Thursday, November 17, 2005

South Beach and U2

Sera and I spent last weekend in Miami, our first time there. We were excited to see South Beach, and had images of glistening hard-toned bodies, women with supermodel figures--the types of people that would make you feel intimidated and insecure at the beach. Instead we saw the real reason South Beach needs a Diet--an over-abundance of obese men and women flaunting their rolls in all their glory. Most of the men that were not overweight were wearing speedos, always an unseemly sight.

It was too windy to lay out on the beach, but we enjoyed strolling along the surf while people watching. I was surprised that women would lie out topless with the wind blowing. Sera said, "the sand would really hurt your breasts!"

It was also nice to people watch along Lincoln Avenue, a pedestrian mall featuring lots of outdoor restaurants, trendy shops and boutiques, and tons of gay men walking their little poodles. I always figured there'd be a lot of gays there (the breadth of my knowledge of South Beach comes from "The Birdcage"), but I was surprised we didn't see any gay women.

All in all South Beach was definitely interesting, but not as great as we expected.

But the main reason for our trip was the U2 concert Sunday night. As I wrote in my last entry I felt U2 had become the biggest sellouts. Gone were the days of angst filled songs of protest, the flag waving of "Sunday Bloody Sunday," replaced by the commercialism of cell phone and iPod ads, Bono's "cool" shades, ordering pizzas on stage and techno-pop. "I just hope they play a few of their old songs," Sera kept saying all weekend.

Despite my reservations about the show, I found myself excited with anticipation while waiting for it to begin. I had wanted to see U2 for 20 years, and I was thrilled knowing they would be coming on stage shortly. The stage itself wasn't tacky--just a small spiraling circle(the Vertigo for which the tour is named). There was a small general admission pit in front of the stage. A long, thin ramp wound its way around the main stage, separating the front pit from another general admission pit.

When they finally did come on stage the audience was as loud as any as I've ever heard in my life. It's amazing what kind of presence one band can have on stage. Fans get loud at Rolling Stones concerts, but then there are moments when they settle in and take a seat (usually during songs like, "Miss You," or "The Harlem Shuffle.") But not at the U2 show. No one sat for the entire show and the audience was completely into it from start to finish. And both Sera and I were pleasantly surprised. The band seemed to revert to their old days of playing for a cause. Bono often spoke about peace and what we can do to help stop poverty. They made a statement by playing all their political songs together: "Love and Peace or Else," "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "Bullet the Blue Sky," a short version of "Johnny Comes Marching Home," "Miss Sarajevo," "Where the Streets Have No Name," and "Pride." Bono took off his trademark shades during this segment and wore a headband displaying symbols of all the major religions: the Cross, Star of David, etc. At one point he played the part of a prisoner of war, wearing the headband as a blindfold and needing guidance to find the microphone. At the end of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" he pulled a child out of the audience and had him repeatedly scream "No More!" into the mike. There were no giant lemons, no plethora of giant TV's. U2 allowed their lyrics and music to create the greatest and most everlasting effect.

Another highlight was during the encore when they played, "Stuck in the Moment." It's probably my favorite of theirs from the late '90's era, but I was surprised when Bono announced it was written about Michael Hutchence. I was a big fan of Hutchence in the 1980's, and was fortunate to see INXS when they played at my college on their "Kick" tour.

So I must say that U2 has definitely gained my respect back. And it's funny: I just saw them last night on a commercial for a mobile phone. But instead of thinking of them as sellouts, I now know they still do care and are playing their part in trying to spread an important message to the world.

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