03 February, 2006

Even Better than the Real Thing

I have tickets to U2. Finally.

If you'd asked me a week ago if I was going to see U2, when they play Auckland next month, I'd have shook my head and muttered something bitterly about queuing for four hours in vain, about overloaded websites and phone lines and ridiculously ineffecient ticket booking syststems.

U2 have been my favourite music group for many years. I first discovered them in the mid-1980s, around the time of The Unforgettable Fire. I loved The Joshua Tree; Rattle and Hum not so much. The group took a long break after that album and I took an even longer break from U2, but not before seeing them play live at Western Springs stadium in Auckland in January 1990.

I rediscovered U2 around 1996 when, on an impulse, I purchased a copy of the Achtung, Baby album. I still consider this to be the finest album they've ever made. The driving, industrial edge to their reinvented sound and the provocative lyrics are just perfect. Achtung Baby isn't just music, it's art.

I missed out on seeing U2 when they played Auckland in the mid-1990s. I was broke and simply could not afford to go.

In recent years I've built up a collection of every U2 CD and every DVD I can lay my hands on. I've even filled in the gaps in their back catalogue of CD singles through some vigilant shopping around on ebay. I even bought the U2 iPod when it was first released.

So when the band announced they were coming to Auckland on their Vertigo tour, there was no question - I had to go. Getting tickets however proved harder than I imagined. The website selling tickets crashed and their phone sales line overloaded. Despite this inability to buy online or over the phone, tickets to their Saturday concert somehow sold out within a couple of hours. A second concert for thre Friday night was announced. This time I joined a queue at dawn outside Real Groovy Records, a music store in central Auckland that would be selling tickets. I queued for four and a half hours. I was ten people from the front of the line when the concert sold out.

That was in early December. Over the days and weeks that followed, I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't be going to either concert. I spoke to many people who had also tried for tickets and lucked out. I even found myself listening to U2 less and less. It wasn't that I blamed the band for my disppointment, it was just that listening to their CDs and watching their DVDs became a painful reminder that even though I had all their music and had listened to them for years, I wouldn't be able to see them live in concert.

A couple of days ago a friend at work told me that there were still tickets available through a US tour company. Pricier than they had been if I'd managed to get them when they first went on sale, but cheaper than the ludicrous prices on NZ auction site TradeMe. The package includes a pre-concert party and travel to the concert venue as part of the price, so that's good.

Most importantly I now have tickets and we're going to the Saturday night, St Patrick's day U2 concert.

Last night I played the Vertigo - Live from Chicago DVD on the big screen and turned it up loud. I love this group.

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