zephyr illusions photo by donna October 1992. The view atop Chasseral, Jura Mountains looking across Switzerland to The Alps on the horizon. Fog, intensely thick, rising from Lac Bienne and stretching its fingers high onto the Lignières-Plateau de Diesse after wholly filling the valley below the plateau.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

U2 @ Detroit.... there and back again

It was 6am on Monday, 24 October, that i set out for Detroit to see a long anticipated U2 concert. My old car did great… even with 3 pit stops, a construction detour around Toledo, Ohio and an accident-related traffic jam on Interstate-75 in Detroit, i arrived in Auburn Hills (a suburb 40 miles north of Detroit) at 3 pm. so, it took me 9-hours (7 of those hours were in the rain) to drive the 500 miles (800 kilometres)… not bad, if you ask me.

I was really looking forward to seeing the Autumn colors of the leaves as i drove on the Pennsylvania Turnpike (the oldest ‘superhighway’ in USA; originating in my hometown, too :) ) through the mountains of western Pennsylvania and i was not disappointed.

the brilliant golds, reds, oranges and browns mixed with the greens of the pine trees were absolutely stunning as i drove through the ridges and valleys of Pennsylvania (which took me through 4 tunnels) and continued through the more gently rolling landscape and farmland of northeastern Ohio. even muted in the mist and rain, the colors were vivid and beautiful. the leg of the drive that took me through Michigan was rather stark in comparison as most of it goes through highly populated commercial and industrialized areas. I didn’t mind so much, though… it just made the gorgeous landscapes i had just spent most of the day driving through even prettier :)

Something really cool happened just as i was passing the sign on I-75 that announces the city limits of Auburn Hills… U2’s ‘With Or Without You’ came on the radio! woohoo!... i couldn’t believe it! i had been driving all day with the good luck to keep finding radio stations with the classic rock format, my favorite for music for driving. i hadn’t heard one U2 song all day long… but, when i reached the city limits of the town in which i was going to see U2 perform live a classic U2 song comes over the airwaves! dang, i love it when cool stuff like this happens :D
Anyway, i exited the highway and easily found my hotel which was right down the street from The Palace of Auburn Hills, the very nice arena where U2 was scheduled to play two shows; one on Monday, 24 October and another on Tuesday, 25 October, the show i was attending. after settling into my very convenient ground floor room equipped with excellent Wifi (groovy, i could stay in touch with the world) and a kitchenette (cool, could keep my beer cold in the fridge and have coffee any time of day with the coffeemaker :) ), i found my way to the restaurant/lounge and washed away travel fatigue with a couple of lagers and some conversation with the other U2 fans who were there for the concert. there were fans there who were local to Detroit area and others who had traveled from other areas of Michigan, Illinois, Canada, England and Ireland. everybody i spoke with had seen U2 at least once before and was totally psyched for the show… U2 fans tend to be very passionate about the band and love to exchange stories about past tours/shows they have seen, favorite albums/songs, favorite band members, what they anticipate the next show to be like, etc. i remember asking the bartender if she noticed any different kind of vibe with U2 fans since she saw lots of pre/post-concert activity working so close to The Palace. heheee, she said most definitely that she saw a sort of camaraderie among U2 fans that she didn’t see among other bands’ fans and also that she was totally blown away by the distances U2 fans travel to see the band. hmmm, well, maybe that’s one of the things that defines a real international band? the music and energy of the band makes physical and political borders disappear :)

