December 05, 2006

The Mystic Traveller Sings With Bono & U2

It has been a good year. In fact, it has been a very good year, musically, for the Mystic Traveller. In March, I was given a ticket to see The Rolling Stones. Next, I was on the guest list, two nights running, at The Pogues' concerts in Tokyo, and got to hang out with the band afterwards. Yes, it has been a great year. How could such a year get any better? Perhaps an evening with U2...?

When I heard that U2 were coming to Tokyo, I contacted some new friends I had made at The Pogues, and asked if they could get me backstage access to this legendary band. Unsurprisingly, it was impossible at this time. Bands really don't come bigger than U2, but it was worth a try.

I contacted my rock chick friend, Tomoko, who I knew would be able to get hold of a last minute audience ticket for me. And indeed, within a few hours of asking, I received a wonderful phone call informing me that I would be attending on 4th December, at Saitama Stadium.

Tomoko warned me that the ticket may not provide the best spot in the massive stadium, but I didn't care, because I was going to at least hear U2 live. That is nothing to grumble about.

When I arrived at the venue, the place thronged with crowds queuing to enter. Being somewhat spoilt by my Pogues' experience, where I didn't have to line-up, I decided to just head my own way to the entrance. It was pretty straight forward, as the staff seemed quite overwhelmed.

As I headed for the correct gateway, I befriended a Canadian, who was equally as confused as I about the system they were using to organise the crowds. Finally, we found our way inside the stadium ground, where we both had standing tickets.

The location was very far from the stage and behind a dense crowd of tall Japanese fans. My new Canadian friend soon discovered that he was in the wrong place, and should be in the section nearer the stage, where the more expensive tickets were.

Now, this got me thinking, just may be, I might be able to snuck through the ushers, and get myself a prime bit of Bono estate. So, instead of putting up with my dire situation, which Tomoko had warned me about, I followed my Canadian friend. As I approached the gate, I flashed my ticket confidently at the ushers and walked in, finding myself standing right next to the stage!

The excitement was now building evermore, and it was enhanced further by the enthusiasm of an American traveller, who has been traipsing the globe to see as many of U2's concerts as he could. He had just seen them in Auckland, New Zealand and Sydney, Australia.

To my relief, I was informed by my American friend that there would be no support band: I was not there for some sub-league music. I was there for Bono and The Edge.

Finally, the lights dimmed and the crowd erupted, with my heart dancing with the incredible energy all around. I cannot believe that it is only recently that I have discovered the magic of "THE BIG MUSIC CONCERT". I am now hooked.

I get a nudge from my American super fan friend. He points to the stage right next to me, and there is Bono, only a few feet away, walking up with a Japanese flag over his shoulder. The crowd screams and jumps out of control, and I'm there with them.

I wanted to go to the toilet just before the start, but there was no way that I was going to miss a second of this. The wall of light that surrounded the stage was now thrumming in synch with the music and I was totally hypnotised.

The concert set comprised of all the old favourites and some of their recent releases. Of course, they were also interspersed with Bono's worthy political statements. During a performance of Sunday, Bloody Sunday, Bono donned a headscarf printed with a reproduction of a graffiti message he had seen in Lebanon. It read: Co-Exist. The "C" was written as a crescent moon, the "X" as a Star of David, and the "T" as a crucifix. It got thunderous support from the crowd.

As Bono sang the set with an immaculate performance that matched any of his recordings, I found myself singing my voice box almost out of my throat. Now, I have no shame in admitting that I have done my fair share of U2 renditions at karaoke in Tokyo, so it was an automatic reaction I had to throttle a few notes with Bono leading.

Contradicting the expectation of my fans (well, mates who attend my "karaoke concerts"), Bono did not call me up to the stage to sing a duet of With Or Without You. It would have been great for me, but less so for Bono! Well, I didn't want to steal his thunder!!!

The band finished with two encore sets. By this point, I just wanted them to play and play throughout the night. Finally, the magic retreated and I returned back to my world.

Visit Amnesty International's Website.
*I apologise for the poor quality photographs. They were taken with my mobile phone.

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