24 July 2009

U2 Live in Barcelona: the 20-year wait

Time lost. That's the feeling I was having... Why didn't I see U2 live for over 20 years? I have no answer.

This was quickly replaced with the sheer elation of enjoying the experience of a lifetime. But that was when U2 came onto the stage and I saw them, physically saw them for the first time in my life. The concert was at the Camp Nou - the stadium of the Blaugrana - FC Barcelona. Visiting the Camp Nou would have been an experience in itself. But on that day it was easily overshadowed by U2.

The opening act for the night were Snow Patrol, a band I had been accidentally introduced to by a friend a few years earlier. I had grown to like them a lot over the past 3 years. Honestly, I would have paid to watch just Snow Patrol!! They took the stage at about 8.30 with U2 expected at 10 PM.

They were good, despite suffering from a crowd which was "waiting for U2" and having to play while it wasn't even dark yet. They played a great set - most of my favourite songs. Started with "Take back the city" which is their latest big song. Followed that up with the Spiderman 3 theme song - "Signal Fire". That sounded and felt quite good with the sun going down over Barcelona. Next came "Shut your eyes" followed by the big one - "Chasing cars". By now the crowd was warming up to them and they went straight into "Crack the shutters", "Open your eyes" and ending with the brilliant "You're all I have".

That really set the stage for the big show coming up. It was still only 9.30 or so, another half hour to go before I could feel what I had waited to feel for 20 years - what would it be like to see The Edge in the flesh... To see U2 play LIVE.. What songs would they play? Hoping they would play some of the old tracks - the ones I had grown up on.

Almost at 10 PM sharp it happened. U2 took the stage and the stadium was rapturous and erupted.

Me - I was sitting in my seat, overwhelmed. I watched with tears in my eyes. I had waited so long. They kicked off with "Breathe" from the new album.

What followed for the next 2 and half odd hours was breathtaking, stunning, incredible. The superlatives could be endless so I won't bother. Suffice to say it was one of the highlights of my life, till now.

They followed up "Breathe" with some more tracks from "No Line on the horizon"... The title track "No Line On The Horizon", "Get On Your Boots" and then "Magnificent" which was truly magnificent. I was slowly getting excited and expressing myself and standing and watching rather than absorbing it sitting down. "Beautiful Day" followed.. Pretty good. Great song.

And then it happened. It took my breath away. I could not stand.... The Edge started strumming "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For". I had to sit. Concentrate. What a sensation to watch U2 play one of my favourite songs - LIVE. So many emotions, so few words. All I could do was sit there and watch them through moist eyes and sing along.... Along with 80,000 other voices.

They upped the tempo after that with "Desire" and bits of "Billie Jean" and "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" as a tribute to Michael Jackson.

What followed was yet another incredible high.. Two really old songs "Party Girl" and "Electrical Storm" (being played live for the first time ever!). Few in the stadium even knew the songs - a vicarious pleasure for me!

Then back to the new album with "Unknown Caller" which lends itself really well to the crowd singing along and boy did we sing along. Followed up with another classic "The Unforgettable Fire". By now, the band were really playing us by mixing up the old and the new.

Yet another 'high' followed with a spectacular lights and stage display for "City of Blinding Lights". The band really took the roof off the stadium for this one. And then another "How to dismantle" track... "Vertigo".

Immediately after playing a new track "I'll Go Crazy if I don't go crazy tonight", U2 went into a mad double-header straight from their roots in Ireland - "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Pride (In the Name of Love)". Oh my God - the crowd went a bit ballistic. Its was incredible to watch.

And then "MLK" - another old one. By now the band had the stadium eating out of the palm of their hands. Bono, The Edge and Adam Clayton were roaming the stage casually and 'talking to the crowd' with their music. The stage was a unique design with a 360 degree view and the giant claw stage.

The next song was dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi... Her face flashed on all the screens and Bono reminded people of the plight of Myanmar - "Walk On". During "Walk On",
Bono was wearing a mask of Aung San Suu Kyi. There were about 20 children on stage - all wearing the same masks. A good tribute to a woman with extra-ordinary fortitude.

And then they hit us with another old one which raised the tempo in more ways then one.. "Where the Streets Have No Name". This was followed up by a speech on the video screens by Bishop Desmond Tutu promoting the ONE Campaign... Perfectly cueing up "One". Oh what a feeling. Serious goose-flesh. I've probably heard this song and even live versions a thousand times. And now it was in the flesh.

And then U2 leave the stage... Triggering the beginning of the end of the night. As expected the crowd sang for them to return and they did.

U2 came back to the stage with a slow build up of sound and lights and then a massive crescendo. Breaking into yet another popular-amongst-hard-core-fans-but-not-famous songs - "Ultraviolet (Light my way)". This was followed by arguably U2's most famous song - "With or Without You". I am running out of words and superlatives to explain the emotions.

And then U2 left the stage again.. The crowd would have none of it and kept singing for almost 5 minutes I'm not sure if they were planning to come back anyway or did because of the crowd. My guess is the former.

They hit us with two tracks from the new album "I'll Go Crazy...." A repeat because they played the normal version of Crazy tonight for a video being made of the concert tour and then my favourite song from the new album - "Moment of Surrender". To be honest, I think Bono and the band played with the track a bit too much and it didn't sound great to me but nothing was going to dampen the night.

