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Mark Hougen
Traci Meades
Maria Savino-Woroniuk
Clark Sutter

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Eighth Avenue Place, East Tower
525 8th Avenue SW - Reception on 10th Floor
Suite 1100
Calgary, AB
T2P 1G1
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U2 Trip to Hawaii

In September, I realized that U2 was not coming to Calgary on the Vertigo tour. In fact the tour was in the final stages, winding through Australia, Japan, and finally Hawaii. As a huge U2 fan, an idea was born. Out goes the email to a few friends, and voila, Jeff Vathje and I are going to Hawaii to see U2 on their final stop of the Vertigo tour.

Thursday: we fly to Honolulu through Vancouver, arrive at midnight
 
Friday: we rent Scooters and buzz around Waikiki, Diamond Head and visit the southern blowhole.

We also follow the route for Sunday’s Honolulu marathon. We are continually flattered when people ask if we are one of the 40,000 people running the marathon. I called Aloha Stadium (where the Pro Bowl is played, seats ~45,000) to chat up the event coordinator who confirms that absolutely no cameras and no backpacks will be permitted, that the first act will start at 630, and that people have already been sleeping overnight to be first in line. We decide to go out for dinner and drinks on an outdoor, 3rd floor seafood restaurant, overlooking the Ocean.
 
Saturday: because we have General Admission tickets and want to be close to the stage, but would never entertain the thought of sleeping in a car or on concrete, we roll into the line-up at ~1030am. We receive our white VIP wristbands with the #3 coded on them, indicating that we are in the 3rd of 6 holding areas for floor seating. We quickly realize that we have flown a shorter distance than almost anyone else we meet. Also, everyone has cameras. So they take photos of us with our new friends from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Chile, Chicago, Boston, Australia. We ignore the people from Toronto.
 
After many false starts, we begin to enter the stadium at 5pm. The security guards, who up until now have been an excellent source of information, tell us that the first 3000 people will be allowed into the front part of the stage, the remaining 11,000 for safety reasons will behind a barrier in an area known as the "really lousy floor seating area.”

We follow the Germans as most have seen U2 several times on this tour and give us advice on how to get inside the ellipse/horseshoe (the inner stage). We are thrilled to discover that we have made it to the front floor section and find space outside the ellipse/horseshoe standing next to the Edge’s runway. Then we discover how lucky we were to get inside. Many of the people in our holding area do not get in, and are relegated to the area behind the safety fence (the stage is on the North goal line, they are stuck behind the 30 yard line.
 
I discover that there is a way inside the Ellipse/Horseshoe, and with some maneuvering
and chatting with some of our new found friends, Jeff and I are inside, about 12 feet from the stage, and about 10 feet from the two "B” stages, where they perform some of their acoustic songs.

630pm: Rocco and the Roadie Band open with a rocking version of Eleanor Rigby. The band members are all members of U2’s road crew and play before the biggest crowd they have ever seen.

730pm: Pearl Jam play a spirited set with Eddie Vedder channeling Jim Morrison. They closed with a blistering cover of the Who’s "Baba O’Reilly.” I am pleasantly surprised how well they played to the huge crowd and that Eddie didn’t fall off the stage.
 
915pm: U2 hit the stage and immediately confirm that they are the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World. The set list is shown below. Mixed in to "I Will Follow” was most of the Beatle’s "Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and half of "Blackbird.” Another surprise was Billy Joe Armstrong from Green Day appearing for the encore "The Saints are Coming.” About an hour in, they pull a fan from the crowd, he asks for a song they are not planning to play ("Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses”). Bono stops and asks if anyone in the band can remember what chord it’s in. He sees blank looks from the band, so the guy runs to the piano next to Edge, and plays the chords. I can see Edge trying to work through the chord progressions, then nods to Bono and they’re off. The song sounds great, the band is so good they just watch each other and make it happen. Being that close, you see the eye contact and subtle gestures Bono makes to keep everyone on track.
 
From U2’s Website: Wonderful closing night with Pearl Jam in Hawaii and lots of surprise touches as Vertigo 05/06 comes to a close twenty months after it opened in San Diego last March . Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses was in the set, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong joined the band for The Saints Are Coming and Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready of Pearl Jam arrived on stage for 'Rockin' in the Free World'. All I Want Is You closed the night, and the tour.
 
City of Blinding Lights
Vertigo
Elevation
I Will Follow
I Still Haven’t Found What I'm Looking For
Beautiful Day
Angel of Harlem
Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
The First Time
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
Love and Peace
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Bullet The Blue Sky
Miss Sarajevo
Pride (in the Name of Love)
Where the Streets have no Name
 
One

The Fly
Mysterious Ways
With or Without You

Window in the Skies
The Saints are Coming
Rockin’ in the Free World
All I Want is You
 
The Ellipse/Horseshoe: Jeff and I were right in the middle of the inner stage area. It was a once in a lifetime experience, an incredible concert and amazing experience. We are the only 2 people in the Ellipse/Horseshoe without cameras but many people we meet volunteer to email us their photos. Being that close to the band is like being part of the concert, not just watching it from a distance. As the band finished "One”, and the crowd chanted for an encore, I turned around to see the enormous crowd, their cel phones glowing, and to hear their feet stomping. It was amazing to see and hear what the band looks out at.

The concert ends at midnight, we hitch a ride from 2 girls from San Francisco we met at the concert, avoiding a $200 return cab ride (it takes 2 hours to cover the 25 minute drive). Apparently, Honolulu does not host many concerts of this size and the 5-0 (Honolulu police) have no traffic coordination skills whatsoever.
 
Sunday: we arrive home after 2am, just as Marathon runners are awakening for the big race that starts at 5am. We join many of the people we met at the concert at a Luau Sunday night.

Monday: we rent a Jeep and drive around the entire island. We see amazing beaches, visit a Macadamia Nut factory, visit with the locals on the North Shore which was hosting the Annual Big Surf/Rip Curl surfing competition. We catch the tail end of the semi finals. The waves are enormous.
 
We also visit a couple of the locations where the TV show Lost is filmed. You may recognize this scene where they dive into the lagoon and under the waterfall.

So we swam in the same lagoon and stood under the waterfall. After the surfing, the swimming and dinner we drove home through the middle of the island past the Dole Pineapple plantation.
 
Tuesday: we take surfing lessons and hang at the beach, then we take the red eye home.

By the time I get home, I have pictures by email from people we met at the concert. As of today, I have over 100 pictures people have emailed me. One girl I met from Switzerland actually mailed me a CD because there were too many to email.

Conclusion: life is too short not to have fun right now. There are tickets available to every show for every band everywhere in the world. Amazing memories and experiences are what we need more of. Make it happen now.

Mark

January 2007