Saturday, 28 November 2015

Concert: U2, 3 Arena (#4)

Well, the bed was indeed softer than the first I had in this hotel. I was a little stiff when I got up, but probably more due to yesterday's exertions than the fault of the mattress. Anyway, first task of the day was to decide where to eat with my friend, who was coming with me to the concert. The hotel bar was doing a carvery until 2pm, but I wasn't sure about going there, since it'd been so busy the night before - so I needed to check first. And by the time I did - and saw it was practically empty, and the food looked good - it was a bit late for her to get to me in time. But hey, she jumped in a taxi and made it with 10 minutes to spare!

The chicken looked good, so we had that, with a variety of trimmings - and wow, they piled the plates high! And it was indeed good - moreish comfort food, for an awful, cold, windy day with intermittent showers. As we ate, a constant soundtrack of U2 played - and, in fact, a staff member came over to us and explained he had a VIP backstage ticket for tonight's concert, going cheap, if we were interested - his friend was unable to go! I hope he found a taker, eventually..

As we were leaving, we picked up a couple of chocolate-drizzled croissants to take upstairs with us. We hung around my room for the afternoon, watching a very interesting documentary on Irish architecture, and an old episode of Friends. And after a cup of tea, it was time to go. As we passed the Ferryman pub at the end of the road, for the first time since Monday it wasn't blaring U2 from its speakers! What a night to pick to stop.. After a not-very-long walk, we got to the entrance of the 3 Arena, and stopped off for burgers. A passing Guard asked whether they were good. "Very!" "Good," he smiled. Not as many people looking for tickets tonight - unlike last night, where we had the guy mimicking the homeless, with a sign that read "Ticketless. Please help." And the couple who'd flown over from Amsterdam, on spec..

Possibly this was because it was earlier. We'd got there early, to grab her a t-shirt; goodness knows, I have enough! Mind you, there was a small queue when we got to the stand. We had plenty of time though, and with two of us it was easier to squeeze to the front. And she had soon secured a t-shirt of her choosing, in the correct size. Just as well she wasn't looking for a Dublin-specific one, though - they were already down to their last ones in white, selling the display shirts. And other styles only had Large sizes left..

Climbing to our elevated seats, I had an attack of the wobblies again, and the very kind usher trotted back to give me his arm. That makes such a difference! We had a good view, if further back than I'd have liked. It did occur to me that, if seats this high up / far back were sold at the premium price, where were the lower-priced ones?! Practically every seat there must have been sold at the higher price. The only ones I could think of that might have been sold cheaper were those end-on to the vidiwall, and those right at the far edges. Or maybe the back five rows. Few enough, anyhow.

I had a good look at the people sitting behind us, when they arrived, to see whether they looked likely to complain if I stood. They didn't seem the type, but you never know. Handily, for once the guy roaming the stands, selling wine, happened our way, and I treated myself to a bottle. It was the last show of the year for me, after all! And I could use the handy cup-holders attached to the seats. The wine was a little sharp, but never mind.

My friend asked whether I was excited. More nostalgic, was my reply. Just think - I've spent almost a year planning for these concerts, anticipating them, organising transport and accommodation, surmounting obstacles, waiting with bated breath.. and here I was, waiting for the very last one to start. 'Twould bring a tear to the eye.

The place duly filled to capacity, and it was time for Bono to come on. And to my delight, almost everybody in my section jumped to their feet as soon as there was a whiff of anything happening! Ah now, THIS is what a U2 concert is supposed to be like - just like the good old days. Bless - I could stand and sit when I wanted, and it was terrific to see the manic enthusiasm of people on all sides. This crowd was head and shoulders above any other on the tour. As Bono said at the start, last night's crowd was "mental", and he was expecting more of the same.. he also issued a warning to out-of-towners, that we had an unofficial national anthem, and it went "Olé, olé, olé, olé".. which, of course, just set them off. ;-)


  1. The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)
  2. The Electric Co.
  3. Vertigo
  4. The Fly
  5. Angel of Harlem
  6. City of Blinding Lights (with Ne Me Quitte Pas outro)
  7. Beautiful Day
  8. Bad (with 'Mother and Child Reunion" intro)
  9. 40
I roared myself hoarse at the very start - well, why not? It'll be a while before I have a valid reason again. The Electric Co. was manic, and by the end of the first four, I was as breathless as usual.
Mysterious Ways was interesting - of course, Bono always brings someone onstage to dance with at the end of this song. Well, tonight - once again - he had a special guest lined up - enter Miss Panti Bliss! She made a spectacular entrance, in a sparkly dress and sky-high heels, strutting her stuff along the catwalk she was born to tread. And after she and Bono threw some shapes, he handed her the mobile, to Meerkat the next number, which turned out to be Desire. And he asked the "Queen of Ireland" to use it to film the "Queen of Rock and Roll" - enter Imelda May.. So Desire was Panti Bliss filming Imelda May singing a duet with Bono. Cue much confusion on Meerkat, with international viewers wondering (a) was Panti Bliss RuPaul? and (b) who was the other one..?
After the dramatic and unexpected entrances of these two, Angel of Harlem began with what Bono described as a third first.. when The Edge broke a guitar string! Always handy to have a spare.. guitar. The usual chorus of "Olé, olé, olé, olé" filled the gap, and again Bono had to quiet people so they could do the quiet numbers. Bullet the Blue Sky ripped its way through the auditorium - the rhythmic clapping of the audience was quite chilling, as scenes of brutality filled the screen.
The break before City of Blinding Lights gave the two ladies in the row in front of us an excuse to leave - they hadn't stood at all for the entire show, which I don't think they got much from. And yes, we got Bad, for the third night in a row - which is another first. Thank you, gentlemen - you made a few thousand people very happy. To end the best show of the best tour ever, they left us with 40 - movingly dedicated to the late Dennis Sheehan, whose family were there, it seems. And so, farewell from me to U2 for this year.. see you next year?
Tomorrow, I'm back to London - weather permitting, it's quite stormy. And supposed to be picking up the keys to my new place, although I haven't got a time from him yet.. On Monday, I'm headed to The Homecoming by Harold Pinter, at Trafalgar Studios. Stars Gemma Chan, Gary Kemp, John Macmillan, and Jon Simm. And the good old London Dramatic Art group has tickets for cheaper than I can get them anywhere else! Premium, front row seats too. Excellent - and I'll be glad to meet them again, it's been months! Finally (for now), on Tuesday I'm joining the Kensington Classical Music group, who have the cheapest tickets I can find for a performance of the pianist, Lang Lang, with the  Philharmonia, at the Royal Festival Hall. Features my two favourite classical composers - Mozart and Beethoven.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Concert: U2, 3 Arena (#3)

