The South American Odyssey - U2 in Brazil and Argentina
As we emerged from the subway with the elevated tracks ahead there was a still about an hour to go. The cold air blowing through the open door sent a chill across my legs, as my stomach did the tango. As we left each station I was sure they would announce JFK as the next stop, but stop after stop I was disappointed. When the train finally got to the JFK stop there was less than an hour left. I raced to the bus, found that Varig was in terminal 7, and bus B would take me there. I boarded the bus with some strange looks, "What you never seen someone in shorts when it's 40 degrees outside?" I waited and waited as a few more people boarded, and finally the driver. This was going to be so close and thoughts of missing the flight, and the Sao Paulo show raced through my mind. We twisted through the parking lot, passing pickup points with no people, the Tower Air terminal, and finally out onto the highway. I saw the sign for Terminal 7, we passed 2 and 3 without stopping, and appeared to be heading for 7 when we pulled off for stops 4W and 4E. I could no longer sit still, continuously checking my ticket, I couldn't even remember the flight number, as my mind was now racing, the clock ticking. Less than a half hour till takeoff and we were not even at terminal 5!
Quickly through 5 and 6, then pulled into 7. "Where is Varig!" I scream, "Inside, upstairs." I ran up the escalator, "Where the fuck do I go!" Around the corner, back outside. "Where is Varig! Varig!" "The other end of the terminal, by United" I ran through the terminal at top speed, but no sign of Varig, where are the TV screens with the flight information? Ok, found one, Flight 865 to Sao Paulo, Gate 10. The entrance is right next to me, but I need to show my boarding pass, which I don't have, just a printout STA gave me. After some frantic screaming I got past the security guard, ran to the X-Ray machine. Straight through the metal detector with no problems, but they want to check my backpack. "My flight leaves in 10 minutes!" "Don't worry, you still have time" "Look it's just my camera, some vitamins, film, and a small amount of C4" Well, I skipped the part about the C4, these airport security guards don't have much of a sense of humor, and zipped up my bag. "Where is gate 10!" "Go straight, then turn right" Ok, almost there, I see gate 10, but nobody is at the counter. I go to the next counter "Gate 10, Sao Paulo! Where do I go!" "I wasn't aware that they were still boarding passengers, let me check" I give him my ticket, throw my passport across the counter, as another crew member arrives "You better call down to see if they are still letting people on" My heart is bounding in my chest as he calls down and types at the keyboard. They discussed my fate as one would discuss if they want to super-size their Big Mac. A boarding pass is printed, "Here, follow me" "Thank you!" I run down the ramp, make a quick right, then a left, the crew is waiting, the door open. They check my passport and I board, less than five minutes to spare! As I sit down, shove the Wire banner under the seat next to me, and the backpack under mine I realize I've done it. Yeah!
As I lean back, catching my breath, I think of actually getting the chance to hear Bad played live again, and am filled with joy and relief. Little did I know then, but at almost that same instant, over 5000 miles away, U2 was performing Bad for the first time on the POP Mart Tour during the first Sao Paulo show. So, moral of the story, next time I'll pay the $50.00, and take a car service.
There was a song I heard last weekend before the Super Bowl, played while they showed John Elway's story. All I remember is one line that goes like this, "I hope you have the time of your life." My journey continues.
The airport was located outside of Sao Paulo so it was about an hours drive. The scenery looked like New York in many ways, and like Miami in others, not very exciting, and I was sweating buckets. We went past their version of Central Park, saw some statues to their revolution in 1932, before heading to the hotel. We were staying at a hotel called Central Park Service in what was said to be the nice part of town. I dropped my stuff off, showered, and we headed off for food. Elena picked up the tickets for tonight's show, they were free V.I.P. tickets, a $175.00 price, cool! They were also very elaborately designed. If you've ever seen any of the European tickets you'll know what I mean. These had the POP Mart tour logo printed on them, even a little hologram with the shopping cart in it. Pizza Hut was that little taste of home that we needed. Over lunch they filled me in the their troubles the with tickets the night before, and Elena and Christian's problems in Rio. Hearing this we decided to leave the banner at the hotel, which turned out to be an excellent idea. The band was staying on the same block restaurant, and just a few blocks from us, and there was the usual crowd of loyal fans waiting for that brief encounter with their heroes. We stopped briefly then headed off to the stadium. As we got closer to Morumbi the streets were lined with people selling everything from hot-dogs, to T-shirts, to soda, even Skol U2 promo items. There were people everywhere outside the stadium, queuing up at all the gates. I've never seen so many people at a show so early.
