Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Unforgettable Rain: U2 in Minneapolis

As you no doubt read in Matt's post about U2's Chicago show, we witnessed one of the best stadium shows I've ever seen...that is, until I saw their Minneapolis show at TCF Stadium (pictured left). While I had spent much of last week feeling sad I wasn't joining Matt and fellow Sound of Blackbirds bloggers Nick and Allan out at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, I ended up having an amazing weekend of music. I even got to enjoy some great folk music myself at the 13th Annual Northeast Folk Festival, a fun festival of local talent at none other than Grumpy's Bar NE. With music indoors and out, there was a great cross-section of the local roots and Americana scene with performances by Charlie Parr, The Brass Kings, Jeff Ray and more. Sporting my "Nordeast" t-shirt, I played with my Mother Banjo Band on the outside stage with Pocahontas County's Jake Hyer sitting in on fiddle, which was a real treat. We played U2's "Tryin' to Throw Your Arms Around the World," which has now become a band staple. This pleased the crowd, esepecially because I discovered many of them were going to the U2 show that night. In fact, Martin Devaney, who played a sweet set right after me, was also going after he stopped by yet another festival to play. (On a side note, I just found out that he's playing with Robbie Fulks at the Turf Club on August 12th--can't wait for that one!)

After wolfing down a tasty pulled pork sandwich, I bused it down to Whitey's Bar, where I met up with some pals for pre-show whiskeys (important since the University-owned stadium has no alcohol). Although there was no U2 playing on the jukebox (as there was when Matt and I were in Chicago at that Irish hotel bar), it was still clear many of these folks were going to U2. In fact, really it seemed like everyone and their mom (literally) was going to the show. What with light rail construction on University Avenue and the crazy amounts of traffic headed to the University of Minnesota's new TCF Stadium, it was madness. Luckily, one of the gals going with us was able to get her husband to drop us off so we arrived with no problem. The very first concert to be held in this stadium (usually used for Gophers sporting events) and the biggest outdoor concert in the Twin Cities in decades, this was the event to be at. In fact, I keep finding out more folks were there (including our Democratic Senator Al Franken and our former Governor Tim Pawlenty, now making a Republican bid for US President). And with only 60,000 seats (compared to the 70,000 at Chicago's Soldier Field), everyone felt pretty close to the gargantuan stage set, including the folks watching from outside the gate.

U2 has the stadium show down to a perfect art form--a spectacle that somehow seems personal. Ross Raihala captured this most eloquently in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. Although I couldn't take down the whole setlist due to the torrential downpours, I was able to find this setlist from U2's website. Normally I would just craft a little story to remember the song titles, but as you'll see, there were so many snippets of songs that Bono threw in (many rain-related) that I totally lost track of my Hitchcock-inspired story of the zoo that is the city where you go crazy with vertigo...

This show was supposed to be the final date of their tour, and although this rescheduled date was actually the third-to-last, U2 played it like it was their finale. And the crowd was with them the whole way, even amidst the threatening thunder and lightning, making this a truly unforgettable show. All week they had been predicting storms for Saturday, but the evening started out beautiful. The weather had cooled off a little and there was a light breeze while Interpol played their opening set. Fans bounced balloons and beach balls around from their seats, and in between sets, while the 360 screen scrolled world statistics, someone in our section actually released hundreds of balloons all at once. Like little kids, we all started cheering--a truly magical moment I was actually able to capture on camera.

As the seats filled up with people, it was clear that this crowd was a crowd that was committed to seeing U2. When the first drops fell, and everyone started cheering. Even when the torrential rains came down, no one's spirits were dampened, especially not the band who powered through like it was nobody's business. Not staying under cover, Bono was on the runway most of the night, getting just drenched and adding in fun rain-inspired covers, most notably "Purple Rain" (Prince always gets a big reaction in his hometown) and "Singin' in the Rain." Adam Clayton's white shirt got so drenched, he ended up ditching the thing completely, showing off his good-looking abs (someone's been working out!). It made me really respect how dedicated this band is to performing a good live show. When I think of all the musicians I've seen, who complain because it's too hot or too cold or too wet, I will always think of these guys, and how they could have stayed undercover playing a solid but sedate set under a canopy. Instead, they brought the show to the crowd, getting soaked like the rest of us.

Local critics Jon Bream and Chris Riemenschneider put together some of their highlights along with cool pics in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, including the surprise guest appearance by Somali hip-hop artist and former Minneapolis resident K'Naan and the acoustic rendition of "Stuck in a Moment" that Bono and The Edge sang for Amy Winehouse. Another great moment was when the crowd continued to sing "Pride" long after the song was over. He kind of stood there awe-struck and then clapped for us. But my favorite moment came at the end. After the band took its final bows and started leaving the stage, Bono ran back to the mic and started singing "Singin' in the Rain" for the second time, leading us all in a grand sing-along. He then waved goodnight, and we all kept singing, drenched and happy.

1 comment:

Matt Winters said...

It does sound totally awesome, Ellen. And how cool to be at the first concert in the stadium!