A blog by an American expatriate living in the heart of New Europe

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*roundtrip ticket

Monday, July 11, 2005

I was at this concert

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The World in White and Red

Seventy thousand Polish fans created an unforgettable national flag for New Year’s Day last night.

It was one of those great U2 moments. Five songs into their set in Poland’s southern Chorzow city stadium, Edge’s piano signalled the start of New Year’s Day –a song originally inspired by Lech Walesa and the Solidarity movement to free Poland from communism. Suddenly all the fans on the pitch raised flags and scarves in red – while all the fans in the seats around the stadium brandished white flags and scarves.

Bono was so moved by the white and red sea before him that he took off his jacket, turned it inside out and put it back on to show the red lining inside. He then walked to the front of the stage and bowed to an ecstatic audience as a mark of respect to their creativity and their spectacular re-creation of the national flag.

As Willie Williams, U2’s Show Designer notes in his latest tour diary, it was ‘wonderful humbling and thrilling.’

‘The best moment was going into New Year’s Day where the audience, entirely of their own volition, produced flags and scarves. Everyone on the floor of the stadium had red, everyone in the grandstands had white, so the whole stadium turned into a huge Polish flag.
‘ I have never seen an audience do anything like it before – getting it together to surprise and delight us. I think my mouth must have fallen open. Who organized this? The fact that it was premeditated made it all the more extraordinary; an audience consciously plotting to put on a show for the performers. It was absolutely wonderful, humbling, thrilling all at the same time. A great, great crowd, and a unique atmosphere.

The idea to highlight the Polish inspiration for the classic U2 song came from local fans, caught fire on the net and was boosted with local media prior to the show. Coming just days after Live 8 and in the run up to the G8 meetings in Scotland (Bono is flying in today), it was a oignant sign that people really can and do change history.

The rest of the show, by the way, was also pretty damn good!

Even if it was heaving with rain earlier in the evening, leaving The Killers drenched, the weather by and large cleared up by the time U2 arrived on stage for their first Polish date since PopMart.
It was obviously going to be a bit of a homecoming from when Vertigo Air touched down earlier in the day – screaming fans and hungry media (see our shots) mobbing the band as they arrived.
On stage, Bono sang,
‘See the world in green and blue
Brand new Poland right in front you’
during Beautiful Day, in acknowledgment of the tumultuous reception given the band by Polish fans. And at a time when Africa is on the political agenda like never before in recent history, it seemed like the recent political journey of Poland was an emblem of the possibilities of people power.
‘Our prayer,’ said Bono, ‘Is for the kingdom come on earth not just in heaven, on earth, build our countries, build our cities… so much possibility in this great country…’

Unsurprisingly, the audience were loving it – and singing along as well as any fans have on the road to date.

There’s just one other neat connection we ought to mention. As Miracle Drug began, Bono asked if anyone could come up on stage and translate a story he wanted to tell. A young Polish beauty leapt at her moment and, through her, Bono told a tale of a little boy from Poland who once stole his glasses but gave him some rosary beads instead.

That’ll be the late Pope John Paul II then – and didn’t the crowd love that story!

Except that we loved that story because after searching for five minutes for "someone who speaks good English," Bono calls this girl up on stage. When he tells her to translate the story she says:

"Listen everybody, I really don't know how to speak English, I just wanted to get up here!"

The crowd roared with laughter, and of course, Bono thought he was hilarious. Still most in the audience understood. And we all appreciated the touch.

The show was incredible.


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