Not boring, my life! I had a deadline today, then first thing this morning discovered that my tasklist had increased to the point where it was debatable whether I'd get it all done before I had to leave, at lunchtime! No wonder - of all things - I practically forgot to bring the concert tickets as I was leaving.. Well, with a bit of luck, a pinch of faith and a whole chunk of effort, I managed to finish everything urgent, and get myself out of the office 10 minutes earlier than on Monday. I'd checked in last night, and got the boarding passes printed too, but when I went to book the Gatwick Express, the website wasn't playing along, and I hadn't time to argue with it - I'd just have to get a ticket at the station.

At least the Tube came straight away, and I arrived at Victoria in no time. There was a horrendous queue for the ticket machines, but it was quite fast-moving, and it took me no more than five minutes to get to the end. Mind you, having them at both sides of a partition you can't see over doesn't seem, to me, to be the best design! Then the machine - which was card only - wouldn't accept mine, and I had to start again. Second time lucky - not so much with the price, though. If you're going from Victoria to Gatwick, they will only sell you the ticket that includes the Gatwick Express, even though I had no intention of taking it. And, of course, not only is it the most expensive option, but more expensive to buy at the station than online. I had no choice, though..

I was just slightly earlier than on Monday, and the same Gatwick Express was cancelled again, which meant I was looking to catch the same stopping service I did on Monday - a fairly fast one though, with only two stops before Gatwick. I located the platform.. and then the barrier wouldn't accept my ticket. I finally had to go through the gate with a staff member on it. Anyway, I made my train and could relax a little.

Same routine at the airport, of course - today, I bought Maltesers for lunch. And on the plane, I had a seat in the exit row again! I guess it's because I book late - they sell those seats for more, so they'll be the last ones they give away for free. A couple of passengers in the exit row tried to dodge the no-baggage-at-the-seat regulation, hiding their things as the first checks were made, but Ryanair staff are canny - after they'd relaxed, and brought their things out again, a final check was done and they were found out. Hee-hee..

I can't bring shampoo with me - they don't do Head & Shoulders in small enough bottles to bring as hand luggage, and I don't pay for checked luggage. But it's the only one I can use, because of my sensitive scalp. So I searched - unsuccessfully - for it in Dublin airport. Actually, now that I think of it, I should have tried for it after security in Gatwick - but I hardly had any time. So I just mooched off to my bus, remembering to buy a return this time! And it was a crammed bus this evening. I noted how Dublin bus are making a real effort with customer service, employing people whose only function is to find passengers in need of help, and provide it. So they'll sell you a ticket so you don't have to figure out the machine, and they'll take your bag from you onboard. Terrific idea.

I got off at the same stop as before, into a biting wind. It was a relief to get to the hotel. And my new room is three floors higher than the last, and - of course - extremely similar. Notable differences: the telly is wall-mounted rather than on the desk, there's a balcony (which is a nice idea, except that it overlooks the street), and.. get this.. I think the bed is softer! I'm really looking forward to trying that out, shortly.

I wanted to eat at the hotel, but didn't want the palaver of the restaurant - they do bar food, and I said I'd try that on my way to the 3 Arena. When I saw how busy the bar was, however, I decided just to have a burger at the venue, and set off, back into the biting wind. And indeed, the burger was very nice. And then I took my seat.

Aw man, what a terrific seat!

I was second row from the front of the seated section! (I was jealous of the front row until I discovered they weren't allowed to stand, being at the edge of the balcony.) And an aisle seat, yet! Best seat of the tour, guaranteed, being also in the smallest venue. And this close to the front, I figured I wouldn't be bothered by vexatious people wanting me to sit - and I was right.. (yippee! it makes such a difference.)

Nobody got stuck tonight, being lifted into the rigging.. at one point, I looked behind me and saw someone the spit of Enda Kenny. And in due course, I hopped to my feet to welcome Bono onstage, in the company of most of my row. Spare a thought, however, for those poor, poor people - I really felt for them - in the row in front of me, who'd shelled out a fortune for tickets, got what seemed to be the best row.. and disastrously, couldn't stand! You could see they were itching to, but the ushers were on it, and watching them from every staircase..



Set 2


I really felt for the ushers, during the blistering opening four numbers. They couldn't easily get to the middle of the row to make people sit down, and it must have been so hard for the audience in that row to stay sitting. Tonight was Gloria's turn as second song, and it occurred to me - man, I really want the dvd to be shot on a night that they included Gloria. Being so close to the floor, as I've said before, you really feel close to the energy - and it was phenomenal. People have also remarked that this was the loudest crowd of the tour. Actually, it's quite hard to choose between tonight and last Tuesday as the best show of the tour.

At the paper drop during Until the End of the World, I came my closest yet to getting a piece - one landed on the lap of the woman beside me! Darn it.. During Mysterious Ways, the girl pulled onstage, whose name caused some confusion but who was, for my money, visibly the most delighted yet to be there!, turned out to be from Toronto (well, the maple leaf t-shirt gave her away as Canadian):

And after the Meerkat-ing was done, we got a beautiful surprise in the form of New Year's Day - I pick this as my favourite moment from tonight. And after that, you couldn't shut the crowd up! "Olé, olé, olé, olé.." They had to have a pause before going into the quiet duo of Every breaking Wave and October. And when they went into Bullet the Blue Sky, not only did the crowd know the rhythm of the clap, but I have never heard it echo so loudly through the venue as it did tonight..

