We here at David Staples' Blogville know a special occasion when it comes. And we will celebrate it right. This is our 200th post. It took us 32 months to write the first 100. And it took 26 months for the next 100. (The first 100 also was padded by a lot of travel diaries, which have not been as frequent in the last two years.) Well, either way, it is a big reason for celebration. 200 posts. That is a LOT of blathering and bloviating.
So what are we going to do for our 200th post? Well, we pulled out all the stops, spared no expense. Sure, things are tight financially nowadays. But you, our faithful or accidental reader, are certainly worth it. So we booked Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL and we brought in none other than U2 for a very special concert. Sure, they thought it was just part of their 360 Tour. They didn't realize that it actually was to commemorate a truly epic blog post.
Seriously, though. I had the great fortune of being able to attend the U2 concert in Tampa on Thursday night. Thanks to my very generous and loving in-laws, I was able to secure two tickets for my birthday back in April. Then I sat for six months and waited. I invited my very dear friend, and fellow blogger, Greg Ramer to go with me. As the event grew closer, my dear wife, Heather, and her parents agreed to work things out so I could actually leave on Thursday evening and come back on Saturday - giving me a guy's weekend away. I documented the gastronomical experiences of the trip in my last post. This post is all about the concert.
I am not a concert goer. (Greg is a concert goer, which is one of the reasons I chose him to go with me.) I mean, I detest concerts. They combine all the things I don't like in life. Huge crowds, loud noise, bad traffic, overpriced t-shirts I can't fit into, drunk people, narrow seats. Not my idea of a good time. I am pretty sure I can remember every concert I've been to.
- Mark Farner - I have no clue how I ended up here. And I was in elementary too.
- David Meece
- Newsong at youth camp
- Night of Joy at Disney - I think Michael W Smith and dcTalk were there, but I cared more about riding the rides, honestly.
- Grad Night at Disney - I don't even have the foggiest idea who was there.
- The Waiting at UCF.
- Night of Joy Knockoff at Busch Gardens - again, not sure I remember. I know Tammy Trent was there. Maybe Big Tent Revival and Third Day.
- College Ministry Conference in Athens, GA - Big Tent Revival and Third Day performed
- dcTalk with the W's and Jennifer Knapp
- Newsboys with the Waiting and Third Day
- Avalon with Anointed and Nicole Nordeman
- Worked the Merchandise table at 4Him and Big Tent Revival concert
- Worked security at Bob Carlisle and Sierra concert
- The Wiggles
That's it. Impressive, huh? Some of you may not even recognize the groups I listed. I never went to a homecoming concert at UCF as a student or USF as staff. I lived in Orlando for a grand total of 12 years and have bypassed just about every band I have every wanted to think about seeing (Michael Buble, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith, Daughtry, Billy Joel, Dora the Explorer). But there was one band that I would have jumped at seeing if I could have made it happen. And that band was U2.
I was nervous when we got ready to go. I was worried about the traffic, the parking, the walking, the opening act (Muse - didn't know them but had heard good things). And I think I was the most nervous about the worst thing possible - that U2 would actually stink. After the live performances on Saturday Night Live and Letterman, I was getting really worried about this. I had been wanting to go to a U2 concert for literally decades. They couldn't have lost it before I got a chance to go, could they.
I walked into the stadium and when we came through the tunnel into our section, the stage suddenly appeared. Take a second and check out these pictures. You have no idea just how imposing this thing is. You are in a freaking football stadium - a HUGE place that I have been for games many times. And it looks like a giant spaceship landed right in the middle. The spire at the top was actually taller than the stadium. We found our seats. Thanks to the video screens and the way the concerts were planned, every seat was a good one. And our actually were amazing, looking right down on everything.