This is where our troubles began. We didn't know what gate to enter through, and every guard we asked gave a different answer. We ended up walking around the stadium including up a long hill. This was a bad idea, it was so hot I thought I would pass out. We finally got someone to let us in through gate 18, but they were searching people like we were going to see the President, so a quick trip across the street to take my camera apart and shoved it down my shorts we went. They didn't find the camera, but came across two unopened bottles of Gatorade, and a partially drank bottle. There was no way I was going to give this magic liquid up. Death threats or not, it was hot as hell here, and I needed every drop of liquid to keep my energy level up. Elena convinced the guards we were V.I.P.s and deserved special treatment, plus we're Wirelings and that guarantees us the red carpet, and a spot by the b stage railing, right? Oh, and if it wouldn't be too much trouble, I'd like someone with a fan and an umbrella to keep us cool on the field till the sun goes down. They didn't laugh.
Ok, I'm exaggerating, just a little, but we got through, Gatorade and all. A quick trip to the bathroom to retrieve my equipment, and we're off. The "bathroom" was just a wall, with a drain on the floor, and I wondered why my feet were feeling so sticky. Unfortunately we couldn't access the field from this area, and I wasn't looking forward to trying to explain our story at another gate, not to mention hiding the camera again. One of the local security guards took pity on us and escorted us down below the stadium and out to the field, many thanks. He thought the V.I.P. section was on Edge's side of the stage, up in the stands. This wasn't going to do. We worked our way onto the field and tried for the main front section, but this was just for the first 2000 people who entered the stadium. Then we headed to the other side of the b stage. Vidal told me that he bought a V.I.P. ticket for last nights show, and this was the spot, right next to the b stage.
Next problem, we had yellow wrist bands, and everyone in that section had purple or pink wrist bands. The local security didn't believe us, that we had V.I.P. tickets and belonged in that section. Damn it, we're Wirelings! We tried to track down a member of U2 security, even Jerry Mele, but no luck. Elena and I eventually made our way to the other side of the stage and found someone who took us backstage to the TNA office. Craig explained that we had V.I.P. tickets and should have no trouble getting through. He also showed us that there was a closed off section with food and drinks just up from the field, near the b-stage. He tried to convince us that this was actually better than sweating out on the field. Ahhh, I don't think so.
To try and make a really long story shorter, Craig spoke to the local security, ended up in a twenty minute debate about the tickets and wristbands, in which time we found Darci and Christian, and finally got into the V.I.P. area, with new wristbands. After quickly filling up on water it was off to the b stage. By now the railing was filled with people, but we had a great view. The stadium was packed too, and the audience was celebrating.
This was my first concert experience outside of North America, and my first general admission stadium show. By now it was around 4:00, and the entire stadium was full, 95,000 people. I read that Morumbi was the second largest football stadium in the world, the Maracana in Rio being the largest, this was going to be an insane show. Since it was so hot the security gave out small cups of water to keep the audience from passing out of dehydration. Thank you! The problem of what to do with all the empty cups was quickly solved be some creative fans who stacked hundreds of them together in twenty foot towers and hoisted them into the air. The audience would roar their support as each new section went up. Eventually they grew too long to be held up so people began a horizontal chain, more than 100 feet long. It stretch from stage left, past the b stage, and over toward the sound booth. Fans in the upper deck joined in by throwing their cups down onto the field, it looked like rain. After many rounds of the wave, football chants, and twirling shirts it was time for the opening bands. Both bands sang in Portuguese but we really got into it. Normally in the US the opening bands would barely be acknowledged on stage, but here everyone was on their feet, jumping up and down, singing along. The stadium was shaking and U2 was still hours away. One of the bands had a DJ onstage who started spinning the drum beat to Sunday Bloody Sunday. The whole stadium joined in with the "Oh, oh, oh" part, then began screaming "U2! U2! U2!" I felt a rush of adrenaline that is normally reserved for the best moments of a U2 show, if this keeps up tonight will be the greatest show ever.