Lordy, it was fun to watch the ushers try to keep people in the front row of the balcony seated during Where the Streets Have No Name! It was like one of those games where you keep banging something to keep it down, and it pops up somewhere else. As soon as their backs were turned, someone else was up. The fellow on the aisle seat opposite me, in the front row, was hilarious - he did manage to stay standing for about half of that song, and for the remainder of the show he (charmingly) harassed both the user, and his wife (sitting beside him and trying to get him to stay seated). I felt his pain.

Another surprise during the encore - Bad, two nights in a row! Seems the guy it - and Raised by Wolves - were written about was in the house tonight. Not the only notable - Bono's wife was there, as usual, and his brother - not so usually. And towards the end, Bono namechecked.. Enda Kenny! Yes, that was him, and as I looked back he was smiling and acknowledging the attention he was getting. (And I had a better seat than he did, hah! So much for being Taoiseach..) The usual crowd-pleaser, One, closed this amazing show among amazing shows, and Bono let us sing most of it.

On the way out, somebody remarked to me that it doesn't get better than that. I hesitated, and he amended his view, saying "Well, yes it could - tomorrow!" Yes indeed, last U2 show of the year (for me) - it'll be interesting to see how it pans out. And whether they'll do Bad, three nights in a row! Returning to the hotel, I was excited to try the vending machine down the hall from my room, with wine, soft drinks, water, and snacks. Except it didn't work, bummer. At least the ice machine does, so I can have cold tap water - I didn't fancy going all the way back down to the bar.

Assuming I survive all this excitement, I'm headed back to London on Sunday, and collecting my keys at an as-yet-undetermined time. On Monday, I'm headed to The Homecoming by Harold Pinter, at Trafalgar Studios. Stars Gemma Chan, Gary Kemp, John Macmillan, and Jon Simm. And the good old London Dramatic Art group has tickets (well, one left now!) for cheaper than I can get them anywhere else! Premium, front row seats too. Excellent - and I'll be glad to meet them again, it's been months! Finally (for now), on Tuesday I'm joining the Kensington Classical Music group, who have the cheapest tickets I can find for a performance of the pianist, Lang Lang, with the  Philharmonia, at the Royal Festival Hall. Features my two favourite classical composers - Mozart and Beethoven.

But it'll be sad, not to have any more definite U2 dates to look forward to.. :-(

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Concert: Allegri - Miserere Mei Deus

Ah now, I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff. Although the name Miserere Mei Deus wasn't familiar, I figured it was something I'd be into, so I happily booked.

A late start is handy in that it gives me time to eat beforehand, and the organiser of the London European Club group who were headed to this had suggested meeting beforehand in the café in the crypt under the venue - the church of St. Martin in the Fields. I was lucky with the Tube - one arrived just after I got to the platform, and was headed into town. I disembarked at Embankment and wove my way through the crowds, hoping that the intermittent rain spatter overhead wouldn't get any heavier, since I wasn't wearing a hood. Luckily, it didn't. Unluckily, my phone needed charging and I'd left it at home again, as I remarked to myself when I came onto the Strand and saw the Christmas lights again. One day, I might get a photo..

As luck would have it, I arrived at the box office to collect my ticket right behind the organiser! We found a table in the café - which is quite large - and I chose a dinner. Unfortunately, the stroganoff didn't enthuse me much, and the wine was a bit sweet even for my sweet tooth.. The chocolate mousse, topped with chocolate sprinkles, was much more of a success! Despite having to eat it with a soup spoon.

As people gradually arrived, we discovered an inordinate proportion of Irish were present! Anyway, the chat was enjoyable, but soon after it started to get busy, it was time for us to leave. There'd been another concert upstairs earlier, you see, whose audience came down to the café afterwards. At about the time we were allowed to take our seats for what we'd come to see. I was delighted to discover that I didn't really have to go outside again - there are stairs directly from the café to the church door. And we entered, to the beautiful sight of the main aisle of the church, gilt decorations on the ceiling glinting in the dim light. And again, I remarked - no camera to take photos. I've been to candlelit concerts here before, but never actually sat in the main section - usually in the side aisles or gallery. This time, however, seating was unreserved.

So we took a pew or two in the main aisle, and I revelled in the luxury of a pew with so many mod-cons - a footrest, a shelf for your bag, and a slanted top shelf that you could rest your reading material on, with a rim at the bottom so it didn't fall off. Reading material, on this occasion, consisted - for me - of a programme; I figured I'd find it interesting to know what was being sung, and figured I wouldn't recognise most of it. So I shelled out the £1.50.

We were treated, first of all, to the most sublime rendition of Te Lucis Ante Terminum (Festal version), by Tallis. There was a requiem, then the main feature, Miserere Mei Deus - which, of course, I recognised as soon as I heard it. They dispatched some of the choir to the gallery for that, providing a terrific surround sound effect. How sublime it is to hear a singer hit that high note, over and over.. (it did occur to me to be glad she didn't choose that moment to have a coughing fit). Plenty more of the same followed in this 1-hour programme, including a couple of English numbers (one contemporary), and ending on a different arrangement of what we started with. Whose lyrics, as quoted in the programme, differed from what was being sung in the final verse. Never mind, this was a fantastic experience!

Afterwards, we approached the outside with trepidation, and shivered in the cold for a while, waiting for our organiser to reappear - turned out he'd gone back for a programme. And as soon as he appeared, we dispersed - it was too cold to do anything but go home. And I was delighted to get in..

Tomorrow, I'm back to Dublin for my final U2 concerts of the year, flying back here on Sunday - I hope to get the keys to my new place that evening, so I'm not bothered about going out that night. On Monday though, I'm headed to The Homecoming by Harold Pinter, at Trafalgar Studios. Stars Gemma Chan, Gary Kemp, John Macmillan, and Jon Simm. And the good old London Dramatic Art group has tickets (well, one left now!) for cheaper than I can get them anywhere else! Premium, front row seats too. Excellent - and I'll be glad to meet them again, it's been months! Finally (for now), on Tuesday I'm joining the Kensington Classical Music group, who have the cheapest tickets I can find for a performance of the pianist, Lang Lang, with the  Philharmonia, at the Royal Festival Hall. Features my two favourite classical composers - Mozart and Beethoven..