When the lounge began to clear as ticket holders for Monday night’s show headed across the street to the arena for the concert, i ordered dinner of a very mediocre-but-expensive Santa Fe Grilled Chicken Salad to take back to my hotel room and had my dinner with a couple of Yuengling lagers I had brought with me while catching up with some emails & surfing through my favorite websites. stayed up way too late watching a really powerful thought-provoking, emotion-eliciting film with Ben Kingsley called ‘House Of Sand And Fog’.
Spent Tuesday, the day of the U2 show i would be attending, not doing much… enjoyed sleeping in late, checked all the fluids in the car, found a garage where the nice young guy checked my car tires and inflated the tires to proper air pressure, found a grocery store where I bought a couple Chinese vegetable rolls to heat in the hotel room microwave for brunch and listened to some podcasts. i would have went exploring the local area, but it didn’t really inspire me… it was mostly under construction with commercial/industrial zones and new characterless housing developments springing up where, as the locals told me, cornfields and rural areas used to be. also, it was drizzling rain and windy and I didn’t feel like driving around exploring that construction zones in weather like that.
Around mid-afternoon, i decided to go hang at the hotel lounge for some conversation and a couple brews. i got lucky and there were a couple of local U2 fans there for the show as well as a couple of locals who had seen Monday night’s show. the folks that attended Monday night’s show gave great reviews saying the crowd as well as the band was really into it and U2 ended up doing 4 encores. sounded great to me and i was really getting psyched. soon, there were lots of local guys coming into the bar for their after-work-‘happyhour’-beers and as i chit-chatted with them i got the lowdown on which route to take to/from the arena to avoid the heaviest traffic… the guys even drew me a detailed map, which came in very handy. hehee, always talk with the local when on a roadtrip!... you get the best info and i made a very smooth entrance and exit from The Palace for the show thanks to those local guys (who drive local delivery trucks so they REALLY know their way around :) )

OK, so about the concert….
This was my 4th U2 show and i have to say that it was the only show that gave me feelings of disappointment. my feelings of disappointment have nothing to do with the band, their music, the location of my side-of-stage-high-up seat or the arena facilities…
my disappointment was in the audience. this is the only U2 show I have attended where the majority of the crowd didn’t know the music, the songs, the lyrics… hell, i don’t even think most of the crowd even knew anything about U2 other than the fact that they are a big-name band (and that’s the only reason why they were there).
U2 played before a sold-out crowd of about 25,000, but it appeared that only about one-third of the audience actually got into the concert and sang along (something U2 crowds are famous for doing), cheered when recognizing the intro to a song, cheered during the song at key musical breaks, cheered after a great finish to a song, waving lit lighters/cellphone in the air, dancing/jumping around…. you know, the usual stuff fans do when enjoying a concert and wanting to show appreciation to the band.
Cripes, when U2 did ‘I Will Follow’, ‘Gloria’ and ‘The Ocean’ (3 classic old U2 songs) i was the only one i could see in any the sections as far as I could see around me excited to be hearing such great U2 songs performed live… especially, ‘Gloria’ & ‘The Ocean’! a real treat as they are rarely performed live :D everybody around me sat there looking so stoic, or completely confused, looking like they wondered what the hell U2 was playing.
For cripe's sake, the only time the crowd came alive was when U2 played their most famous radio hits… ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’, ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’, ‘With Or Without You’, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, oh, and of course the crowd knew ‘Vertigo’ and ‘Beautiful Day’.
I cannot believe U2 even bothered giving that crowd an encore, let alone two encores. lol, when U2 did ‘WOWY’ during an encore, Bono did this really bizarre off key, out of time vocal rendition and it was my sense he was sending the unresponsive crowd a message… you're too cool, Bono! ;-}

It was so incredibly annoying for me to be among that boring crowd that after ‘The Ocean’ finished, i had just decided that i was going to leave my seat and look for a place in the arena where i could find even just one U2 fan to be near. i was gathering my bag from underneath my seat when the 20-something woman in the seat next to me turned to me, pointed down at Bono and said “he’s British, isn’t he?” WTF?! for a moment my mind went blank as i rewound what i had just heard to be sure i had heard correctly. all i could do was grab my bag and say “no, he’s very much Irish” as i ran from there. lmao, i have to say that that question is probably the most mind-boggling thing i have heard in a looooong looooong time. i mean, can you imagine going to a U2 concert and being asked if Bono is British??! Jeeesh!

I found a section of the arena almost opposite the stage where security didn’t seem to mind that some of us were standing in the aisle and not in a seat. great… the other renegades in this section were U2 fans, too :) woohoo!! i spent the rest of the concert there thoroughly enjoying my favorite band with others around me who knew the songs and were singing and dancing. it’s really amazing how different the vibe is when you are among others who are hooting and hollering and dancing and cheering and having a good time enjoying great music.

