Follow - Bono told us that NZ was the first place this song was a hit before anywhere other than Ireland; we are therefore "Kiwis before the groove".
New Year's Day - Bono introduces the other band members as they do their solos; very cool.
Beautiful Day - Bono changes the words of the "see the world in green and blue" verse to carry on as: "Aotearoa right in front of you / See the land of the long white cloud / Cape Reinga, the fjords in the south / Harbour lights in the City of Sails / Aroha, the love that never fails / See the bird with the leaf in her mouth / After the flood all the colours came out..."
One Tree Hill - the crowd went mad for this, the song written set in Auckland, where their Kiwi crew member Greg Caroll was killed in a motorbike accident. Beautiful lighting, with Maori koru patterns scrolling across the lights at the back of the stage. Bono helpfully suggested he could take some seeds up :) (For those that don't get the joke, the lone tree on One Tree Hill was cut down years ago by a Maori activist.)
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own - Bono comes down to us for the first time!!! He's alive and real!
Love and Peace - Adam Clayton and the Edge come down our end.
Sunday Bloody Sunday - Katie rings her dad on my cellphone so he can hear some of the concert, at this point.
Bullet the Blue Sky - Awesome lighting and guitar solo.
Miss Sarajevo - very beautiful. Bono sings the Italian part that Pavarotti usually does, and surprises me by his skill.
Pride (in the Name of Love) - Bono gets us all to sing the "oh oh" bit, which leads into the beginning of Streets...
Where the Streets Have No Name - Absolutely amazing. Somehow heaps of people all over the audience have green, white and orange balloons that are waving round during this; it's beautiful.
One - Bono gets us all to hold up our cellphones instead of the classic cigarette lighter; another beautiful moment.
With or Without You - Bono pulls a girl up on stage
The Saints Are Coming - very very cool and surprising; I hadn't liked the single when I heard it on the radio but it's wicked live.
Angel of Harlem - this rocked my socks off. Bono and the Edge came down our end again, together this time.
Kite - Bono flies a kite that has helium balloons tied to it as he sings this. It's so beautiful live, this song, especially Edge's guitar solo. As a nice symbolic gesture, he lets the kite fly away at the end of the song, but it gets caught in the lights - a funny moment for all.
As a whole, the concert is a fantastic mass sing-along. One marring incident is that there is a very tall man in front of me, at the rail, but I manage okay. Bono, the Edge, and Adam Clayton all come within a couple of metres of us several times which is the biggest buzz. I also love all the NZ references; they seem to put a lot more effort into them than in DVDs I've seen of concerts in other countries, which is lovely and makes everyone feel wanted! I am especially impressed by Adam Clayton, who comes across much better live than he does on the DVDs; he really connects with the audience and seems like a really cool guy. My especial favourite songs are probably: One Tree Hill, Miss Sarajevo, Streets, One, The Saints are Coming, Angel of Harlem, Kite.
11.40pm Sadly, the show ends (although with two encores already, no one seems to be sure if it really is the end). We all file out, and it's amazing as we go to look back into the stadium and see the huge number of people. Mike and Tony queue up to buy t-shirts, we see my cousin Debs, and Justin again, and then we walk along to catch a train... along with about 8000 others - makes for huge delays. Legs aching like nobody's business, waiting for ages to get on the train. Finally get home at about 1.30am.
2am We collapse, exhausted, into bed.
SATURDAY 25 NOVEMBER
10.15am We get up finally after sleeping like logs. Still on a high. Tony goes to get us yummy things for breakfast. I text my friend Jane a whole heap of advice for the second concert which she is going to this evening, such as how to get a good spot, and to take extra bottle lids for when they confiscate them. By lunchtime we are putting on U2 DVDs - Sydney Zoo TV, Chicago Vertigo.
2pm Felicity drops Katie and I at the airport. My flight is leaving soon, but Katie has to wait around until 8pm to leave, poor thing. Luckily she has a book and is still on a high.
2.30pm I fly to Wellington. Am sitting next to another U2 concert-goer from Dunedin; she is also wearing a U2 t-shirt but a different style (there were about seven or eight available).
3.45pm Arrive in Wellington. Forty minutes or so to wait for next flight; eat some roti at the food court there, mmmm. See a friend from a few years back at music working at the CD Store there.
4.30pm Leave for Christchurch.
5.30pm Arrive in Christchurch, with a very bumpy descent that makes me glad I saw U2 before I died. Happily I am still alive when we touch down. My sister Rachel (Tony's wife) and her kids Sam and Alex are there to pick me up. We go to La Porchetta for pizza, then we're off to Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park, a big free concert at Hagley Park (the Chch equivalent of Central Park) which has big fireworks at the end. As terrible little teenagers try to sing High School Musical songs, can't help comparing it to the night before or wishing I had tickets to the second concert which must be going on as I think!
10.45pm Home! Into my own bed! The high is still present!
So, there it is. Had a marvellous time, as was bound to happen, and love U2 even more! Am planning to buy a few more U2 dvds as soon as possible, and Katie will come round soon and we'll work ourselves up to a high again! I will put the photos of the concert up as soon as I can - some turned out really, really well, and you'll be able to see just how close we really were!
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