Thursday, October 29, 2009


It's difficult to describe this week's U2 show without referencing and comparing to the last time we saw them three-and-a-half years ago. Not much has changed since then: Bono looks a bit more like Gene Hackman but his voice is still magic, the mid-tempo and up-tempo songs blow the roof off in concert, the band never makes a mistake, and their shows are always full-on, over-the-top spectacles.

Angelo and I hit a pub on the way, enjoying a few beers and burgers. Keeners Myron and Ben apparently crashed a line and raced to the front of the stage when the doors opened at 5:30. We cruised in just as the Black Eyed Peas finished their odd set, sometime after 7:30 -- what a terrible match for U2. The crowd on the floor was still pretty loosely packed until maybe 15 meters from the front runway thingie, so that's where we stopped and spent the rest of the show. Close enough to get a good view of everything, especially when band members came around the runway.

The space-station-claw stage apparatus was truly massive -- watching a time-lapse movie of the setup-show-teardown cycle is unreal. This was a real stadium-sized show, and I enjoyed turning around and watching the sea of 60,000 people surrounding us. The sound definitely wasn't as good as the arena show last time, with shrieking treble that physically hurt at times, but most of the time it was ok and very LOUD. I'm getting old, obviously, and standing in one spot for three hours had me questioning the wisdom of floor tickets. It was weird seeing half the people watching most of the show through their cameras and cell phones, and I got plenty sick of having people "singing" off-key loudly in my ear the entire concert -- why can't fans just listen and leave the terrible singing for karaoke nights?

It's fascinating to watch the nearly identical live show from LA on YouTube taped a few days before -- same setlist, same unreal stage, same band. I don't know how interesting it would be to someone who hadn't seen the tour, but I love having a virtual record of it like that. Great visuals and sound for streaming video, too.

But anyway, it's about the here's the setlist with my pithy (pissy?) commentary attached:
  • Breathe, Get On Your Boots, Magnificent -- I'm not a big fan of the new album, so this opening trio didn't really get me fired up. The performances were solid, of course, and the first two songs sounded way better live than they do on the album -- Get On Your Boots was downright bombastic.
  • Mysterious Ways -- As glad as I was to hear some Achtung this early in the set, I've never really liked this song. Everyone else seemed pretty stoked up, with the crowd hollering every word.
  • Beautiful Day -- This one was fantastic in 2005, and identical this time. A straight-ahead rock anthem that could just as easily be a Green Day song.
  • I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For -- I was disappointed when they didn't play this classic last time, so I was very pleased to hear it now. Beautifully performed with that throbbing, melancholy bassline and Bono's voice cutting through like a beacon. Top notch.
  • Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of -- I felt stuck in this terrible song for hours -- just a total dud, even worse than Sometimes You Cant Make it On Your Own, the total stinker from last time.
So at this point we were seven songs in and I had heard two songs I really liked, one of which I already heard at the last concert. The initial buzz of the huge spectacle had worn off, the amazing visuals were becoming less amazing and I wished I had brought some water. Thankfully, they really ramped things up, reeling off a bunch of great songs with real energy and intensity.
  • No Line On The Horizon -- My favourite song off the new album, and the performance rocked -- I didn't expect it to be so great.
  • Elevation -- Another intense anthem that sounded exactly the same as the last show, and the crowd chanting along with the bridge/chorus was deafening. Good stuff.
  • In A Little While -- I had forgotten that this was one of my favourite mellow songs on an album I didn't much like. Peaceful and warm, with a slinky guitar line a lot like the better-known One. Wonderful vocal performance too -- this was a nice surprise.
  • Unknown Caller -- I thought this new song was terrible on the album (actually I still do), but somehow they totally made it work live -- very entertaining and fun, with tons of crowd participation.
  • Until The End Of The World (1:01:25 on the video) -- This was amazing, with a dark, intense performance of a song I never thought they would play. Definite highlight of the night.
  • The Unforgettable Fire -- In 2005 they played Pride and Bad, two of my fave songs off that album. This time it was the title track and MLK -- nice that they mixed it up, and this song was great, but I preferred their previous picks.
  • City Of Blinding Lights and Vertigo -- Carbon copies from the last show, and City of Blinding Lights was again a real standout, with Vertigo feeling a bit over the top to me.
  • I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight -- Another odd new song that was much better in concert than the album. It's like they were specifically written for live shows.
  • Sunday Bloody Sunday -- Still awesome; maybe even beyond awesome. I bow down before Bono on songs like this where he can still let 'er rip.
  • MLK -- I sure never expected to hear this hymn off The Unforgettable Fire. Putting one of their mellowest songs right after Sunday Bloody Sunday shouldn't really work, but it was beautiful.
  • Walk On -- Ok song, and a fine performance. It's worth mentioning that Bono didn't preach or blather nearly as much as I expected, more gracefully letting the music speak for itself. The political bits they did seemed more powerful for their subtlety.
And so they walked off the stage for the obligatory break before encores. I can hardly wait for a band to do away with this stupid ritual, and I wish it was U2 -- simply publicize it beforehand that there will be no encores, tell people when there are a few songs left, say goodbye after the last song and turn on the lights. But I digress...
  • One (1:43:15 in the video) -- Angelo said this was a highlight for him, and I had to agree. Gorgeous performance, with Bono and the Edge really in synch and squeezing every bit of emotion out of those simple lines.
  • Where The Streets Have No Name (1:50:00 in the video) -- I named this as my main highlight last time, and it was right up there again, partly because of how strongly people react to it. As far as I could tell, everyone was standing, even in the furthest, darkest, highest corners of BC Place. Wonderful experience. It would have been my favourite moment if not for...
  • Ultra Violet (Light My Way) -- This was #1 on my list of songs I had wished they'd played last time, so I was thrilled to hear it now. I don't know why any song with "Baby, baby, baby, light my way" as the chorus should be one I even tolerate, never mind love so much...but there it is. Pinnacle of the night for me, powerful and perfect.
  • With Or Without You -- Also greatness, and probably the biggest hit they didn't play on the last tour -- I was very happy. Goosebumply good, and among the best three or four songs of the night.
  • Moment of Surrender -- Weak song, lackluster performance -- a real downer way to end the show. This would have been a major addition by subtraction. It was hard for me not to spend the duration of the song cataloging the dozens of better ones they could have used to close the thing in style.
And then it was over, and we wandered out into the Vancouver rain. I'm not sure I'll go again if they come in another four years, but who knows? Although this was the primary reason for our trip, we had other adventures too -- more on that later.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