Fairytales for Grown-Ups: the Ruined House of Skin

I left in good time last night, for a not insignificant journey up to Camden. Mind you, not in time to get the Overground, which would've been cheaper - nope, Tube to Leicester Square and change to the Northern Line to Camden Town. About 45 minutes, in all. It's not a long walk from there to The Forge - you just have to make sure you go the right way, at what is a complicated junction. I tend to orient myself by locating the "Underworld" shop, on my left, and noting that I have to take the second left from there - straight down Camden High Street. Then it's the second right, onto Delancey Street.

The posher amongst us might be a bit phased at this point - The Blues Kitchen, on the corner, is reputed to be a great music venue, but my God it's scruffy! The Forge is a little way past that, on the left - enter by the big glass door, then make your way to the back, past the glass partition. They have a table set up at the entrance to the auditorium, to the right - there's actually no need to print your ticket, although I always do - if nothing else, they do include a map on the tickets, which can be handy. At the venue, they just check your name off the list and stamp your hand. With a "Jack Daniels" stamp, interestingly.

I only arrived about 10 minutes early, but people tended to arrive late to this, and when I got there, there was plenty of space. They had crammed the seats in, though - the rows of linked chairs were so close together that it was actually difficult to squeeze in. I took a seat by the wall, figuring - correctly, as it turned out - that this would be a sell-out. Storytelling isn't that common, and these events are very popular. In due course, both the ground floor and balcony were full.

The event was, as ever, hosted by the (other!) man in the hat.. with black hat and black overcoat, he took the stage and explained - again - the rules of the club. He says "Crick", we say "Crack" (and vice versa), he says "Honour", we say "Respect". And then he turned the stage over to Nick Hennessy, of Irish descent, who was going to regale us with Irish folklore.

To assist him in his task, he had on stage a harp, on a stand, and a bodhrán. And indeed, music was peppered through the performance, which he began with the first verse of "The Cross of Spancilhill". Said he couldn't remember any more. I could've helped - I'm from very near there (it's a real place). Anyway, he moved on to thrill us with the most ethereal folk tales, culminating in the encounter that a young man on a mission had in the titular "ruined house of skin". Beautiful tales of magic, of curses, of the threefold story of birth, life, and death.

It occurred to me that this fellow is a little let down, just by having an English accent. Apparently he has affected an Irish one on occasion, he told us.. Anyway, it just does occur to me that he'd be more popular with an Irish accent - it'd suit the material. The night was excellent - although I'd had the impression that it would only last for an hour, whereas it turned out to be two halves of 45 minutes each, with a 15-minute interval! Ah well, I was just home a bit later than anticipated.

It was so cold when I left the building that I was very glad to be taking the Tube, which was closer. Stopped off in Waitrose, which I passed on the way, to get something for dinner, and shivered my way home - it's damn cold, these nights!  Hopefully I survive tonight, when I'm headed - with the London European Club - to Allegri - Miserere Mei Deus, in St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Part of their Brandenburg Choral Festival. It doesn't start until 9:30, but we're meeting in the crypt cafe beforehand.

Tomorrow, I'm back to Dublin for my final U2 concerts of the year, flying back on Sunday - I hope to get the keys to my new place that evening, so I'm not bothered about going out that night. On Monday though, I'm headed to The Homecoming by Harold Pinter, at Trafalgar Studios. Stars Gemma Chan, Gary Kemp, John Macmillan, and Jon Simm. And the good old London Dramatic Art group has tickets (well, one left now!) for cheaper than I can get them anywhere else! Premium, front row seats too. Excellent - and I'll be glad to meet them again, it's been months! Finally (for now), on Tuesday I'm joining the Kensington Classical Music group, who have the cheapest tickets I can find for a performance of the pianist, Lang Lang, with the  Philharmonia, at the Royal Festival Hall. Features my two favourite classical composers - Mozart and Beethoven. Cool..

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Concert: U2, 3 Arena (#2)

So, the final test of the hotel was my night's sleep. Not a great result.. the room was lovely, but the minute I lay down, I realised the mattress was rock hard. Well, I had this problem in Liechtenstein last year, so I implemented my workaround - when you have access to a double bed (and bedspread), make it into a kind of sleeping bag; fold it so that you're lying on half, and covered by half - it's much softer. Amazingly, this mattress still proved uncomfortable, so I nabbed the pillow from the spare single to put under my back as well, using the two pillows from the double to make sufficient height under my head. And so I slept decently..

I'd woken periodically and gone back to sleep, and on one of these occasions, was just wondering whether to check the time and get up, when my decision was made for me by a horrendous, whooping alarm - like a fire alarm. So I leapt from bed, earplugs still in, trying to figure out where this was coming from. Just as I figured out it was coming from my room phone, it stopped. I checked the phone - no alarm function. So I figure what happened was that reception had set up an alarm call for a previous guest, and not disabled it. I'm seeing a pattern here - the day before, they'd called me to tell me the taxi I hadn't ordered was waiting for me. Get your records straight, guys!!

Well, I had pretty much slept enough, so I got ready. I was still starving though, continuing the starvation of the day before, and texted my friend that lives in Dublin to see where she thought we could have - for me, brunch, for her, lunch. She suggested Gallagher's, an Italian bistro where we'd eaten years before. Mind you, I had to look it up on Google Maps, it's been so long - anyway, I planned my 15-minute walk there, and she took the bus into town.

The breeze blowing down the quays was ferocious - I don't know when I last felt the like, and I was relieved to turn off onto a side street, eyes and nose streaming from the battering they'd just taken. I had just composed myself by the time I got to the bistro, and she followed shortly behind - handily, because my phone had just died. We asked for a table for two, and were led to one right beside the kitchen - it was quite busy with the lunchtime crowd. Turns out it's not really Italian any more, but hanged if I'd go any further, and there we ate - for me, a steak sandwich: for her, a chicken linguini. And I think we were both very satisfied - certainly, the steak sandwich was very tasty. When you could find it under all the greenery under which both dishes were buried. Two desserts were washed down with a decent amount of a nice Chardonnay, and my tummy didn't know it was born! Just as well we weren't in a hurry though - service was relaxed enough to be described as sporadic; both when the place was busy, and after everyone but us had left, we were kept waiting.. and waiting..