As the crew got the stage ready the crowd slowly moved closer to the stage. Our area wasn't too bad, but some of the people along the rail in the main section of the field were getting pulled out due to the crush. Some even carried out. As 9:30 approached The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" started. Here we go!
When the band hit the stage the crush started in our area too. During the first few songs I struggled to keep my spot and shoot pictures. I still couldn't get to the rail and everyone had their hands up, so much for that idea. In the end I shot less than a roll of film, decided to enjoy the show instead. The show itself was great, U2 were rockin' and the audience was so loud. During "I Will Follow" everyone was jumping up and down in unison, it made the cameras shake, and the images on the screen shake! Tonight's show was broadcast by MTV Brazil so that might explain why U2 stuck to their regular set list. I was a little disappointed at not hearing any of the songs they were rumored to be adding for the South American tour.
By the end of Streets I couldn't take it anymore, the heat was unbearable, and I couldn't see a thing, so off to the safety of the stands I went. Just getting off the field took most of Lemon and Discotheque, people were packed in everywhere. I swear, every inch of the field was covered by people, shoulder to shoulder. During Velvet Dress I worked my way along the first level to the back of the stadium for a great view. Hearing the audience sing along during With or Without You was incredible, even during the break between choruses they kept singing "Oh, oh, oh, oh!"
As the show neared the end I was hoping for something special to close the show, and we got it. As One ended Edge broke into 40. At the Seattle show 40 blew me away, and left me in tears, but tonight I was so exhausted, and dehydrated that all I could do was quietly sing along. Bono seemed to forget the lyrics again, and Edge extended the song by continuing to play the guitar as they walked off stage and down the ramp. My first South America show had come to an end, somehow I'd given all my energy early on and now needed a long shower, and lots of sleep.
It took a while for all of us to meet up so I watched the fans slowly make their way out. The entire field was covered in a layer of plastic cups, I'm sure glad I don't have to clean that mess up!
While most of the group waited at the band's hotel Darci and I headed off the explore Sao Paulo. It would take weeks, or even months, to cover this city so we decided to walk down the main avenue near our hotel. There was a small park, with some nice statues, great sidewalk markets, and an art museum. The line for the museum wrapped around the block, and we wondered what exhibit was inside. But with the long, slow moving, line, and a lack of time, we moved on. We picked up every newspaper and magazine with U2 on the cover, and there were a lot of them. In the local shopping mall we came across a music story with the Brazilian releases of all the U2 albums in the window, unfortunately they were closed.
Eventually we ended up back at the band's hotel, still no sign of U2. We decided to meet up for dinner and find a steak restaurant. We heard the steak in South America was incredible and built up a big appetite looking for a place that was reasonably priced, and that would let us in wearing shorts and T-shirts. When I finally sunk my teeth into some filet minion, covered with an incredible brown mushroom sauce, I understood what everyone was talking about, it was delicious.
During the walk back to the hotel we met up with a guy from France who was working in Sao Paulo. He was surprised to hear we had traveled so far to see U2. When we got back to the hotel we headed for the roof top lounge, and an amazing view of Sao Paulo by night. The lights went off in every direction, and the radio towers that look so plain by day were so beautifully lit at night. The heat that beat down on the city during the day was radiating back up and it made all the lights twinkle, beautiful.
As we walked back to the hotel for our luggage we spotted a wall of large U2 promo posters. Nico had to have one so went spent about a half hour slowly working one off the wall, while getting some rather nasty remarks from passerbyers. We ended up just getting a large "U2" in three pieces, better leave before the cops come.
On the cab ride to the bus station we got one last look at Sao Paulo, while playing "Guess that bootleg." It's scary how much we know about U2. Do you know what show Bono says "Outside it's America, it's Chicago, YEAH!" or "Every song we ever wrote was a rip off of a Lou Reed song. Here's one of them." This city is amazing, you go five feet and it looks completely different. Streets shoot off in every direction.
