'Like lighting gunpowder...'

20 Mar 201318
The best shows of the tour? 'South America,’ says Adam. ‘The other ones I remember for pure determination were where we had torrential rain – Zurich, Brussels, and one of the Austrian ones where we just had insane rain. The audience, they didn’t give up on it, they stayed there and they went right to the end of the show...'

'From The Ground Up' is the story of U2360 and in our latest edited extract we're in Montreal, near the end of the tour, as writer Dylan Jones asks Adam, Bono and Paul McGuinness how it's been - and what's coming next.  (In our earlier extracts we travel to Glastonbury Festival to find out how Damien Hearst got involved and go backstage in Moscow as the band get ready for showtime.)

'From The Ground Up' is the definitive account of the biggest rock'n'roll tour in history. The special 'U2.com Music Edition' of this essential book adds the soundtrack, Edge's Picks, a 15-track live CD curated by The Edge.

'In 1976 Martin Amis reviewed the Rolling Stones at Earls Court for the New Statesman. ‘The ante-hall of the Earls Court Arena was a Brobdingnagian underground car park of remote and overcrowded bars, sweet shops and dirty hot-drinks machines. Normally a token homogeneity obtains at the average rock concert: David Bowie fans all look and behave like David Bowie, Bryan Ferry fans all look and behave like Bryan Ferry etc. But everyone is a Stones fan.’ Not everyone is a U2 fan, but not only do they appeal to U2 fans, they also appeal to people who don’t necessarily like any other sort of music, and the people who make up the crowd at a U2 show might not normally go to another concert all year. Because each time U2 go out on the road, they attempt to reinvent the rock experience, and each time they succeed. With the 360 tour, however, they produced one of the most extraordinary, one of the most extravagant live experiences in the history of rock ’n’roll, and one that is unlikely to be repeated on this scale again. The seven million people who saw it will never forget it.
‘I suppose in some sense a U2 tour is a little like a movie franchise,’ said Willie Williams, ‘where if you go and see the latest Bond you will expect that there will be that scene where they show you the gadgets and all that sort of thing, so similarly there’s an expectation that certain things and certain songs will be in the show. But then the audience always expects more, as do we.’
As Paul McGuinness described it, U2 was the equivalent of a football team that wins the World Cup not just this year but does it again four years later, and again four years after that, and again four years after that.
‘Biggest is something we’ve had for a while; best is something else, however ... In a way, good enough is easy to get to. Great is harder; maybe not every day, but I think they are clearly the greatest rock and roll band of the day, and of the age, and maybe of all time. And the longevity of the group produces commercial ambition to do great shows, great recordings, and better things than they’ve done before...
‘There was a guy we met once in the eighties – Bobby Colomby – who was the drummer in Blood, Sweat and Tears and he later went on to have a successful career as an A&R man and also as a TV personality in Los Angeles. He introduced Bono and Adam once for a television show in the early eighties in Los Angeles. After the interview he said, “Do you mind waiting for another minute? I’ve got something personal to say to you, not on camera.” And we all thought, “Oh shit, he’s a religious nut; what is it going to be?” And he said, “I was in a big band myself once and I loved it, and not ashamed to say that, but I’m saying this to you now because I think you can benefit from it. Try to enjoy every moment of it, because it won’t last forever; every time there’s a limousine or an enthusiastic audience, just remember that it doesn’t go on forever, and relish it.” It sounded like the truth, so we tried to observe that. So for a few years whenever somebody might mention the limousine’s late or something, we’d say, “Bobby Colomby!” And we’d think of Bobby.’