Well, we moseyed out to her place for an hour or so, then I headed back to the hotel, and over to the 3 Arena nice and early - I intended to get there in time for doors opening, in the hope of getting a venue-specific t-shirt! I saw some lovely sights on the way - the Christmas lights on Grafton Street, the full moon over the Samuel Beckett bridge - but sadly, my phone was back at the hotel, charging, so I'll have to try and reprise those photos at the weekend. I arrived shortly after the doors opened. Last night, there were more security checks - a fellow shone a torch into my bag (still missing the Mars Bar I'd secreted under my glasses case), and then scanned me with a handheld metal detector. None of that the night before - and I noticed on a newspaper headline today that undercover armed police are now patrolling the U2 concerts.

Well, what a difference it makes to arrive early! The corridors were practically deserted, and I was soon able to scooch over to the merchandising stand, where there was practically no queue. I actually couldn't believe it, standing at the counter, when the guy behind it came up to me almost straight away to ask what I wanted! Easy-peasy, I now have a Dublin 2015 t-shirt.. I also see they come in a variety of colours; yesterday, I saw one in vivid green, mine is red (which I prefer), and I saw another chap admiring one he'd obviously just bought, which was in a light grey. All with the same pattern - the outline image from the cover of the Boy album on the front, the Dublin dates on the back. By the looks of it, they were all sold out again when I was leaving..

With nothing else I wanted to do, I took my seat - there was practically nobody in the auditorium at this point. My row turned out to be a bit higher up, and I had a touch of vertigo (of course) as I passed the end of the railing, climbing up to it. Anyway, I made it, and noted the locations of the rear stairs - the ones with handrails - for coming down again. Some entertainment was provided during the long wait, watching the individual spotlight operators being hoisted into the rigging - especially when one of them got stuck, suspended in midair, for about 30 seconds.. there was no-one to help; I think the pulleys are self-controlled.

As the house filled, the tension grew - helped no end when they turned off the lights in the upper levels, for some reason. I came to know the people sitting beside me, a little - a couple, not young: she had never seen them before, he had, in McGonagle's, way back in '76/77. Well, it came to that moment; People Have the Power started, and I jumped up. And as happens, it went on a bit and there was no sign of anyone. Next thing I know, I'm being tapped on the shoulder. The guy behind me wanted to know if I wouldn't mind sitting down - he'd stand with me in a minute. Eh, ok - I'd hate to block your view of an empty stage. After a minute or so, there was some excitement on the floor, and I jumped up again.. only to have the guy behind me wanting me to sit again.. I was spoiling his view! I guessed he thought they'd come on via the i stage, and didn't want to miss their entrance.

Well, I hadn't been sitting for 10 seconds when Bono did appear, and I jumped up again, and this time was left standing - third time lucky, eh? Along with the whole house. I have to hand it to them, last night's crowd - with the obvious exception of the (insert expletive here) behind me - were the crowd of the tour so far! The guy at the end of the row, who'd seen them all those years ago, was particularly blown away, and plagued his poor wife with exclamations of how good the band were! He was greatly impressed when Bono seemed to spot someone in the crowd, near the stage, that he recognised. He turned to The Edge - "Hey, d'you remember that guy in McGonagle's, years ago, who heckled us with 'More punk than The Monkees'? That's him!!" Later, we discovered that the President was also in the house.. a good mix, then!

And so they took us through a blistering first four numbers, the poor guy at the end of my row thinking he'd have a break after the third, only to find himself on his feet again. Setlist:




I was doing pretty well for being allowed to stand, until the crowd in my section got tired of standing, during Raised by Wolves, for goodness' sake! And so a pattern developed that lasted for the rest of the concert, whereby my "friend" said nothing as long as people were standing in front of me, but as soon as they sat down - I'd get a tap-tap-tap on the shoulder. "Would I mind sitting?" (Do you want the honest answer to that?) Seriously, if you come to a U2 show, you don't have to stand, but you do have to expect that others might do so. Don't be so BOLSHY as to insist that they not block your view. Stay at home, save yourself the money, wait for the dvd, watch without obstruction. Although if he did, and I knew where he lived, I'd love to drop by and stand in front of his tv..

And so I was up again at the start of the next song, and down again in the middle of it, when the people in front of me got bored of standing - again - and I got a tap-tap-tap again. I see the shredded pages of poetry are back for that song, though - great, it's a terrific effect! Even if I couldn't stand to show my appreciation.

I was actually scared to stand during Invisible, since no-one in front of me was. Halleleuja, they decided that Even Better Than the Real Thing was worth the effort, and I got to my feet at last. And at least I was getting a rest. And so into Mysterious Ways, where a guy was brought onstage to dance with Bono - only the second time that's happened, that I know of! I'm not surprised - he was dressed just like Bono at the start of the concerts on the Popmart tour, as a boxer with large shades and a fake "torso" t-shirt. As Bono remarked, "You're not from around here, are you?" Nope, he was from Brazil..

Introducing Angel of Harlem, Bono revealed that the very first time it was played live was in '89, on this same spot, when it used to be the Point Depot..!  Jeez, and I was there.. I was happy enough to sit for the next couple of numbers, along with the people around me. One man was moved to jump to his feet at the end of Every Breaking Wave, just briefly, to applaud, though - well, it is memorable. And then we all jumped up for Bullet the Blue Sky.. and then my section unbelievably got bored of standing halfway through it, and sure enough, tap-tap-tap..

Fortunately, that was the end of my woes. For the rest of the show, either I didn't feel like standing, or everyone did. So my nemesis had nothing to complain about. At the end of the second set, the guy on the end of the row - who'd been so enthusiastic all night - wanted some reassurance that they'd do one more. "Three!" said I.

I forgot to mention how they've included identifiable images of Dublin in the visuals for City of Blinding Lights, in these Dublin shows - well, last night they also included some of Paris, and Bono sang a snippet of a French song to finish. Beautiful Day saw flags being flung onstage - Bono finally chose a large Irish one to drape over the drum kit. And It was lovely to see his face in closeup on the big screen, because he was beaming.. he'd sensed what I sensed, that this crowd was (pretty much) at one. Concert of the year so far, for me. And as a reward - they didn't do three encores, they did four. Bad and 40, usually reserved for the last show in a city, got an outing last night. Well done, gentlemen!

