Towards the end of last year I heard that U2 was going to be performing in South Africa in February 2011. Typical…the band I have most wanted to see live in my life so far finally returns to my country while I am living 10 000 odd kilometres away… Thankfully though, the next stop on their 360° Tour was South America with the first concert happening right here in Santiago in the Estadio Nacional.
So last Friday, at long last, I got to see one of my favourite bands live and it was also my first huge international concert outside of South Africa…These are some of my thoughts on the experience:
The challenge: the fact that I was still nursing an injured knee which thankfully had improved dramatically in the preceding 5 days, but which was definitely not 100% yet. So to be safe rather than sorry, I hired a set of crutches in order to have extra support whilst standing for hours on end and to help me deal with the crowds. I think the lady in the shop thought I was mad since I asked if it was possible to hire crutches for a day or two, but the minimum is a month. I suppose that makes sense since injuries requiring such contraptions don´t usually disappear in a day.
The bonuses: With my injured knee Rodrigo and I weren´t overly keen on trying to jostle for the best position on the field and so when we arrived we fought our way through the crowd towards the back of the field. Due to the spectacular design of the stage and the HUGE cone shaped screen, it actually wasn´t all that important to be able to try and see the stage. But, this was one occasion where my above average height (by Chilean standards) came in extremely useful. Even from so far back, without having to strain at all I could still see the stage and the band, even if they were rather small. This would never have happened in SA where I usually end up standing behind the tallest guy in the audience and can hardly see anything. Here, I was the person that those behind me were probably cursing, but oh well.
Then in terms of language, this was one of the only times in a year in South America that I have felt like I had the upper hand on all the spanish speakers. Whilst Bono used a few spanish phrases every now and again, he spoke predominantly in english. A couple of times, sub-titles were used on the big screen, but most of the time I think the majority of the people missed many of his comments.
The conclusion: I really can say that this was the most incredible concert I have ever been to in my life. The fact that it was in an open air stadium packed with 80 000 people made the atmosphere so different to previous concerts, always at an indoor venue such as the Dome in Johannesburg. Then the stage, the lighting, the special effects, the sound were all absolute top class and cutting edge. I honestly expected the 360 stage reminiscent of a space ship to take off towards the end and I wouldn´t have been surprised if it had. At one point four beams of light shot up into the sky and all I could think of was “beam me up Scotty”.
Then there were the obvious humanitarian messages for which Bono is so famous and whether you like this part of his character or criticise him for it, they were rather powerful…
– a call to Arab nations such as Libya, Iran and Syria to “turn on their radios” and support the revolutions hopefully leading towards democracy.
– a thank you to all those who supported the campaign for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi who he described as the Nelson Mandela of Asia since she was detained by the government for 21 years in Burma.
– a message from Desmond Tutu talking about AIDS and Malaria in Africa. I think very few people in the audience firstly knew who he was and secondly understood his message well despite sub-titles. I was cheering loudly at this stage and I think the people around me thought I was mad…but I didn´t care – seeing his face and hearing him speak made me feel just a little closer to home for a moment.
Sadly though, all good things must come to an end and after two hours of all their classic hits as well as new songs which I didn´t know, the stadium lights lit up, the stage went dark and with the rather apt “Rocket Man” by Elton John playing in the background we made our way out of the stadium.
Overall, an incredible night and definitely a birthday present I will never forget – muchisimo gracias por todos Rodrigo!
P.S. Thanks to the crazy Irish man who entertained us all as we were leaving by wildly waving an Irish flag in the stands and then proving the legend true that there is nothing under a kilt…