Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Purple Rain

U2 7 Part 4: Minneapolis

I had originally bought my tickets to U2’s show in Minneapolis because they hadn’t scheduled a show in Winnipeg. When the tour was rescheduled, my mom wanted to come to the show in the States after she was blown away by U2 in Winnipeg. So the original group heading down south was my mom, my sister Kerri, and me with me doing the driving.

Unfortunately my mom had surgery scheduled for the Monday after U2 and there was no way she could go with us and get back in time for her procedure. We decided to give the spare ticket to Kerri’s boyfriend Sean in exchange for his car and driving duties (as I hate driving and only do it when I have to).

Sean’s not the biggest U2 fan and his only exposure to them before he dated Kerri was Bono’s “appearance” on South Park. He was the driver on the fateful day where we met U2 and originally had gone grudgingly. When we saw U2’s plane for the first time, my excitement filled the car until all three of us were screeching that we were going to miss them if we didn’t haul ass. At one point he was so pumped full of endorphins that he probably would have followed their car if we asked (we didn’t).

We left early Friday morning, starting the 7+ hour drive to Minneapolis with Sean’s GPS as our north star (or south star if you want to be technical). We got to the border and we were told Kerri's passport wasn’t valid.

My first thought: Kick her out. Kick her out. Kick her out.

Before I could get my sister’s door open, the border guard told us, “Yeah, she needs to sign it! Sign it before you come back and see you later.”

The three of us breathed a sigh of relief and we went forward into North Dakota, Sean and I giggling that we had both thought about kicking Kerri out of the car. Kerri replied, “I know! I felt your evil eyes on me the moment she said something was wrong!”

Kerri has this mad obsession with American Wal-Marts, especially after she found out about Super Wal-Mart. I think being able to buy a gun, a cake, and clothes all in the same place just appeals to her. So we stopped at this large one somewhere in North Dakota to pick up snacks. I purchased a bottle of water and a WWE Magazine as it was cheaper in America and it had a fantastic article on Wade Barrett, my favourite wrestler of the new batch and current object of my sports entertainment affection.

Excuse me, I’ll be in my bunk.


Anyway, where was I?


The Minneapolis trip was the first time I stayed in a hotel during my U2 travels and the first time I ever had a hotel room to myself. As children, my sister and I would have to share a room with my parents where we fought the urge to put a pillow on my dad’s face to stifle his snoring. The first thing I did in my Minneapolis hotel room was stretch out on the king’s size bed and just basked. After 2 years of hostel bunks, old couches, and pull-out-beds during my travels, a king-sized Super 8 bed was an absolute treat for my last date of the tour.

It was hot as hell when we arrived on that Friday so we spent the evening indoors at the Mall of America, taking the hotel shuttle to get there. Usually, I hate malls and I don’t like traveling just to shop but I love visiting MOA. I could spend hours at the Lego store or wandering around the amusement park or people watching on the 4th level. I also love it as it has the first Cinnabon I’ve ever visited (I had read about Cinnabon in the Animorphs series and always wanted to see what the cinnamon bun hype was all about). I ruined myself for supper with my Cinnabon bun when I met up with Sean and my sister at Famous Dave’s, a BBQ place that serves platters so large that they could fit on tractor tires.

Is there anything on this menu that isn't covered in gravy?!

Random aside but it continues to astound me how large the portions are in America. I kept forgetting about it when I’d go to order a medium drink and get what is considered a large in Canada. I once said to a person at a North Dakota Wendy’s, “This is a medium? What is the large? An oil drum?”

Show day I slept in while my sister and Sean went to check out the local zoo. The forecast called for rain with some meteorologists predicting a storm that would start around the time U2 went on stage. After deciding navigating the transit system to the stadium would be too much of a hassle, we took the car to a pay lot near the University of Minnesota that offered a shuttle to the concert.

It was around 4 when we parked the car. The sky was overcast with the sun occasionally peeking through and the air was thick with moisture. It took 10 minutes for the shuttle to arrive at the TCF stadium, stopping right in front of the GA gate with the huge GA line snaking halfway around the stadium.

“Are we going to line up?” Sean asked, eyeing the line.

“Nope, let’s eat.” I said as we wandered about eventually heading to a nearby pizza joint in the university village near the stadium. The sky started to spit rain as we got inside. It was packed but we were served quick enough considering. The drink specials were insane due to the stadium not selling booze at the show that night (as it was on a university campus). When I went to use the bathroom after we got into the stadium, I’d see tiny baby bottles of booze littering the path and in the port-a-potties, empty of course. Funny enough, it was the only show I went to on this tour where the smell of pot didn’t hang over the GA like a cloud (But it could have been due to the rain).

When we got back to the line, people from the line were being allowed in 50 at a time. It was a lot more orderly than any U2 line I had ever been to and I was glad my sister didn’t have to implement her “Elbow to the Face” move she had planned to use if things got hairy.

I knew I had been to too many shows when I commented on how small the stadium was. The GAs for the Hippodrome and Anz had been seas of people but U of M was more like Winnipeg’s with the audience being a sort of “pub gig” for U2 considering its size. Everyone was crowded near the outer halo runway with a few people sticking to the back and sitting on the ground but with loads of room to move around

I took my sister’s hand, she took Sean’s and we ran over to the inner circle gate on the left side of the stage (Known as “Edge Side” to the hardcore fans). We got in and settled near the back where the runway rises to the back of the stage. That bit has become my favourite part of the GA as it still gives you a good view of the stage, a great view of the screen, you’re still in the pit, and you can move around without getting someone’s Irish flag in your face. You can also wave “hello” to the band as they ascend the stairs at the back of the stage at the start of the show.