The bus station was huge too, and it reeked of gasoline. Our bus was one of those large, long distance buses, with all the emanates of home: a bathroom, water and coffee, and nice comfortable seats. We had quite an assortment of fellow travelers, but it seemed like we were the only Americans. Nico and I had two seats together, and Elena was stuck sitting next to a guy who insisted on hogging the arm rest and sticking his ass out as far as possible. Plus, the woman in front had the seat all the way back, and all she was doing was lying down sideways on the base of the it.
We spent the first two hours driving through Sao Paulo, stopping for fuel, even spent some time parked in a garage for a tune-up. When we finally made it past the city limits and out into the night, the sky filled with stars. Since we were below the equator these were stars I'd never seen before, and as my eyes adjusted to the dark the Universe appeared out our window, a beautiful sight. At our first rest stop we came across a magazine with an extensive article on U2 and technology, plus some yummy wafers. Finally, it was time for a nights sleep.
Throughout the day we made our way through the rolling mountains, past dinosaur and UFO trees, and out onto the plains. Every few hours we would stop at some small road side dive for food and a bathroom break. At one rest area we spotted a truck whose cab was sporting a stylish picture of Tina Turner, in her big hair days, on one side, and an extremely tacky, silver backed, sticker of Jesus, crown of thorns and all, across the center of the wind shield. Don't worry, I've got a picture as proof.
The truly sad part of the trip were some of the towns we drove through. I've never seen actually slums before, towns that consist of nothing more than small shacks put together with any scraps available to keep the elements out. Even the cats and dogs looked under nourished. It was heartbreaking.
Late in the afternoon we were back out on the open plains, and the sky looked like it was ready to put on one hell of a show. By the time the sun set the rain started to pour down and Mother Nature let loose with the most powerful lightning storm I've ever seen. Lightning has always been my favorite severe weather condition, and as we bounced down a pothole riddled dirt road lightning ripped across the landscape. By this point I switched seats with Elena, and got to use her Walkman. The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" was playing over and over, as the light show continued.
The storm stopped as we approached the Argentinean border. First we stopped at a bus terminal, where they collected our passports. We figured they would stamp them and we'd be on our way. Instead the bus pulled away from the station, and out into town, without our passports. To make matters worse, when we stopped for dinner, the usual spaghetti and rice for me, the bus pulled away, with our luggage. Something funny was going on. Luckily I remembered to bring my backpack along, but Elena and Nico had their gear onboard. While we waited we met a guy from Germany who working in Brazil, and just decided to take the bus to Argentina with the hopes of going to Patagonia. I lent him my Lonely Planet book, when the bus finally arrived back. Then it was back to the bus station, where the driver picked up the passports, but still didn't return them. Elena was nice enough to remind us that American and Brazilian passport fetch a high price on the international market, since both countries have a wide range of cultures living within them. It finally looked like we were heading for the border, but first the driver treated us to an in ride movie, Tom Clancey's "Clear and Present Danger" staring, my favorite actor, Harrison Ford. It was even subtitled in Portuguese. We watched the entire, two hour, movie while moving only about a mile. Most of that time was spent waiting on line at the border. Eventually they made all of us get out of the bus, fear of getting lined up and shot went through my head, and at last got our passports back. Now I could get some sleep.
When we got into the taxi and told the driver we were in town for the U2 shows he said "Oh, they're staying at the Park Hyatt Hotel." Then when we get to our hotel, the Guido Palace Hotel, and asked the receptionist how to get to the Park Hyatt, she says, "That's where U2 is staying." Does everyone in this town know where U2 is staying?
After we all had a much needed shower, and brushed our teeth, it was time for food. We found a nice restaurant along a park, even met some American tourists. They told us they were staying in the same hotel as U2, and asked for our extra rolls to throw out the window as the band left. We also learned that the band had come down for dinner the night before in the hotel restaurant to see a tango show. Bono even got up and sang.
When we got to the Park Hyatt we heard the band was out for the day so we decided to go explore the city. The first place we had to visit was the Plaza de Mayo, named in remembrance of the revolution of May 1810. There were pigeons all over the park and we noticed one eating out of someone's hand, so we purchased some maiz kernels and started feeding them. We were instantly attacked by a hundred pigeons, with more flying out of the trees, and down from the surrounding buildings. At times there were four and five perched on my hand, some standing on the backs of another to get at the food. It was hysterical! Nico even tried to get some to eat out of her hair.
