Once upon a time I found the concept of attending more than one in a few days run of gigs to be insane. I’d heard of these lunatics who would camp overnight for some Springsteen fella (ha!) and I thought you’d never catch me dead doing that. But as it turned out a school friend of mine was doing all three gigs in 05 and asked if I was interested in a ticket for the third night. After the buzz of the first, I didn’t ask any questions, sign me up.
For this second night, third of the Dublin stopover, I did things a little differently. Sandra, my school friend who got me the tickets, is to U2 what I am to Springsteen today – stone cold crazy. I can’t recall exactly but I think it was roughly 12pm we started queuing outside Croke Park. I was happy out to try on this whole die hard approach, and it paid off. The stage design for the Vertigo tour entailed two catwalks out to podium stages which formed the pit. We found ourselves front and centre for the left podium, happy days.
If I have to criticise one major aspect of the night, and it is the reason I didn’t go for two rounds when they next arrived at Croke, it is that U2 have a somewhat more rigid set plan when they play a show. There were some deviations from the script of night 1, but not much. The first came when The Edge began to suffer from a malfunctioning guitar and a flash decision was taken to perform “Original Of The Species” which I don’t think anyone objected to. It had been intended to be “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?” which I wasn’t entirely happy to miss out on but improvisation was in the air and straight after came the highlight of the night, in all its glory, the only European performance of “Bad” on the tour.
This eponymous track which encompasses life in inner city Dublin in the eighties, when heroin addiction was rife and nobody seemed to care too much, is a curious oddity to hear live. Standing there in one of Dublin city’s most iconic venues, Bono sings it from the stage with as much vim and verve as he ever has. He should be singing about the past, but we know now that Ireland was just on the cusp of returning to those lowest of lows a mere year or two after that very gig. Maybe not the most upbeat of memories for me to put forward from what was otherwise a stellar night of live music, but it cannot be ignored. U2 take some stick over there Irishness, or financial lack thereof, but when they’re home and singing about home they can be at times unstoppable.
The final big shake up of the night was just as welcome though arguably more obvious, the closer of “40”. One of the earliest tracks played over the weekend, the symbolic finish of the song as The Edge and Adam Clayton swap instruments and Larry Mullen sits alone on stage to finish out the night is powerful. I suppose I have to relate the weekend back to some of the juggernauts I have experienced in the last six years going to Springsteen gigs and the best summary I can give is that, to get value out of the weekend the two nights were essential but as a whole there was actually little difference between the two, more so just a different vibe and atmosphere. I don’t know, it is a weird one. I always have this concept in my head that artists doing multiple dates in the one location should ensure that those who attend each night get their moneys worth each individual night. After night 1 I certainly thought I had, and that would have remained the same but I attended the finale which showed how much I was missing. Maybe I’m asking for too much. Maybe The Boss has just ruined it for everyone else. Maybe I’m just mad. All three are equally plausible.