U2 @ The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, 25 October 2009

First, the back story.  I photographed the press conference for the documentary movie "It Might Get Loud" just a few months ago, meeting Jimmy Page and Jack White

The Edge couldn't make it.  I was disappointed.  I had wanted to meet him.  I wasn't sure how I would introduce myself.  Perhaps: "Hello Mr. Edge.  May I call you 'The'"?

But it was not to be.  He was a no-show for the press conference.  Jack and Jimmy were disappointed too, and to my utter surprise, invited me to join their triumvirate, and a new guitar trio was born.  Here we are posing before the astonished press, just before we launched into some down-and-dirty psychedelic blues jams.

Some months later, Chris invited us to go see U2. Why not?  I hadn't seen U2 since God was a boy.

The Edge, undoubtedly sore that I had usurped his new guitar playing buddies, hadn't picked us up in his limo, so Chris, Lisa and I met at Union Station in Los Angeles to avoid the traffic, riding the train to Pasadena.

The city of Pasadena provided shuttles.  This is just a small part of the line.  We avoided these lines after the concert, walking back.

I go to clubs to see local rock and experimental bands, and despise stadium shows, but still at least enjoying the spectacle and light waves and the glorious sound of thousands of people singing passionately at the top of their lungs.  But even for stadium shows, 96,000 humans converging was easily the largest rock show I've ever attended.

Sure, this may look like my little Leica point-and-shoot has digital noise issues, but no, this is the Rose Bowl lit up with tens of thousands of cellphones, doing a light wave, a beautiful sight causing several in the audience to gasp, "Oh My Bono, that's beautiful..."

Lisa, me, and Chris at the Rose Bowl, after the Black-Eyed Peas had played their set.  While not my thing, they played a catchy set.  I appreciated their celebrating Los Angeles, not dumping on it. Slash came out and joined the Black-Eyed Peas playing "Sweet Child Of Mine".

In summer 2000, Lisa and I had met Aung San Suu Kyi, founder of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the democratically elected leader of Burma.  She had won the Nobel Peace Prize perhaps at a time when that meant more, in a time before Yasser Arafat could win such a prize.  To me, meeting the amazing Aung San Suu Kyi was akin to meeting the Dalai Lama or Gandhi or the guy who stood in front of the tank in Tiannanmen Square, someone who has truly admirable qualities.

This is a photo that I took of her during an NLD conference, shortly before being followed by the Burmese military for two days.

Why am I mentioning Aung San Suu Kyi?

Because one of the things that I appreciate about U2 is their willingness to bring important issues to light at a rock concert.  They realize that people come to be entertained, sure, but they also realize the weight of their words.

As U2 performed, their enormous 360 JumboTron array lit up with information about Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for 20 years after she had won the election in Burma and the desperate plight of the Burmese people under the oppressive thumb of the military junta.

The Edge played on, content to continue on with U2, apparently holding no animosity for me playing guitar with Jimmy and Jack, at one point waving to me.  Thanks, The.  I appreciate your kindness and understanding.

During their set, U2 played many songs from their newer releases, but also reached back to play "The Unforgettable Fire".

U2 shows more photos of Aung San Suu Kyi on The Claw. The Claw, an enormous steel structure holding up cylindrical locking LED panels and a massive stage with rotating bridges, U2's concert is the largest ever mounted, and quite a spectacle to see, the structure filling the 96,000 person capacity Rose Bowl quite easily.  The band ended the evening playing "Moment of Surrender", the only song that I like from their latest release "No Line On the Horizon".

I quite enjoy The Edge's guitar playing, particularly on the gorgeous release "The Unforgettable Fire".  And while the show was not quite the transcendent shows of the '80s, it was enjoyable.  And I realize that for many hipsters, publicly admitting that you enjoy U2 is insanely uncool.  Here's the deal:  I've never said I was cool.

"It Might Get Loud" press conference

Our 2000 trip to Burma, meeting Aung San Suu Kyi and more

U2 @ The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, October 2009

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