Eventually we ran out of food and made our way to the center of the park, to the Piramide de Mayo. According to the Lonely Planet Guide this is "a small obelisk over an earlier monument, around which the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo still march every Thursday afternoon in their unrelenting campaign for a full accounting of Dirty War atrocities." On the ground surrounding the statue were painted images portraying their struggle, and the death of their children.
If you're not familiar with their story, like I wasn't, it's an incredible story of bravery and love. During the military rule of Argentina people who opposed the military's policies were taken and executed, often right on the spot. The people who were killed weren't acting out with violence, just protesting the lack of basic human rights and privileges that we, in America, take for granted. Even the right to gather and protest our own government's stupidity is something I've never thought I'd need to fight and die for. Many of these protesters were students, often the most liberal people, who see the world for what it is. As a result they "disappeared." Not willing to quietly sit by and let this go unnoticed the mother's of the children joined together to march for recognition, and to spread awareness of what was going on. These atrocities were not simply limited to Argentina, but other countries in Central and South America as well. For the Joshua Tree album U2 wrote the song "Mothers of the Disappeared" for the Madres de El Salvador, another remarkable group of woman, working for the same cause. Even though the government of Argentina has since changed, I was horrified to learn that those responsible for the death squads were still walking the streets, free of any official persecution. The Madres de la Plaza de Mayo continue to work to see these people brought to trial, and find justice for their loved ones. Walking around the Piramide de Mayo, seeing the paintings, you could really feel their hearts beat.
We made our way back to the band's hotel and met up with some local Wireling's. It was strange to see how they all recognized our names, and we became instant friends. Elena and Nico recognized a few of them from the Miami show too. It was amazing to see how excited they were, and all the other fans around the hotel. We learned that several of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo had come to visit the band at their hotel. Would they actually play "Mothers of the Disappeared" tomorrow night?
During the evening the crowd grew, we shared stories, and sang songs. Someone even blasted U2 from their car stereo and everyone joined in. We sang songs from War, the Joshua Tree, and the Sarajevo concert. Eventually Bono showed up, got out, waved, and went in. We decided to wait it out, and sing more songs, this was too much fun to miss. Someone screamed near the side entrance of the hotel and we went running. It turned out they spotted a curtain move, but hey it was something. We all lined the fence as With or Without You blast from another car, surely waking up everyone within ear shot. The hour was growing late, and the hotel was probably getting flooded with calls from annoyed neighbors, so they announced the band needed their sleep and would not be coming out. To insure that we left they also said anyone still here in a half hour would be arrested. Not wanting to spend the evening in a South American jail we quickly said goodnight to our new friends and headed for bed.
By the start of the show Nico, Elena, Christian, and I had made it into the area in front of the main stage, near the b stage. After getting crushed in Sao Paulo Darci decided to stay in the stands. The crush along the rail in the main section was even worse than Sao Paulo. I watched in horror as people were continually pulled out of the crowd, some unable to walk. I was hoping to meet up with Martin Stieglmayer from Austria, who was also traveling around South America, but hadn't seen him up till now. We finally spotted him along the rail, in front of the b stage, getting crushed, and he didn't look good. Steam rose up from the crowd when they sprayed water to try and cool people off.
The opening bands were different, and I just couldn't get into it. We heard they were considered to be funk, so during the break before U2 came out they spun an incredible set of great funk tunes. We heard the "Theme from Shaft," "War, What Is It Good For," James Brown's "Sex Machine," and many other classics.
This time when U2 hit the stage we had a great view. Bono spoke in Spanish many times, and the audience was incredibly loud, singing along at every opportunity. Whenever Bono would come out to the b stage we would struggle to keep our spots, but tonight I was determined to hold my ground. The crowd had a great chant, they'd sing, "Oh lay, oh lay, oh lay, U2! U2!" Sometimes it would be "Bono" or "The Edge" instead of "U2", and the band just loved it.