Everybody made a fairly swift exit, so I got to speak neither to the guy who was so enthusiastic about them - which was a shame - nor to the tapper - which wasn't. And then, peering over, I saw that they didn't seem to be letting people down the back stairs! O hell - I had to navigate down the main steps, without a handrail. Bent practically double, using the seats as a handrest. At least it helped that there was such a crowd on the steps. And I made it down alive, not even being run over by the cycle rickshaws on the way back. A huge queue, again, for the rental bikes, though..

I got about four hours' sleep in the end. I'd checked the location of the bus stop - across the bridge, and second stop to the left, across the road. Not mentioned on Google Maps, mind - I had to go on the bus website. Just as well I didn't have to go far - it was pissing rain. And at that time of the morning - I caught the 5:30 - traffic was so light that we made it in 20 minutes, instead of the regular 40.  I trekked through the interminable terminal, finally finding decent sustenance in the form of a meal deal from W. H. Smith - a sandwich, drink, and packet of crisps for less than the sandwich and drink would cost on their own. And yes, their festive chicken and stuffing sandwich is just as tasty as their regular chicken and stuffing sandwich. And after another trek, I found somewhere to sit and eat them. By this time, the flight was boarding, and after an unexplained delay, we were let on the plane - Ryanair still distinguishable by making its passengers climb steps to get onboard. I ended up having three seats to myself, and dozed most of the way back to London..

Where the Gatwick Express was cancelled again, and again I ended up on a regular train. Seems they've halved the off-peak (i.e. most of the day) service, to improve punctuality! Makes the Gatwick Express less and less worthwhile, if you ask me. And I got back in time for a nice, normal lunch - ah, the luxury of sitting down with food in front of me!

Bravely, I'm off again tonight - well, the Crick Crack Club is meeting in The Forge: a great venue for what is always a great evening! Tomorrow night, I'm heading with the London European Club to Allegri - Miserere Mei Deus, in St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Part of their Brandenburg Choral Festival. Friday, I'm back to Dublin for my final U2 concerts of the year, flying back on Sunday - I hope to get the keys to my new place that evening, so I'm not bothered about going out that night. On Monday though, I'm headed to The Homecoming by Harold Pinter, at Trafalgar Studios. Stars Gemma Chan, Gary Kemp, John Macmillan, and Jon Simm. And the good old London Dramatic Art group has tickets (well, one left now!) for cheaper than I can get them anywhere else! Premium, front row seats too. Excellent - and I'll be glad to meet them again, it's been months! Finally (for now), on Tuesday I'm joining the Kensington Classical Music group, who have the cheapest tickets I can find for a performance of the pianist, Lang Lang, with the  Philharmonia, at the Royal Festival Hall. Features my two favourite classical composers - Mozart and Beethoven. Cool..

Monday, 23 November 2015

Concert: U2, 3 Arena (#1)

Hello, hello.. I'm at a place called Vertigo! Actually, close enough - I'm staying at the Clayton Hotel in Dublin city centre, and you'd never guess - they have a Vertigo bar. Had me wondering for a while there, what with Bono and The Edge owning The Clarence Hotel, further along the quays. But no, seems it's a chain - although they do have a U2-inspired Vertigo promotion!

Anyway, a sparcity of days left to take off work meant that, after spending the weekend in Co. Clare, I had to fly back to London for a morning's work today, before jetting back to Dublin for two U2 concerts. What the hey, there were deadlines to be met anyway. I also went in today with the plan to print off my booked tickets for the Gatwick Express, and check in for my Ryanair flights and print the boarding passes. Well, the first part went fine..

When I came to check in for my flights (today's and the return flight on Wednesday), I couldn't access the website - I suspect it didn't make it past my work computer's firewall. I tried all the browsers I had installed - nothing. I tried to access it on my phone, and had more luck - but the website kept malfunctioning, and I spent time I didn't have, trying in vain to get it to work. Nor could I find a phone number to contact. Finally, in desperation, I took my own laptop out of its bag - I wouldn't normally have had it in work, but I was travelling with it, and leaving straight from the office. On the second attempt, I got it to connect to the company network, got checked in, and downloaded the boarding passes, which I emailed to myself - then accessing them from my work computer, which is connected to the printer. And so the day was saved! (Good laptop..)

I even met my deadlines, and scooted out the door, somewhat later than I had intended - but still ok. As I was packing up my things, I realised I'd meant to check the name and location of the hotel! Well, I wasn't about to go through the palaver of turning my computer on again and waiting several minutes for it to boot up. So I scurried off, fairly confident I'd manage. And despite something of a wait at West Kensington - a frustrating station, with no departure boards on the platforms, and no WiFi I can access - I made it to Victoria in no time.

..where I was momentarily lost - I think they've changed the entrance. And it's a while since I've been. Anyway, I found my way in, found the main departure board - and the next Gatwick Express was cancelled! Which meant that the Gatwick Express wouldn't now be coming until 1:29. Which meant it'd be nearly 2pm by the time I got to the airport. Which was a bit too tight for my liking, with the gate closing at 2:15. So I located the next train headed there, explained to the nice man - who had to let me in because the regular ticket gates don't read the barcode you're supplied with for the Gatwick Express - and got myself on the non-direct train, which was, however, leaving at 1:16. Much better.

I've done this trip before, so started to relax. And got my phone to tell me where my hotel was - turn left off the Samuel Beckett bridge, it seemed. While I was at it, I looked up which terminal I was to fly from - the boarding pass didn't say, but the airport website obligingly told me it was South. Where the trains come in. It's a bit of a trek out to the airport, and we arrived there at about 1:50 - but I made it through security in plenty of time, and was most impressed by their attempts to streamline the filling and emptying of trays at the metal detector. Mind you, by the time I made it through to Departures, it was 2:05.. had I waited for the Gatwick Express, it'd have been 2:15 and I'd have been cutting it very fine to get through security! Really, I don't know that the Gatwick Express - any more than the Heathrow Express - is really a good choice. Certainly, be aware that there are options..