Needless, to say I was drained. Lost my voice completely. Sweaty, grimy, dirty, hungry, thirsty but contented. Oh so satiated.

Song List (with album name)

Snow Patrol

1-Take back the city (A hundred million suns)
2-Signal Fire (Spiderman 3)
3-Shut your eyes (Eyes Open)
4-Chasing cars (Eyes Open)
5-Crack the shutters (A hundred million suns)
6-Open your eyes (Eyes Open)
7-You're all I have (Eyes Open)


1- Breathe (No Line On The Horizon)
2 - No Line On The Horizon (No Line On The Horizon)
3 - Get On Your Boots (No Line On The Horizon)
4 - Magnificent (No Line On The Horizon)
5 - Beautiful Day (All that you can't leave behind)
6 - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (The Joshua Tree)
7 - Desire (Rattle and Hum)
8 - Party Girl (Under a blood red sky)
9 - Electrical Storm (Best of 1990-2000 B side)
10 - Unknown Caller (No Line On The Horizon)
11 - The Unforgettable Fire (The Unforgettable Fire)
12 - City of Blinding Lights (How to dismantle an atomic bomb)
13 - Vertigo (How to dismantle an atomic bomb)
14 - I'll Go Crazy...(No Line On The Horizon)
15 - Sunday Bloody Sunday (War)
16 - Pride (In the Name of Love) (Rattle and Hum)
17 - MLK (The Unforgettable Fire)
18 - Walk On (All that you can't leave behind)
19 - Where the Streets Have No Name (The Joshua Tree)
20 - One (Achtung Baby)
21 - Ultraviolet (Achtung Baby)
22 - With or Without You (The Joshua Tree)
23 - I'll Go Crazy (No Line On The Horizon)
24 - Moment of Surrender (No Line On The Horizon)

18 July 2009

Cannes Promo Lions Jury Experience: One Word - Unforgettable

Its probably the single most concentrated intellectually rewarding activity I have done. One week of intense and relentless intellectual stimulation took so much out of me.
The jury was constituted of 18 members. They were just names and faces to me less than 10 days ago. But now they are friends, whom I respect and like very much. Some of whom I hope to have as friends for the rest of my life... More about them later.
The jury process was rigorous and methodical. For a form of evaluation which had strong subjective and individual variations, the process worked hard to stay true to itself. For the large part and in the end result it was a very effective and efficient process. Certainly not foolproof but as close to that as possible.
Over a period of 5 days, I saw some inspired promotional marketing work. And some truly insipid work too! Interestingly, there was very little correlation between big/famous brands great promotions. Sadly, there were a few examples of entries purely for awards - borderline scam entries. It was not fun to have to go through entries that were so obviously done to be entered into award categories. But that must not take away from the majority of the entries which were well worth going through.
We spent the first 3 days in small groups short-listing the entries down to a smaller and manageable number. This stage was pain-staking and a bit tedious, I must admit. The latter 2 days were spent whetting the short-list and deciding on metals through some rigorous and deep discussion about each entry. These days were considerably longer and strenuous but more enjoyable. Listening to a truely international and varied view-point on promotional projects was brilliant.
Over and over, we ended up analysing entries to see whether they actually 'activated' the consumer. This was crucial to the Promo Lions category. We often ended up thinking - "I like that, but is it a promo?". Soon that become the joke of the jury and we ended up referring to everything around us with that phrase.
I've worked with a multitude of people from various countries on various fora, but this group of people comprised of some of the funniest and I enjoyed their company through the week that I spent at Cannes. Chris from South Africa was the one I spent the most time, despite being a Chelsea fan, he's pretty cool. I'm looking forward to seeing him at the world cup next year.
Pius, my friend from Zurich, thinks he's very funny and often is... (Pius, if you're reading this - you know you love my jokes - admit it!). Janice the youngster from Toronto, it was fun watching how the other half live with you.. We will always remember the 'the canadians' as her favourite project.
Figuring out where to go for dinner every night was an interesting little exercise. Johannes (from Berlin/Stuttgart) wanted to go to a place where we had already been. Very conservative. While Tito (from Buenos Aires) and the rest of us wanted to try something new every night.. The German stood no chance - I think we made him a little more adventurous in the week that we were there. Tito and I loved our Haagen Daas ice-cream after dinner and by the end of it everyone else did too...
The jury sessions culminated in a shortlist and winners list (you can have a look at the Promo Lions at www.canneslions.com). There was a press conference in front of journalists from all over the world and just sharing the stage with such a group of professionals was a thrill. The awards night itself went by in a flash and it was a strange feeling to know exactly what winners were going to be announced and watching the audience reaction.

Suddenly, I felt completely useless. The last week had been so focussed and result-oriented. We were treated like royalty by the Cannes organising team and as friends by some like Maureen. Half Chilean-half Portuguese, she was the most amazing coordinator of anything I've ever met. Of course, it helped that she's really pretty and funny.
Cannes and the jury work at the advertising festival was an unforgettable experience and I loved it. Fortunately for me, I wasn't crash-landing back home to work... I was off on a 2-week driving holiday!