It was getting muggier and muggier that evening with occasional gusts of wind chilling the skin. With the sky darkening as U2’s time drew near, you could tell it was going to rain.

The smoke machine puffed to life as the show started and the wind sent it right down into our area of the pit, giving our surroundings a dream quality. The lights bounced off the smoke and cast weird shadows, disorienting me as Even Better than the Real Thing blared throughout the stadium.

The rain started during The Fly and didn’t stop for the entire show; it ranged from beautiful little drip drops to a straight-up shower. I’ve been through monsoon season in the Bay of Bengal where the rain fell so hard and thick that just running to the car 2 feet away would get you drenched. I didn’t experience that sort of rain again until the concert that night. The rain fell just as hard as it did in Bangladesh, some of it gathering strength somehow as it fell off the Claw onto my head.

I had been wearing my dupatta (a scarf from Bangladesh) to cover my head during the initial spit of rain but even it couldn’t handle the downpour that started. My sister and I whipped out our rain ponchos that we had been hanging on to since U2 in Winnipeg and put them on.

Before that night, I would have thought a show in the pouring rain would have tied Montreal 1 as the worst U2 show I’ve been to. But as the rain fell and our area was flooded with water and smoke from the smoke machine, it was magic. The wind howled and whipped the smoke around in strange shapes, the rain cascaded off the Claw in a waterfall, and everyone was soaking wet even in ponchos and rain gear. And no one gave a damn about the rain like no one cared about the cold in Winnipeg once U2 started to play.

Some bands would let the rain get to them but not U2. When the rain fell harder, they played harder. Bono strutted around the runway almost like he was daring the sky to try and shut him down. He got as soaked as we were.

He also covered every rain related song he could think of.

The lightning started next. At first I thought it was just another part of the light show but noticed it didn’t fit the song. The floor of the GA was metal and covered in rain water. I’m terrified of lightning in a safe dry house so I was nervous as hell standing in that GA as the storm really started. And even though I thought about running for cover in an area that didn’t have a conductor as a floor, I didn’t leave.

I felt like a little kid playing in the rain. I wish I had rubber boots! I was kicking up puddles, dancing and jumping to the music. During Get on your Boots, my sister and I sang along at the top of our voice. During Elevation, we got sick of waiting for Bono to get through “Can’t Stand The Rain” so we started the song ourselves along with everyone else in the audience.

But my favourite part was during Vertigo. My sister used to joke that she’d yell, “Turn it up, captain!” during the song in concert. I didn’t hear if she actually did it but we both screamed out, “Unos, dos, tres, catorce!” at the start of the song and jumped like a bunch of kangaroos as Edge played the first bit of the song. I think this song is one that comes alive in concert and the chainsaw sound of the guitar just sounds better when Edge is playing it right in front of you.

Kerri and I were holding hands as we jumped and we lifted our intertwined hands into the air during the chorus with everyone hearing us yelling, “OLA!” and “Donde Esta?” like drunk kids. Sean, meanwhile, was laughing at our total lack of restraint but he was having a good time despite not having a poncho. And I think he sang the “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!” parts at the end of Vertigo with us though I couldn’t see him through the rain.

Another memorable moment that night was during Where the Streets Have No Name. I’ve formed such an attachment to that song. Every single U2 concert I’ve been to, Streets is the song that never fails to bring the audience to its feet. If the audience isn’t the best (like it was in Vancouver), this song brings them around. If the audience has been insane all night (like Sydney and Winnipeg), the audience gets their second wind. That night as they started the song, I felt a little choked up. This was the end of a journey I had started almost 2 and a half years previous. It had rained in Vancouver for my first show and it rained in Minneapolis for my last; the rain bookended my travels. As I cheered my final time for the 360 version of Streets, I was so happy to be there.

The rain stopped for a moment after Streets was over and I laughed when I saw Sean, soaked to the skin and his clothes heavy with water. I yelled into Kerri’s ear, “Let’s head out! Sean is about to drown!”

There was a surreal moment where the band started “Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me” as we tried to find a way out to the shuttle that would take us to the parking lot. We ran up the stairs into the stadium proper as yellow and green lights lit up the inside. It was like that scene in Batman Returns where Bruce Wayne is sitting in the dark of Wayne Manor when the Bat Signal ignites and it shines into his study. The light was brighter somehow because of the moisture in the air and it felt like it was following us as we went out. Before we went down the stairs leading to the area where we were to catch the shuttle, I turned to Kerri and Sean and gushed, “I love this song!”

The yellow and green light lost us so they shone skywards like true Bat Signals onto the clouds above the stadium. “It looks like they’re about to release the Smilex gas!” I joked as another lone nerd waiting in line for the shuttle giggled, hearing me. The mirror ball at the top of the Claw lit our way back to the parking lot and the sound of the show faded as we got further away.

“Thanks for coming with me,” I randomly told Kerri and Sean as we rode the shuttle. They both smiled.

The rain had finally ended as the shuttle arrived at the parking lot and my skin had a chance to dry. My shoes weren’t as lucky as both Kerri and I stepped into a deep puddle near a group of port-a-potties. Both of us hoped the puddle was just rainwater.


Despite the awesome concert and the impressive show of all the rain related songs Bono knew (including Purple Rain by Minneapolis-born Prince), I was a little down that U2 didn't whip out their own rain related songs like Electrical Storm, Summer Rain, or MLK.

As we headed back to the hotel, I had MLK stuck in my head and kept humming it to myself.

If the thundercloud passes rain
so let it rain
let it rain
rain on him

Best summer ever.

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