They were already boarding. Well, kind of. At least, that's what the departure board said. Now, boarding for Ryanair isn't quite what you would understand as boarding for other airlines. Yes, in the sense that they check your boarding card and id, and that your face matches the photo taken earlier. No, in the sense that you don't actually get on the plane. What you do is sit in a holding area until they're ready to let you on. I remember the days when, despite all the seating, there was a long queue down the centre - people wanting to get on first to get the best seats, or seats together. Allocated seating has done away with all that, thank goodness! There were also vending machines, where I bought my lunch - a £3 bag of Minstrels.

We had to venture out in the rain to get on the plane, of course - some Ryanair features never change. It turned out that I had an exit row seat - so, despite the nuisance of having to stow all my baggage overhead, I had terrific legroom. Mind you, the whole plane gave the impression of being more spacious than the Aer Lingus ones. The staff were younger, and polite to a fault. And I had a very comfy ride, dozing in parts. And that reassuring bugle to tell us we'd arrived on time! Dublin was drizzly, and we had to wait for ages for them to source "ground equipment" - stairs. So we could get off.

I unloaded a ton of change on the unsuspecting bus driver, and spent much of the journey watching the tourist video, which had music that was too loud, and commentary that wasn't loud enough to be heard over traffic. The 747 takes a different route - and a handier one - than the one it used to in my day. Now, it passes right by the 3 Arena, where I was to attend the show later! When I saw the bridge approach, I pressed the request stop button, and he left me off just past it. In fact, I could see the hotel, whose sign blazed prominently across the river.

It looked gorgeous, and welcoming after my damp entrance to the city:

And after a bit of r&r, I headed out along the south quays, with a nice view of the North Wall:

You could see the 3 Arena in the middle distance. Which made it very vexing, as the road runs out and I had to retrace my steps all the way to the Samuel Beckett bridge! adding 10 minutes to my journey. Ah well. I'll know in future.

I see the Gibson would probably have been my closest option. Well do I remember years of trekking all the way out to the end of the North Wall - a not insignificant walk - for concerts, because there was a wasteland out here when it came to accommodation. Not any more.. When I finally got to the 3 Arena, it was packed, and I had to join a long - but fast-moving - queue to get in. I passed some fast-food outlets, but figured I'd get something inside.

Boy, was I wrong. I remember this place being better run - I don't remember whether as the Point or the O2 - but now it's a tip! Inside, it's chaos. Downstairs, I could only see drink outlets, and crowds of drinkers. The space is very limited, and it's really difficult to make your way through. I decided to try upstairs, where my seat was - it was no better, though. Persevering, I ploughed through the crowd in search of merchandise - I wanted a venue t-shirt. There was one measly, poorly stocked stall - right at the end of the passage - with a predictable scrum of people waiting. There was indeed an event t-shirt, already with a sign above it that said "Very Limited Availability". Sure enough, people turning back from the counter told others in the crowd that it was now completely sold out. I'll have to show up earlier tomorrow, is all - hopefully, they'll have restocked. I did see the Cedarwood Road t-shirt that I bought in Barcelona, and haven't seen since - I guess this is an appropriate venue for it!

Starving, I was to discover that all hot food was sold out as well. I bought a Mars bar to keep me going. Ate it, and went in search of my seat - mercifully, there was no repeat of the last concert in the SSE Hydro, where I was stuck at the top of a flight of stairs! It's a lovely, small venue, and I had a good view:

Anyone familiar with the stage configuration will notice that it's a wee bit different - this is a smaller venue, and they didn't have room to put the e-stage at the end of the catwalk, so they've put it in the middle. Didn't make much of a difference, except that Bono now enters at the end of the catwalk and walks to the e-stage, rather than the other way around - and the roadies setting up the drum kit on the e-stage for the second half of the show are a little distracting, being now right in front of the vidiwall instead of at the end. Not a big deal.

The piped music beforehand was louder and more disco - reflecting a party mood, methinks. Indeed tonight's crowd gets my Crowd of the Year So Far award - the floor was packed, and energetic, and I couldn't fault the stands either. Much like in Glasgow, which is a similar-sized venue, there's a feeling of a constant crowd, all the way to the stage, and a camaraderie. Setlist:

  1. The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)
  2. The Electric Co. / Send In The Clowns (snippet) / I Can See For Miles (snippet) / Live Forever (snippet)
  3. Vertigo
  4. I Will Follow / Mother (snippet)
  5. Iris (Hold Me Close) / Hold Me Close (snippet)
  6. Cedarwood Road
  7. Song For Someone
  8. Sunday Bloody Sunday / When Johnny Comes Marching Home (snippet)
  9. Raised By Wolves / Psalm 23 (snippet)
  10. Until The End Of The World / Love And Peace Or Else (snippet) / Words (snippet)
(Intermission - The Fly)
  1. Invisible
  2. Even Better Than The Real Thing / Break On Through (snippet)
  3. Fashion (snippet) / Mysterious Ways / Burning Down The House (snippet)
  4. Elevation
  5. Sweetest Thing
  6. Every Breaking Wave
  7. October
  8. Bullet The Blue Sky / Ode To Joy (snippet) / 19 (snippet) / Looking for America (snippet)
  9. Zooropa
  10. Where The Streets Have No Name / California (There Is No End To Love) (snippet)
  11. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
  12. With Or Without You / Love Will Tear Us Apart (snippet)

  13. encore(s):
  14. City Of Blinding Lights
  15. Beautiful Day
  16. Mother And Child Reunion (snippet) / One / Invisible (snippet)
With the Dublin concerts announced so late, of course there were going to be people in the audience who'd been to some already - in fact, two people in front of me were comparing photos and videos of previous concerts. However, this wasn't true of everyone - a couple of people who passed me as I strolled back to the hotel afterwards were remarking to their companions how cool it was that they played such-and-such, or that there had been one they weren't expecting. One guy said he completely lost it during Electric Co. Yes, if I hadn't known it's one of three oldies they cycle amongst for the second song, I'd have been impressed too! Really, it's phenomenal how much old material they're including in these shows.