By common consensus the best gigs of the tour were the Spanish and South American ones that had the feistiest, most expectant crowds. In those parts of the world the audience really does come to be part of a communal event, rather than just to come and ‘see a show’. ‘I would say South America,’ said Adam. ‘The other ones I remember for pure determination were the ones where we had torrential rain – Zurich, Brussels, and one of the Austrian ones where we just had insane rain. The audience, they didn’t give up on it, they stayed there and they went right to the end of the show. I think every crowd is slightly different depending on what their cultural touchstone is and what their experiences are. I think American audiences are very familiar with the pace and the language of the concert; they understand the beginning, middle and end, they understand the narrative. And because they see a lot of shows, they go to a show a week in the summer or a show a week in college, they don’t ever go manic. They’re fairly well educated, if you like, in terms of the concert. When you go into places like South America where you might get one big show like us through every two years, they must see a concert that a lot of people turn out to as a cultural event. In South America, as soon as you get on stage, it’s like lighting gunpowder.’
After the (Montreal) show, Bono, Ali and I took a helicopter back to Guy Laliberté’s house, twenty-three kilometres east of Montreal, in Mont Saint-Bruno, in the beautiful Monteregian Hills.  The tour was coming to an end, and Bono was in a typically reflective mood (it comes naturally). How did he feel about this tour of tours?
‘Many of these people on the tour have been with us for thirty years,’ he said. ‘And I can assure you it’s not sentimentality – we don’t keep people because they’re old friends. All these people are the very best at what they do. We want it to be good for them too. We don’t want to let them down.’
And it is so very obviously a community. There might only be four stars above the parapet, but having dropped in and out of the tour for two years, it was impossible to imagine the 360 tour as anything other than a kind of benign circus, with everyone working for the common good.
‘My mother’s family was so big and so joyous, and that sense of community has stayed with me all my life,’ said Bono. ‘They were so inclusive. With everybody. I remember being in this old railway carriage that was on the dunes in north Dublin, and everyone singing. And I remember when community disappeared from our family, when people left, and I remember thinking, this is bad, this is not as much fun. Community is so important, and I suppose we look on everyone who works with us as family, and as a way of not being corporate.
‘We keep this community going because we are a family. If we were Jamaican nobody would question the way we operate. Oh yeah, they make this kind of spiritual music, a bit political, they all hang out together. Yeah, got it. But then I suppose there’s always been a Jamaican vibe to a lot of what the Irish get up to. I’m sure Joe O’Herlihy’s Jamaican. His accent is totally Jamaican. Lots of one, two, trees and t’ing. He’s the blackest Irishman I’ve ever met.
‘This band is about joy, it’s about community, it’s about loyalty. And it’s very powerful to be with the same people for such a long time.’
In Chicago Bono had celebrated the city’s ‘majestic skyline’, as well as the audience: ‘We’re the wind in the windy city. When you put this band with this crowd, there is no room for modesty. Anything is possible.’
It was a sentiment that almost everyone on the tour appeared to share. With U2, anything really did seem possible. Which begged the question: what in the world were they going to do next? Would there ever be a more extravagant tour? There was a feeling amongst the touring party that, enormously proud though they were of their achievement, a further extravagance might be too much, and that anything bigger than this might be impolite and self-aggrandising. Paul McGuinness was already arranging to sell the Claws as permanent event space around the world (‘Six million a piece, free assembly, postage and packing!’), and there was an unspoken assumption that nothing of its type, or size would ever be built again. Not by anyone. Arthur Fogel actually thought the next U2 tour would be a lot less stressful than 360, principally because it almost has to be less ambitious.
 ‘Personally I think the encore is going to be easier,’ he told me. ‘I think that the pressure was much greater to bring this home as an ultimate success. Now that they have done it, it opens up a whole realm of possibilities in terms of what to do next.’

'From The Ground Up: U2.com Music Edition' comes with Edge's Picks, a 15 track live CD from the tour and is only available with a U2.com subscription.

