Posted by: smirkdirk | March 9, 2009

The U2 Tour

U2 has released some dates for the “Kiss the Future” tour.

They have a pretty cool site here that shows the stage set-up and so on. And here is a complete list of cities and dates.

A few days ago a member of the Yahoo wire group named Tina posted some thoughts about U2’s stadium tour plans that is definitely worth sharing. So, here goes:

Stadiumspeak by Tina C.

I have been thinking about the possible implications of a U2 stadium tour.

The band has been quoted as saying that they loved the fantastic vibe of the stadium shows in Europe and elsewhere and wish that that could happen again in the U.S.

But I have my doubts. I wish the band well, but I hope to God this does not turn out to be another PopMart….which may be why they are supposedly starting in Europe? They say the shows get better as the tour goes on and as good as US shows are, they’re the starting point and the band do not get their groove until a third of the way through a tour or so.

BUT…the culture of concert-going has changed dramatically within the past decade. Since PopMart (or maybe even before it), stadiums have for various reasons fallen out of favor in the U.S. It has been well documented, or at least discussed, that in the US audiences have gotten much more picky and are not as willing to shell out what they see as unfair amounts of money for seats which you’d need binoculars to see the act with. Audiences were going down this path before 2001 but when the band brought back the GA arena experience so memorably , it was like a drug we all got in our systems and we craved the intimacy, the proximity, the unique fan culture that the GA/arena experience brought to the u2 concert legacy. Someone once joked towards the end of the Elevation Tour, (with just a touch of what we now call snark), that you *know* U2 have been on tour too long when Wednesday is Macaroni and Cheese night in the Heart. They were speaking only half jokingly!

But really, would we have it any other way? There were issues of groupies hogging the same front rows, (I say “groupies” if they’ve somehow scored tix to most of the US dates and all in the GA–a certain LA girl tribute band excluded though) of stifling creative issues, of the media throwing people out of the GA line to substitute good-looking “fans” to occupy the front rows for concert video filmings… (a certain Boston show *cough*)

BUT….

We must remember that this is not 1987 or even 2002. There has been–there have been–really, 2 whole generations of fans (in musical terms, a “generation” is 6 or 7 yrs IMO ) in the US who have NOT had the U2 stadium experience. In Europe and elsewhere, there are no arenas, and concert culture has always been the stadium. The large, noisy, chanting crowds have had no place else to build up their fan culture for shows. They are used to the distance.

In the US, the band last did stadiums during the JT Tour and parts of AB (I think), a time when they were still being discovered and arguably they created their best work. Moreover, new fans–what Bono famously called the “pop kids”–were being added when there were older early and mid 80- era fans in the audience to school them in what Larry later disparagingly called “stadiumspeak. ” This is the Wave, the rhythmic clapping, the instant singalong and other time-honored crowd rituals that used to accompany any u2 show and which the band felt the need to discourage during ZooTV….the need to shake things up and confuse the audience. “Stadiumspeak” was artistically stifling from a band POV, yes, but from the audience perspective it made for a series of some of the best shows the band has ever had. Electrifying experiences. (sadly, I never got to see them until ’92.)

I remember reading the stories at the time of the happy crowds bringing the beach balls to the first ZooTV shows and then thinking “what is THIS?!?”

In the long run, artistically, it was good for the band to shake up the crowd. But even third-hand I can sense how many older fans (and I’m solidly in the middle, age-wise, though not years-wise I’ve been a) long for the power and the feel and passion of those shows. Where “stadiumspeak” ruled the day. And now, we’ve had a decade of an increasingly fractured crowd who simply does not remember the glory days of rock concerts. U2 are clearly going to be trying to bring that back in the United States, but will the vibe be there? In one sense it could be VERY exciting as it could be like the early days again, where Bono had to work to stir up the crowd.

ESP if there is a huge Popmart-like spectacle, as they seem to be indicating. So: either we get the smaller, indoor, intimate, relatively no-frills experience, or we get a media extravaganza like PopMart where that fan culture arguably cannot be replicated. (And I remember Popmart at Giants Stadium, 23rd row, side of stage–thank you, Propaganda. RIP)…

(Which makes me wonder: what may the “concept” be this time?)

I know the album seems to be a “Babel”–like cross current of confluent global fault lines cracking and Bono’s 24-hr snapshot of a world falling into chaos…(is this a counterpoint to War, which moved outward from SBS inward finally to “40”, saying the most significant war was that in the individual human soul; whereas this is an echo/response to “War” 15 yrs later, taking the “wars” more external?)

But it’s funny how the album becomes something entirely different onstage. For starters: what do you think the tour title will be? And how will people respond to a stadium tour–how will they react to the loss of GA culture? (Take it from me, the GA in a stadium is not the same thing. And I only went to one 1997 show–Giants Stadium in NJ, where this tour will probably stop too.)

Will Generation Y (and there are more of them out there than you think) respond? Will they want to go to a stadium show? I think yes–the curiosity factor. (I’m sure there are some acts still touring stadiums but not likely any non-Boomer acts. At least not much.)

For that matter, what of the older fans? A big lavish spectacle will not be enough IMP to capture the vibe again in such a huge setting. How stadiums became like arenas.. with 2-hr singalongs. (GOD I WISH I could have seen those shows. Even one.)

It will be curious to see what is going to happen here–and if the scalpers think scalping even the cheapy seats is as important as it was for Vertigo.

Well do I remember the 2005 debacle and how that went down. And now there is no Propaganda. Funny how the people who said “Oh I won’t bother with U2.com, I’ll go on eBay”…funny how that attitude vanished three weeks in, for various reasons…don’ t think it won’t be a bloodbath here. The scalpers renewed their memberships too.

Excuse more random thoughts. But I am a bit of an essayist….

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