The highlight of the show for me was hearing ‘Gloria’, ‘The First Time’ and ‘Bad’ performed live…. ‘Gloria’ is the very first U2 song i remember hearing, ‘The First Time’ is among my favorites songs and ‘Bad’ is such a powerful and classic U2 song which is rarely ever done live. actually, all 3 of these songs (plus ‘The Ocean’) are rarely performed live… hearing these live performances seemed like a real treat for the few real fans that were at that show. also, loved hearing ‘Love And Peace or Else’ from the latest album…. that song caught my attention the first time i heard it and love the dark, heavy, funky sound of it.
U2 and Bono did a really nice tribute to Rosa Parks, a civil rights activist and long time resident of Detroit who recently died, which included ‘Pride’, ‘MLK’ ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ and ‘One’.
The setlist for the show was awesome…. included old classics, some rare songs, some new stuff including a couple that surprised me.

Vertigo Tour (Leg 3)
Detroit, 25 October 2005


01. City Of Blinding Lights
02. Vertigo
03. Elevation
04. I Will Follow
05. Gloria
06. The Ocean
07. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For/In A Little While
08. Beautiful Day
09. Miracle Drug
10. Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
11. Love And Peace Or Else
12. Sunday Bloody Sunday
13. Bullet The Blue Sky
14. Miss Sarajevo
15. Pride (In The Name Of Love)/MLK
16. Where The Streets Have No Name
17. One
18. The First Time
19. Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
20. With or Without you
21. Crumbs From Your Table
22. Bad

All-in-all another great show by U2… too bad that more of the audience at that 2nd night in Detroit wasn’t into it as much as some of us… i hope U2 weren’t too disappointed.

I slept in kind of late the next morning… didn’t get on the road home until 9am. i deliberated waited until after 9 because i wanted to make the drive through Detroit city traffic after the morning rush hour. as it was, i still sat in a traffic jam caused by an accident. well, kinda balance things since i entered Detroit in a traffic jam and left the city the same way. once past Detroit, it was smooth sailing. i only made one pit stop on the way home and the return drive only took me 8 hours. the weather was cold but sunny… until i crossed the Ohio/Pennsylvania state line. the rains started as soon as i entered Pennsylvania and made for sloppy driving. also, there seemed to be more heavy commercial truck traffic sharing the roadway with me than on my trip westward to Detroit. But, still, my old car did good and brought me home by 5 pm.

Oh! besides seeing gorgeous colorful Autumn leaves on the trees, i saw something else… the first Pennsylvania snow of the season! it had snowed the day/night before and had put a few inches of snow on the ground at the higher elevations of the Allegheny Mountains.

Another interesting sight that makes me think of my Dutch friends… we have turbine windmills in Pennsylvania, too :) only instead of putting ours on polders and dykes, we put ours on high valleys between mountain ridges :D
[click on pic for better view... it was raining and the PA Turnpike isn't the sort of highway you can easily stop on for photo opportunities]

So, even though a long drive, it was a good couple of days out of town and, while not as exotic as traveling to another country, i enjoyed my U2/Detriot adventure a lot. now, gotta decide on and plan for my next excursion…
but, until that time, guess i’ll focus on my work and studies…


  1. Great to hear that the show was good and you found the right people to spend the last part with.

    8 hours and 1 pitstop.... that's not much.. but way to go.

    And yes.. i saw the windmills.. between high mountains there is probably a lot of wind coming through (i hope) :)

    Till next time.

  2. yup, Prof., only one pitstop... got into a groove and didn't feel the need to break the momentum. heheee, my old car isn't a snazzy European roadster, but she sure did pretty good on this wardriving excursion :D

    PS... glad you saw the windmills... you are one of those Dutch guys i wanted to impress with our modern Pennsylvania technology :p

  3. Glad you had a successful trip. Those pics of the Turnpike were a flashback to the many times I drove it when moving from MD to St. Louis (and back!) with my ex in a stuffed-to-the-gills '94 Dodge Colt.

    Ahh...best of times/worst of times.

  4. hey Andres :)
    eeks, long-distance move in a Dodge Colt! bet you did some creative packing in order to use every square millimetre of space!
    did you check out the link on the history of the PA Turnpike? there's some really cool pics and interesting history written about the development and building of theTurnpike.