With the standard set list again, I knew they must be saving something special until the end, and it could only be one song. As Bono introduced One he said "Every country, every city, has it's ghosts. These ghosts won't be forgotten." As he said this the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo walk out on stage, about thirty in all, and begin slowly walking back and forth across the center section of the stage. I knew what I was about to witness will be something special, history, one of those rare moments that makes traveling thousands of miles worth every penny. Seeing this, hearing the crowd sing along, and knowing what has to come next, overwhelms me, and the tears start to flow. Bono sings an incredible rendition of One as the Mothers continue to slowly walk. Then, as the song ends, they all line up across the stage, behind Edge, Bono and Adam. Without a word Edge begins Mothers of the Disappeared. A new video sequence begins, footage of the Mothers marching in their search for justice for the sons and daughters, as Bono starts to sing. The song is almost too painful to watch, and to hear. Bono changed the words slightly to "We hear their hearts beat, and still their hearts beat" I thought 40 in Seattle was emotional, but the next few minutes in River Plate Stadium, with 70,000 people singing "Oh oh oh oh. Oh oh oh oh." goes beyond description. One thing remained, Bono starts singing "El Pueblo Vencera" and the audience joined in. This was it, the moment I'll never forget, the defining moment of my POP Mart tour, and my 15 years as a fan.
As the song ended Bono walked to the base of the stage, turned, bowed, and applauded the Mothers. Larry stood at his drum kit and did the same, followed by Edge and Adam. One of the Mothers stepped forward, took Bono's hand and held it in the air, then took off her white head scarf and handed it to Bono, who put it on. The band left the stage and the audience roared in their applause of the Mothers, and began to sing what I was later told is Argentina's national anthem. As the lights came up we embrace each other, everyone savoring this special moment. As we were leaving the stadium a bus carrying the Mothers was pulling out of the parking lot, everyone stopped and respectfully applauded.
Tonight we tried to get some tour T-shirts. The selection was a little smaller than in 97, but the black and blue shirts had the 98 dates on them. Elena was already on line so I asked her to get me a large blue one. The tags were cut off the shirts and I could only conclude they thought we meant childs size large. I could barely get the shirt on, and then it was skin tight. Maybe an extra large would be a bit roomer so I acted like Hoodeni getting out of a straight jacket, removed the shirt, handed it to Elena and asked for a size extra large. The sales people didn't look amused as Elena tried to explain that we are Americans and therefore need everything to be really big. I ended up with another green shirt, but with the 97 date. Since the one I bought in Vegas was starting to look worn out it made a good replacement, and I had no clean clothes left, so I really need something to wear.
When we got to the stadium the queue was already long, luckily some friends let us join them near the front. Tonight I brought my camera, and four rolls of 3200 speed B&W film. Security was also really tight here so the only place for it was down my shorts. Running across the pitch was really uncomfortable, what I won't do to get good concert photos. Christian, Martin, and I got to the front section quickly, and headed for the b stage rail. Unfortunately a local radio station was giving out special wrist bands to lucky fans who mail in a copy their field tickets. They were allowed in early and staked out all the best spots, but we were only about four rows back, a great spot. Darci soon joined us, Elena and Nico headed for the other side of the b stage.
Our plan was to meet up with Raul from Peru before the show, but we never found him. While hanging around the b stage, and meeting local fans and others from around the world we bumped into Raul. After the show we were telling him about the 36 hour bus ride, and the problems we had. We quickly shut up when he said he took the bus all the way from Lima Peru to see the show. His journey was three and a half days, that's 84 hours in a bus! He said the bus company won an award for offering the longest bus trip in South America. Raul deserves a medal for making that trip, all in the name of love!
After last nights performance I couldn't even imagine what they could do to top it, but somehow they always do. Tonight U2 were on fire, roaring through every song. The set list was the same up till the end of I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Bono sang Stand By Me while looking up at the almost full moon, "When the land is dark, and the moon is the only light we'll see." When Edge got to the b stage and put on his acoustic guitar he looked over to Bono and asked "Staring or Desire?" Bono smiled, and jumped into Desire. For only the second time this tour I was able to hear it, amazing. After they finished Bono spotted someone near the b stage with a harmonica, took it, motioned to Edge to continue Desire, and played the full ending. Afterward he said it was off key, but it sounded great!