Despite my fears, we arrived on time. As we settled into our seats we kind of looked around at the stadium. It was MAYBE half full. Three minutes after we sat, Muse came out. (Perfect timing on our part.) I had no idea what to expect. I had heard a lot of people say good things - including some people I really respect raving about their lyrics. I couldn't understand what they were singing really well, but the band was really good. The music was pretty cool - a style I could get into. And they definitely had a great performance. After about 45 minutes, they headed out and the crew set to changing over the stage. The stadium started filling up. I was surprised how many people waited until 8:30 to come - wanting to just see U2. (And, some people left after watching Muse. Bizarre.)
At 8:45, the stage kicked to life and you heard, "Ground Control to Major Tom..." The crowd went crazy. The whole song played and then the lights kicked off with the video screen showing green lighted dials. Larry Mullen came out, followed by Adam Clayton, the Edge, and then Bono - with each entry causing louder and louder cheers. They launched with one of my favorite songs off the new album - "Breathe" - and for the next two hours we were treated to consummate showmen pouring their considerable talent all over the stadium.
The stage is amazing - the screens hanging down help every seat to see exactly what is going on down on the field. But they do more than that - they show videos, display color patterns and graphic elements. The screen also slides up and down from the top down to the stage. And, in a surprise twist to me, the screen also spread apart and dropped down like a chandelier - covering from the top of the spaceship down to the stage itself. Then they started projecting the video onto the new elongated screen. A friend of mine said she sat there with her mouth open for two straight songs - amazed at the technology she was seeing.
The concert itself was just incredible. Sure, I noticed that Bono's voice is taking a beating. He spoke/sang several songs. He let the crowd sing through certain parts. The Edge covered a lot of the falsetto work. The heat also did a number on the band - they were downing water non-stop. But that didn't stop the showmanship. There was a interview with a guy in space. Bono brought a young person up on the stage, ran around the giant circle with him, sang with him, gave him his sunglasses. There were surprise song snippets - "Amazing Grace," "Stand By Me," "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." There was a lot of social awareness efforts - for Africa, for the environment, for oppressed women, for the imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, the ONE campaign.
What really left an impression on me was the experience of it all. There were 72,000 people singing, dancing, cheering in unison. These were people of all ethnic backgrounds, ages, socioeconomic background, languages. I chatted with the guy next to me off and on. He was Irish, married to a Latin woman, and they had two elementary daughters with them. When some of the bigger songs ("One," "With or Without You") were played, the entire crowd in unison just sang out - sometimes drowning out the band. I had heard these songs before. I have watched U2 concert videos and heard concert CDs. But I was not prepared for the experience of being a part of such a throng. Honestly, I thought, "Well this is a small sample of what Heaven will be like."
That was one of the weirdest things to both me and Greg. It was a worshipful experience. Tim Ellis is an extremely gifted music minister and friend of mine. We once had a discussion about how he thought all music is worship - the difference is what the target of the worship is. Lots of people last night were worshipping. Some were worshipping U2, others were directing it at the entertainment and social element of the night. I actually found myself worshipping God. So many of U2's songs have a deep religious vein running through them ("Yahweh," "40," "With or Without You"). That is one of the things that has long drawn me to their music. And I found myself last night being drawn in - praying for the victims portrayed on the screen, for the band, for Bono's voice. (I actually found myself sad at times that the church has so little to offer people that can come close to competing. But that's a different post.) When I walked out, Greg and I talked about how it had strongly affected us both in the same way.
And beyond the deep religious thoughts, the music just stinking rocked. I am amazed how a band can come up with so many different variations of a song. My absolute favorite song on the newest album is "Crazy Tonight." They performed it with strong African and dance themes. Larry Mullen actually played a set of bongos walking around the stage. They did an acoustic version of "Stuck in a Moment" - which I think is the only way that song should be played. They were funny and thoughtful and gracious to their fans. I am glad that I went. I would honestly rank it as one of the most fun and entertaining things I've ever done (you know, excluding marriage and childbirth and child creation - huh?). It was a powerful, entertaining, wonderful night. I still don't have a desire to go to concerts - aside from people I know (Chris and Conrad - November 7 in Tally) or performers I absolutely love (Jim Gaffigan - October 30 in Tally). But I would go to another U2 concert in a heartbeat.