Sunday, November 28, 2010

On to the next one.

I was a bit gutted when U2 announced their second show and I totally missed out on some tickets (as in affordable tickets, not the $350 ones).  I'd resigned myself to missing out on seeing Jay-Z's first appearance in NZ, then late last week the promoters released a bunch of $40 tickets, as the 2nd show hadn't sold out. Sure, they weren't the flashest of seats, but at least I could afford them.

Friday's papers were full of horror stories of poorly ventilated, overcrowded trains trying to get to Mt Smart (not helped by a passenger hitting the emergency stop button every ten minutes), so that plan went out the window, and we got the bus instead. Worked out fine - the driver skipped the motorway which was locked up like a typical Friday in Auckland, and went thru Mt Eden and Royal Oak. Got there in half an hour. Sweet!

Jay-Z made his entrance in fading daylight, after his band, The Roc Boys, had taken to the stage. They were a tight bunch of musicians. Bono even commented on it later, during U2's performance, thanking Jay-Z for warming up the crowd, and adding "How about that band? That band is scary." Bono, called Jay-Z "pound for pound, the heavyweight champion of the world". This may have been a subtle dig at Jay-Z, following his comments to a Sydney newspaper, where Jay said he was unconcerned about warming up for the biggest band in the world, using a funny boxing reference.

"The people don't care who goes on first, that's something the industry created. They're happy to get a great package, they're like 'I get to see Muhammad Ali and the Beatles?"  The rapper pauses for a moment, laughs and clarifies, "I'm not saying we are Muhammad Ali and the Beatles, I'm just saying it's a great package."

Jay-Z blasted thru a bunch of songs, and most of the crowd where I was - South stand, at the back of Mt Smart - got into it. That's probably cos a lot of them were last minute ticket buyers like me (and at least 7 of them in our row left right after Jay-Z) . And then he dropped it  -99 Problems, my fave Jay-Z song. It was amazing (see clip below).

He also played On to the next one, Izzo Hova, Dirt off your shoulder, D.O.A (death of autotune), and dedicated Forever Young to his lost friends, Pimp C, Biggie, Tupac, and also to the miners, who lost their lives. There was also some oddball snippets of Smack my bitch up (mashed with Jay-Z's onstage guest Memphis Bleeks' Is that your chick), and Mundian to bach ke remix from Punjabi MC. Check the full set list here.

Jay-Z closed out his 55 minute set by thanking the audience for welcoming him into our home, and said he'd like to do a song about his home, playing Empire state of mind, which was incredible. He finished with his Linkin Park collaboration of a mashup of Encore with Linkin Park's Numb, which, on record is utterly appalling. But somehow, his band managed to rip into it with such a huge amount of energy that it sprang to life and developed some teeth, which is quite an incredible feat considering how completely crap Linkin Park are.

Jay-Z finally mentioned U2 at the end of his set, saying, "there's four guys out the back, waiting to come on. Give them a chance,  think they're going places..." Cheeky git.

The stadium lights came on after Jay-Z, and then U2 made their entrance, to David Bowie. They left the stadium lights on tho, which was an unusual twist on most stadium shows, where the lights go off and the band comes on. U2 neatly inverted that, so you could see them walking out, on the video screen, and of course, they could see their audience. That must be an amazing rush, if you're in a band.

See the clip of U2's entrance  and first song below (hat tip to The Corner for video/set list - see  their review here)

U2 delivered a fantastic spectacle, and their fans adored it. They got all the big songs, plenty of singalongs, and an amazing light show. The clip below shows them setting up the stage and part of the performance as a timelapse video, which gives you some idea of the incredible scale of the show, with it's claw stage, which looks like something out of War of the Worlds.

Of course some of these fans didn't appreciate Jay-Z - go and read some of the hilarious comments on this review on U2 fans hating on Jay-Z for joining U2 onstage the previous night, adding some "Gangsta rap"on Sunday Bloody Sunday.

Messing with the classics, slippery ground, apparently. Didn't stop Bono from throwing in lyrical snatches of Dont stop til you get enough, Relax/Two Tribes and  a few others. It wasn't all rehearsed and slick - during Angel in Harlem, Bono said to Edge "Is this the middle eight?", then admitted to the crowd, "we haven't played this one in a while".

U2 also paid tribute to their friend, Greg Carroll, a Kiwi who worked for them on the mid 80s before perishing in a motorbike accident in Dublin. Bono said that Greg's families were here tonight, and went on to talk about the miners, lost at Pike River. The band played One Tree Hill, the song they wrote for Carroll. Towards the end of the song, the names of the 29 miners scrolled down the video screen above the band. It was very moving. Sure, it's a big stadium rock experience, but here was a genuine moment where the band reached out with sincerity to their audience, to share their grief. (see first photo here)

They threw in Until The End Of The World, from the Wim Wenders movie of the same name, which was a pleasant surprise. We hung in there til the band exited the stage, and headed for the free buses back to town, while they came back and encored with 5 more tunes, including Where The Streets Have No Name, and With Or Without You. A fine night out.

The pairing of Jay-Z opening for U2 still seems pretty odd. Sure, Jay-Z can carry off stadium shows - see his headlining slot at Glastonbury. But here's a guy who can sell out Madison Square Garden - he doesn't need to support another band to pull a crowd.

Groove Guide commented on this with a piece by Joe Nunweek in their latest issue, titled "Jay-Z is not a support act". They talked with some of his fans, like local rapper PNC, who said "I'm definitely going but its something I didn't get my head around since I first heard it". But local promoter Matthew Crawley noted that often the bands don't have a problem with their choice of support, it's their fans that do. He says that he thinks whoever is picking U2's supports, like Kanye West or Jay-Z, is really doing their job. "Full credit to the U2 person, whoever made that decision. You've got to look at it and think, well at least they didn't get Opshop to open." 

Groove Guide Jay-Z review.

This video below shows the setup of the claw stage. It's a pretty amazing chunk of technology, but we are talking about a band that was the highest grossing touring act in the world  last year - pulling in US$380 million. So a setup like this is within their budget, I'm picking They need 6 jumbo jets just to move it around. But check out that video wall in action as it expands, it's some seriously cool tech.


Dan Slevin said...

To get an idea of what it must be like to be U2 you should check out U2/3D (if you can). The shots from over Bono's shoulder to the endless sea of people were incredible. If I saw that when I went to work each day I'd have a big head too.

Peter said...

thanks for the tip, Dan. That sounds kinda nuts, 3D U2.