When the Lemon opened the band was wearing Argentina national football jersey's, and Bono was holding a ball with disco ball pieces attached. Ihe roar from the crowd was almost deafening.
Bono dedicated One to the sons and daughters who died during Argentina's military rule. Again they closed the show with Mothers of the Disappeared, Bono mentioned how last night the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo came out. It wasn't quite as emotional as last night, that moment only comes once, but lingers forever. The audience caught on to "El Pueblo Vencera" and I heard people singing it long after the lights came up.
Without my camera weighing me down the run to the stage was a more enjoyable, but again the railing was covered in people wearing wrist bands. Who do these people think they are, Wirelings? We managed to get close to center stage, only four rows back. Nico and Elena found a spot along the rail, on the other side of the b stage while we squeezed our way closer. I still couldn't get into the opening bands, and the funk music continued while the crew got the stage ready. I was almost directly in front of Dallas as he tested Edge's guitars, running through all the effects, playing a few notes from each song. Through the monitors I could make out Gone, Even Better Than The Real Thing, Last Night On Earth, and a few others. Then I suddenly noticed a familiar sound, "Holy shit! He's playing Bad!" The suspense was getting unbearable, not to mention the fact that the crowd was slowly moving forward.
When the show started the crush was unreal! I could barely breath, and my raincoat was blocking any breeze that might happen to wander by, but I had a great view. The first few songs were amazing, especially Gone, dedicated to Michael Hutchense, which ended with Bono singing "And they will never tear us apart!" several times. By the time I Still Haven't Found was starting I knew I needed to get out of there. If they were going to play Bad it would be soon, and I wanted to be in a spot where I could really enjoy it. I got about ten rows back, in a clear spot, as Bono began to sing an Irish tune, "Dirty Old Town" Wow! I never thought I'd get to hear this at a POP Mart show. It was so cool to hear, and to sing along. As I Still Haven't Found neared the end Edge turned and walked toward his effects rack, it was now or never. I screamed "Do it Edge!!!" as he reached out and pressed a button. Slowly, barely audible over the crowd at first, the beautiful music that could only be the beginning of Bad came pouring out of the speakers. I screamed with every ounce of energy I had. Finally, on my 19th, and final, POP Mart show I was hearing my favorite U2 song played, and it was magic. Bono changed around some of the lyrics, and combined the second and third verses together, "If I could throw this lifeless life line to the wind, I'd led your heart astray, to see you break, break away." He walked up and down the catwalk, before making his way to center stage for the big finale, with Edge's guitar soaring. "This desperation, dislocation, separation, condemnation, revelation, in temptation, isolation, desolation. Let it go! Go! Go! Go! GO!!!!!" I screamed every word, and the tears came. Bad was as great as ever. Then Bono added part of Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" with the crowd singing the "do do do do--do do do do" and a little of All I Want Is You. By this point I was absolutely euphoric. As Edge headed for the b stage Bono announced they were going to play a song they wrote for Willy Nelson, Slow Dancing. I was so surprised, you could have knocked me over with a feather. They did a great acoustic version as Darci and I made our way to the center of the pitch. Again, the audience cheered "Oh lay, oh lay, oh lay, The Edge, The Edge!" as Edge started Sunday Bloody Sunday with the "Oh oh oh" part. Incredible! I just celebrated for the rest of the concert, jumping up and down, screaming my lungs out, twirling my shirt around, taking it all in, one last time. "We Will Rock You" was added to Bullet, and during Discotheque Bono added something that sounded really familiar, "The Fly! Yeah!" Two verses worth. Could this show possibly get any better? The girl Bono pulled up for Velvet Dress stayed with him for With or Without You as they sat on the steps of the b stage. As he let her go to prepare for the big ending he gave her a kiss, and there was some serious tongue action going on. Once again the audience joined in for the ending, overpowering Bono's voice.