There were a couple of interesting changes, since I last saw them, in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago. The Sunday, Bloody Sunday video sequence now no longer shows pictures of terrorist victims on the gable ends of houses, but instead shows typical Northern Irish political murals. And they've taken out the bits where Bono shreds poetry pages and flings them into the crowd.

The Wall that comes down during the intermission now only covers one end of the vidiwall - there isn't room at the other end! The girl pulled from the crowd for Mysterious Ways turned out to be Josie, from California..

Mrs. Bono was, again, in the house. And what was lovely was that we finally got the name of that bombed city whose footage is shown during October - the subtitle now reads Kobani, Syria 2015.

The crowd featured several French flags, and towards the end Bono draped one over the drum kit. His mind frequently focusses on France these days, and it's lovely to see that they're now going to end the tour there next month, with the concerts they rescheduled following the Paris attacks. Little bit of a shame that the Dublin ones won't bookend this leg of the tour, but I don't begrudge it them.

On the way home, I bought a not-very-good hot dog from the vendors outside, but it was much appreciated in my near-fainting state, and since it had stopped raining - and was quite mild - it made for a pleasant walk back! What was funny was the fleet of bicycle rickshaws, buzzing around just across the road, tooting their horns for business. Quite comical as they zipped back and forth, they made life interesting for pedestrians trying to avoid them.. and I heard a few passengers shrieking in alarm at intervals, as they zoomed by..

And so back to my pleasant room, and I am looking forward to my bed. I'd have liked a drink, but the aforementioned Vertigo bar was deserted, and I don't have a minibar. What they hey, I can have a lovely lie-in tomorrow.

The second concert is tomorrow night, and then I have a miniscule amount of sleep before I have to drag myself out again, for an early-morning flight back to London and another half-day's work. Bravely, I am headed out on Wednesday night - the Crick Crack Club has another meeting at the Forge, and this time I booked the minute it was advertised, knowing how regularly they sell out. On Thursday, I'm joining the London European Club at a concert at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, as part of their Brandenburg choral festival.. sounds lovely. And on Friday, I'm back here - same hotel, same venue, same band - for their last two shows of the year in Dublin - and my last U2 shows of the year. I fly back to London on Sunday, when I pick up the keys to my new place, all going well!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Live Gig: Hannah Scott

Ach, you know, it was always going to be complicated to get to Rotherhithe, where Hannah Scott is playing tonight. And with the atrocious weather as well, by the time I'd eaten, I just didn't feel like rushing out the door, for a long, complicated journey to a gig that I wasn't sure I'd enjoy.

So I didn't. Apologies, Hannah Scott fans, and also the two others in the London European Club that had arranged to go tonight. I'm going to enjoy a rare night in!

There are leaving drinks for another of our colleagues tomorrow, and on Friday I'm back to Ireland for the weekend. I fly back to London on Sunday, then do half a day's work and fly to Dublin on Monday afternoon.. it's a question of time off, you see; I've run out of leave! U2 play there the next two nights, which I expect to be the best venue of the tour.. and I'm looking forward to it already.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

London Russian Ballet School

The London Russian Ballet School is, apparently, a school staffed by exclusively Russian teachers. And it seems they can't get so many people to go to their shows, given the ease of getting cheap tickets! ShowFilmFirst had a free ticket for it last week (yes, they give tickets away to things other than film - in fact, I can't remember the last time I got a film ticket from them), but I couldn't go because I was flat-hunting. However, I scored a cheap ticket for tonight - which had the advantage of being closer to home, in Wimbledon. A cheaper journey too, as I didn't have to go through Zone 1.

The Tube came pretty much as soon as I arrived, and I settled in for the journey to Wimbledon, the end of the line. I'd checked it out on Streetview first, but it's an easy journey -  left from the station, the New Wimbledon Theatre will be on your right, in the middle of a road junction. And apart from the gale-force wind, an easy journey it was - a signpost right outside the station directs you to the theatre, and a few minutes later, you see the red neon lights advertising the name. And I entered past the usual crowds of little girls that you see at ballet performances.

Another excellent seat - Row E in the stalls this time, five rows from the front. And pretty central. I hadn't been to this theatre before, and was intrigued, as I went in, to see the ad that ushers would bring whatever you wanted to your seat, for no extra charge; just choose from the menu - stashed in a slot at the back of various seats - and attract someone, give them the order, pay. They bring it right back. I was intrigued. I was to discover, of course, that the execution of this service is dependent on them noticing you in the first place - the guy I waved at just stared at me, oblivious. When a couple of ladies beside me placed an order with the more helpful-looking lady, however, I jumped at the chance, paying £5 for a small bottle of white. They had the better deal, I think, with the mojitos.. also £5 each! Orders come in a little paper bag. Great idea - I wish other places would follow suit..

I noted that the stalls were 2/3 full, with no-one in the upper levels, it seemed. The theatre has some spectacular features:

I didn't bother with a programme, but knew from the posters - and from peeking over the shoulder of the guy in front of me to see his programme - that the performance would be in two acts. The first act turned out to be quite traditional - and didn't they look lovely, all in their white tutus and sparkly, neat little tiaras? All in a row, looking just like the ballerina in a music box. It was a series of set pieces, and to be honest, it wore on a little, everyone getting their own solo. All the same, it was very sweet - they were very good (remember, they're just students), but there was the odd slip-up, and it was cute to see them shuffling  to get into the right position. I wasn't too impressed, however, at the amount of makeup plastered on the little girls - occupational hazard, of course.

The second act, however, was terrific! Based on Siberian folk tales - I believe - the choreography and costumes for this were more modern, and the dancers seemed more relaxed. And the effect was tremendous - worth the price of admission (even if I'd paid full price). Well done, them! And at an hour and 40 minutes - starting at 7.30 - most of my evening was still my own, and I got home nice and early. When I'd fought against the gale.

Tomorrow, I'm with the London European Club for a Hannah Scott gig - unfortunately, it's all the way over in Rotherhithe, but she does sound good. Then there are leaving drinks for another of our colleagues on Thursday, and on Friday I'm back to Ireland for the weekend. I fly back to London on Sunday, then do half a day's work and fly to Dublin on Monday afternoon.. it's a question of time off, you see; I've run out of leave! U2 play there the next two nights, which I expect to be the best venue of the tour..