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Austria 2010
I was there on that night that Adam mentioned. Alas not on the ground, but halfway up the nosebleeds, without rain, but rattling to the bones from the chill nonetheless. It was very special indeed. My very first (and only) U2 experience after being a fan for over 20 years. 20 min prior to lift-off the Mexican wave started rolling and it didn't stop until "Ground control to Major Tom". Later on I joined 70,000 people doing an a capella version of "I still haven't found" with Bono listening in awe, his arms rested on his chest.
U2 never in Colombia
@angelofharlem22 You are right! U2 doesn‘t play enough shows in middle- and south america. That‘s a real shame. Even we U2 fans from europe always are curious about these shows. Why? Because as Adam said it, the audience is amazing. Simply the best in the world. A U2 show in middle/south america is always something very very special. But one important notice why U2 probably never will play in colombia. Christians in colombia are persecuted and even killed for their faith. It‘s so sad what happens there. The link is in german, but you can translate it in translate.google.com/  http://www.opendoors.de/verfolgung/laenderprofile/kolumbien/
We´re waiting for a U2´s show since a long long time ago please come here!!! We love you guys
U2 kicked ass in Perth December 2010
March 30th 2011 La Plata Buenos Aires, A
Exactly two years ago, U2 was presented in Buenos Aires, La Plata, and I still remember every moment of the wait, the run to the circle and the concert, U2 at the Estadio Unico de la Plata was undoubtedly the best show I saw
Eddy Engbers
Bono tried to grab our camera to take a picture of us. Unfortunately he was was standing to high on the bridge stage
Myself along with 2 nieces and a nephew spent the night on a sidewalk, the day in the sweltering Florida heat and an hour or so before gaining entry to the stadium trapped by really smelly port-o-lets. I would do it again and again - the show was amazing and so worth the wait!!!
don't forget willie williams hometown sheffield what a fantastic night .
It was a dream to watch them. With tickets already in hand, a week before the concert in Sao Paulo, had an accident. The first thing that went through my head as paramedics helped me was: I need to see the U2 concert next week. Even so, I was in the first two days of the show. It was amazing. I realized a dream. I'll never forget it. Thank you for that. I look forward to you back in Brazil.
BAD - I would have stood in the rain, snow, anywhere? Toronto; my 1st x U2 experience was thrilling, however it would appear some of the other gigs & cannot disagree were AWESOME ! If its true, next time out on the road may be to smaller venue's, (I will probably have to buy tickets for my entire company to take the day off to go) but that would be worth it - if I can hear this one song - BAD
With 3 full concerts in one of the bigest stadiums around the world they were amazing shows!!!!! We are waiting you for the next tour!!!
the shows were epic in Latin America ...come back soon !
Brussels II
nice show, with rain, BAD nice version
Indeed Adam, the Brussels audience (especially at the first gig) was great, as Bono admitted several times. Hope to see you soon again there.
How to Dismantle a Claw for the Next Tou
MODS: I accidentally submitted my comment a few moments ago. Please use this one. Thank you! --- A few thoughts about next tour and keeping certain crowds more into the show: I've been to almost every Chicago U2 show since 2001, and I think the crowds here in Chicago were most excited and into the Elevation 2001more than the Vertigo & 360 shows for a few possible reasons: 1) Excellent popular and well received new album at the time 2) smaller more intimate crowd 3) Simpler stage design with less structures that don't take attention off of the band's performance 4) Setlist surprises! But for 360 and some of Vertigo tour, the crowds were flat. The Elevation shows were uplifiting. People were singing 'Walk On' in the stairwells exiting the United Center for Elevation tour. Maybe it's because we like indoors better? I think it's partially that, but for Elevation and Vertigo Chicago shows, they played a lot more newer material and deeper cuts at these shows. I mean, U2 played 'Gloria' & 'Until the End of the World' for the first time on the Vertigo tour on May 12 '05, and ended the show with a killer version of Bad/Norwegian Wood/Sexual Healing/40 that went on for about 10 minutes- SICK! That was the last, and easily the best show of the 4 that week of May 2005. In Sept 2005, Chicago got Discotheque and The First Time! We got Out of Control & One Tree Hill at the July 5 2011 360 Show. --- Combine the rarities that are amazing songs with a great new record like 'All That You Can't Leave Behind' & the show gets better. ATYCLB was one of the 'Classic' U2 albums, start to finish. So that really helps the crowd stay into it. --- Then you have the simpler more open stage set up of the Elevation tour. It was so clean without all of the bells and whistles of the Claw that the attention was on the band and not the giant structure. For 360 shows, I caught myself several times staring at the Claw and the songs became background noise - that really shouldn't happen. If the band go back to indoor shows next tour, I would like to see them incorporate some elements from 360 like playing in the round again and incorporate a smaller version of the circular video screen inside arenas- that'd be pretty sweet and effective for those higher up in the nosebleed sections. --- If U2 really hit a home run with the next album like they did with the 'All that You Can't Leave Behind Album' getting great radio play and follow it up with a great indoor tour that rotates more songs and feels less formulaic and focuses on their performance rather than the eye candy like the amazing Claw, then I think we will see crowds wake up in Chicago.
South Americans shows
I was there, in Brazil, in the first of the tour there! It was really great and unbelieveble!!
We are waiting for you on next tour. U2 is the best live act ever. Come back soon
Thanks Adam! I agree with you. The concerts here are really amazing, full of energy! Come back to Brazil soon... We miss you guys!
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