I made my way back toward the main stage for the big finale. Mysterious Ways had a long extended jam session before the ending. Bono took Edge's hand and they tried to dance around, but ended up getting tangled up together, it was hysterical. Bono dedicated One to Jose Luis Cabezas, a journalist who was murdered a year ago. He told Willy to turn off all the lights and for the audience to light up, it was beautiful. They closed with another amazing performance of Mothers of the Disappeared, this time Larry and Adam joined in during the second verse. The audience really caught on to "El Pueblo Vencera," the perfect ending to the perfect show. I couldn't ask for anything else.
This time I was so pumped I felt I could stay up for a few more days, so I decided to join the gang at the band's hotel. We needed to stop at our hotel for Nico's video camera, and my 35mm camera. Our cab driver was insane! Being from New York City I'm used to drivers who have no regard for the law, but this was like being in a James Bond movie. He took every shortcut, sidewalk, horse path, anything that would get us back sooner, while keeping the peddle to the floor. We weaved in and out of the eight lanes of traffic, even went into the oncoming traffic, and forget about signaling, or even looking. In our half hour ride he broke more traffic laws than I've broken in my life, it was great!
We grabbed our stuff, plus one of the hotel blankets. I'm so glad we brought that blanket, and wish we brought the rest. It was bitter cold out and we all huddled together on the pavement as the long wait began. The cold air quickly sucked the energy out of me and I was asleep when Larry arrived. We grabbed the cameras and the blanket as everything else got crushed by people frantically trying to get a spot along the fence for an autograph. I snapped some photos and followed Larry to hear his comments. One fan yelled out "Larry, you're the best drummer!" He responded with, "I'm the only drummer." Another fan yelled "Larry, where's Bono!" Geez, give Larry his moment in the sun. Happy Larry was out tonight and spent time with everyone, he even signed Darci's Sao Paulo ticket.
My juice was crushed, and our newspaper's trampled as we huddled together again. More of the crew arrived, and then Adam, but he didn't stop, not a word. Don't you realize we're freezing our asses off out here?
Finally The Edge arrived. He also made his way along the fence, signing autographs, smiling for photos, and talking to the fans. Darci got Edge to sign her ticket too, Nico handed Edge her tape recorder, and he recorded an answering machine message. The man is so cool. I got some spiffy shots of Edge, what a ham. Once again the fans screamed, "Edge, where's Bono!"
There was only one person left, Bono Man himself. We couldn't leave yet, even though the thought was going through my mind. I was asleep again when everyone jumped up. I had heard that the paparazzi were bad in Brazil, but this was my first experience of seeing them up close. All I saw was Bono's Range Rover rocket through the hotel gate and down into the parking garage. It was followed by four or five motorcycles, each with two people on board. We knew Bono wouldn't come out now, and most people headed for home. I was so furious, I wanted to smash there cameras, and their bikes.
This is when things got interesting. Four police motorcycles pulled in, maybe they could do something. Unfortunately they just hung out by the hotel. Nothing much happened for a while, then shortly before 3:00 the bands security started to survey the scene. Jerry Miltzer said "Hola" to the fans, and told us they would stop briefly. Ok, time to get set. At 3:00 the band came out, just like the opening of the show. Edge, then Adam, Larry, and finally Bono. The crowd went nuts, and the band waved. Bono even walked out toward the crowd and lied down on the grass. A group of fans from Paraguay had made a banner and hung it from the wall. Larry walked over, waved, and they tossed it down to him. Happy Larry was out again today. As they got into their Range Rovers the cops started up their bikes, and several support vehicles pulled out to make a convoy. I'd never seen anything like this before, an amazing sight. The fans swarmed around the gate to say one last goodbye, some even banging on the windows. As the convoy raced away the paparazzi took off after them. We tried one last time to get in touch with Susie Smith, but to no avail. The Wire banner was going home with me, damn. It was just a few hours till we had to leave. We said our goodbyes as Darci, Christian and I headed for the airport, Elena and Nico for the bus station.
So this ends my year on the POP Mart tour. I was reminded that one year ago today U2 held their press conference at the K-Mart in New York's East Village. That was my first glimpse of U2 in almost five years, and it began a year I never would have dreamed possible. The journey has taken me more than 35,000 miles, across two continents, four countries, 19 shows, and hundreds of new friends. A year that changed my life forever. For those heading to the remaining shows this year, I hope you have the time of your life. I know I did.
More stories on U2 in South America can be found here.