All Consuming

It's been a while since I recapped what's been going into my body and mind. I realize that these things are only interesting to me a year or more later. It also helps me see that I'm not reading anything again. And no, the photos have nothing to do with these words.

  • Tomatoes as they ripen from the ones we picked green. For the first time in my life, I'm eating raw tomatoes without least the tiny cherry versions that hardly qualify as tomatoes.
  • Root vegetables by the pound: beets, sweet potatoes, and potatoes, mostly. 'Tis the season.
  • Soup season! Squash, pumpkin, minestrone, random vegetables, potato-broccoli...we loves our soups around here.
  • Backyard Beans decaf. I know decaf is blasphemy for true coffee drinkers, but seriously, Richard's decaf is amazing, and I've come to realize that caffeine makes me weird.
  • Shaftebury Coastal Cream Ale -- I guess Sleeman's has owned this microbrewery for a while, and they seem to be positioning this excellent brew as a sort of budget beer, because they inexplicably dropped the price to $8.35/six-pack. But it's just as good (to me) as most of the standard $11 six-packs out there. This is looking like my winter beer of choice.
  • In more adventurous moments, I've recently enjoyed La Fin Du Monde and Sasquatch Stout, both excellent and shared with my kindred-beer-spirit Andrew.
  • Yo-Yo Ma, Inspired by Bach -- I've got all of these on hold at the library, and have seen one before, but started with Volume 2 this time. Fascinating stuff, including an hour-long film by Atom Egoyan that I thought was great.
  • Music for a New World -- a Vancouver documentary about musicians from different cultural and musical backgrounds who got together to compose and perform a piece of music that reflected all of their diverse instruments and ideas. I was entranced by both the process and product. More background here...(pdf)
  • I continue to be enthralled by the work of cinematographer Ron Fricke, this week digging into his incredible first film Koyaanisqatsi. It's vaguely disturbing and very trippy, with an intense, abstract soundtrack by Phillip Glass. You can watch the entire film here in decent quality, although I wouldn't blame anyone for losing interest quickly -- these films move very slowly, have no dialogue and no plot. Very much like Baraka and Chronos, two of my favourite films of all time for sheer visual beauty. I'm very much looking forward to his next one, Samsara, although it tends to take many years to make these things, so I'm not holding my breath.
  • Nightmare Before Christmas, which has become an annual tradition for us at this time of year. I love this movie disproportionately, and surprisingly it's one of the very few musicals I can even tolerate. The Elfman soundtrack is amazing, and the imagination in the animation never gets old for me.
Listening To
  • Tegan and Sara's new album is streaming on their MySpace page, and it sounds outstanding to me. Maybe a bit more of a So Jealous vibe than the quirky-prog feel of the last one. Gotta decide whether to go see them again later in fall in Kelowna.
  • Other that, I haven't been listening to albums, just my usual flow of new songs, endlessly downloaded, sorted, enjoyed or deleted. Standouts over the last few weeks include Avett Brothers, Sprengjuhollin, Brasstronaut, and going back to old favourites Radiohead and the National. Andrew and I have continued our gmail music exchange, which has been great fun and a source of good tunes.



Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ezra Play

Ezra was playing behind me in the living room moments ago when he started barking out numbers with authority:


I wasn't sure what was going on, but after the second five it became clear as he called out:
And the spaceship blasted off into space.



Friday, October 16, 2009

Ella The Pearl

Our dear Ella turned six today. We often think of her as much older, and have had to remind ourselves that if she was in school, she'd just be starting Grade 1. Seems like about six weeks ago that she turned five. She was plowing into the first Harry Potter book this week, so proud that she was able to do it and keeping us entertained with running commentary about how far she was in the story. Some of her easy-going nature has seemed to harden into a more stubborn, independent streak lately, yet she's still got that little-girl innocence and quiet beauty too.

The Hiebert grandparents returned from Manitoba in time to take us out for fish 'n chips and celebrate last night. This morning she had a big breakfast and opened some presents, including fantastic goodies from the Friesen clan. This afternoon she celebrates with a pack of friends at the pool; swimming and cake and chaos. Happy birthday, beloved daughter. A few favourite photos, starting with a classic from half her lifetime ago:





Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Iceman Cometh

I wasn't convinced that I was going to dive back in to ice photos as the weather got colder, but when Tannis came in from a trip uptown with reports of an orchard filled with icicles this morning, I was out the door in a flash. I guess the orchardist hadn't paid attention to the frost warnings and left his sprinklers on all night. His loss, my gain. Lots of interesting formations and literally thousands of icicles, which gave me a couple of hours of fun. I should probably institute a moratorium on new ice pictures until I've completed the preparations for the gallery show in the new year...but it felt great to be back at it.







Saturday, October 03, 2009

Duly Noted

A few notes on the week:
  • I got my first cast off on Friday, and got the sutures removed. I go into shock at the least pinprick (very embarrassing), and somehow even just getting x-rays had me nearly passing out. My poor thumb looks decidedly Frankensteinian, with a jagged, scabbed incision on top, weird button on the bottom holding pins in place, bruising, and a large pin sticking out of the tip. On the bright side, I got a much lighter fiberglass cast that lets me sort of play viola. Unfortunately, I'm back there on Tuesday so the surgeon can take a closer look.
  • Three days off with Ezra was excellent. The girls had a great Vancouver field trip, and we held the fort here, with our own side trip to stay over at my folks' place. I even got a free afternoon in Kelowna to take photos and wander through art galleries -- as a bonus I ran into Andrew by the library, so we grabbed a quick coffee.
  • I never properly posted about Pearl's excellent visit here the week before -- the perfect guest.
  • It's been over two weeks since I've seen Myron. He landed a pretty sweet new job as a vice principal at Penn High, and this is always a super-busy time of year for him.
  • Great feast at the Vandersluys residence last weekend, and we hosted them here tonight. Also met Andrew at the Perch one night; excellent as always.
  • The freezer is almost full after Tannis chopped and froze the huge bag of red peppers I picked up at Blossom for a song. The last peaches of the season are disappearing now, and with frost warnings we'll have to pick the last tomatoes green.