(Eagle News) – For what Filipino U2 fans said was a “once-in-a-lifetime concert,” they braved hours of traffic and long lines just to watch the legendary Irish rock band perform at the 55,000-seater Philippine Arena on Wednesday night, Dec. 11.
The sound and sights of the first-ever Manila concert of the band which has won the most Grammys in history at 22 awards, more than lived up to fans’ expectations.
The band that was first formed in September 1976 by then young teeners — Paul David Hewson to be known later as “Bono” then 16, David Hewell Evans to be known later as “The Edge” then 15, Adam Clayton then 16, and Larry Mullen Jr., then turning 15 — in the latter’s family kitchen in Dublin, Ireland, would later make history and fill the large stadiums in the world.
And on Dec. 11, 2019, U2 again did one for the books as they finally performed in the world’s largest indoor arena, the Philippine Arena, in their first ever concert in the Philippines.
Bono, U2s lead vocalist and front man, said there was no excuse for them waiting for more than 40 years to hold a concert in the country.
“I don’t know how we waited. I just don’t know,” said Bono, now 59.
“No good excuse. We should have been here every year!” he said.
-Bono thanks PHL for warm welcome, patience-
The band was simply awed with the reception that they got from Filipinos who watched their concert that night.
Thank you Manila for your patience. I know it’s taken a while, taking everybody into the arena tonight. It took us four decades,” he said. “We feel very welcome…”
“Well our prayer tonight is for an epic night of rock’n’roll transcendence… Anything can happen, anything will happen, you need it, we need it…,” Bono said during the concert, which was later posted in their website.
In the U2’s official website, the band again posted their appreciation for the Filipino fans who went to their concert.
“What a reception from a huge audience in the world’s largest indoor venue.”
‘Thank you for your patience,” U2 posted as the band acknowledged the fans that packed the arena that night.
During their concert which was part of “The Joshua Tree Tour 2019,” U2 rocked the arena to the rafters.
Bono talked about how U2’s longtime head of production and set design, Jake Berry, went here in the Philippines to scout a venue for their most-awaited concert in Manila.
“Jake Berry, the most incredible man, came here many months ago to make sure that we could play here in the Philippines,” he said.
Berry found the Philippine Arena as the suitable venue for the U2’s concert, which Bono described as “incredible.”
“This is a great, great venue. Thank you,” he said to the crowd during the concert as he also made note of the great acoustics.
“Thank you for sticking with us. Thank you for giving us a great life.”
-Bono: “We are one” –
“So from our single island to your thousand islands, thank you for making us feel welcome,” U2’s lead vocalist said.
“On your islands, you’re making a new history for yourselves. But the truth is, none of us are an island, and what happens on one country affects the country on the other side of the world. From typhoons to droughts, the way we live in one country, affects life in every country.”
“We are (one),” he said as he raised his hand with the sign of 1.
He asked that the lights be turned off and sang U2’s iconic song, “One” which was first released in 1992 – a song about living together as one despite differences.
As he sang, “One”, thousands of lights from lit mobiles held by the audience swayed and flickered in the darkness, and as the song ended the Philippine flag slowly emerged in the LED background until it was in full lighted splendor.
After their song, the band members — Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam — gathered in the center, thanking the crowd, almost tearful as the audience applauded and chanted the band’s name.
-Recognizing women power-
U2 also recognized the strong women of the world, including influential Filipinas who made their mark.
“When women of the world unite to rewrite history as her story, that is a beautiful day,” Bono said.
When he made special mention of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa afterwards, there were various reactions from fans – from boos and chants of Duterte for those who disliked Ressa, to raised hands and claps to those who were of the same mind as Bono – making it known to the band what they exactly felt about it.
The fans comments for and against Bono’s stand on Ressa, were made known in various social media later, making the world know it was a controversial divisive issue for Filipinos.
During the performance of the song “Ultraviolet” the first photograph shown on the huge screen was that of Sojourner Truth (1797 to 1883), an African-American woman who sought to end slavery then prevailing in the US.
Next was a photo of Mary Wollstonecraft, a writer and teacher known for advocating women’s rights; Akenehi Tomoana, a prominent Maori woman leader who campaigned for the right to vote of Maori women at the Maori parliament, and for their right to own land.
Next was an image of Melchora Aquino, known as the “grand woman of Philippine revolution,” and alsp known as Tandang Sora; feminist group Grrrl Gang Manila; One Billion Rising, a campaign to end rape and sexual violence against women.
Other notable women whose images were shown include American stand-up comedian Moms Mabley; Lili Parr, the greatest woman footballer of all time; suffragette movements in various countries which fought for the women’s right to vote; Jane Goodall, English primatologist and anthropologist who studied chimpanzees and worked for animal conservation; American philanthropist Melinda Gates; AIDS activist Connie Mudenda; teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg, and other strong women.
Other Filipina personalities whose images appeared on the stage as U2 performed their song “Ultraviolet” include senator Pia Cayetano; first Philippine woman president Corazon Aquino; Joan Carling who fought for the rights of indigenous and marginalized groups; singer and musical theater performer Lea Salonga; Marinel Ubaldo, a survivor of supertyphoon Haiyan.
-Heroes in the house: U2 recognizing Red Cross volunteers, journalists, everyday heroes –
During the concert, U2 also recognized the Red Cross volunteers and other “everyday heroes” who attended their concert at the Philippine Arena.
“So many heroes in the house tonight, including 100 Red Cross volunteers, part of the response to the recent Typhoon Kammuri.
“The Red Cross volunteers… let’s keep them in our prayers, the ones who keep us safe from physical harm, also for the journalists, the truth tellers, activists, who keep this country spiritually safe…We salute you, truth tellers! Everyday heroes all, women and men, let’s see your stars in the sky Manila,” Bono said during the concert and later posted on the band’s website.
Bono also made a special announcement during the historic concert at the Philippine Arena.
“I was told today that this is our 2050th show that we played in our lifetime. (It) doesn’t feel like it….How old that does make us?” he said with a chuckle.
He and the rest of the band then relayed to the audience a few anecdotes before they formed the band in 1976. Now, almost turning 60, the band members showed no sign of their age. Bono’s voice still had the same vibrance and strength, lead guitarist “The Edge” with his iconic skullcap still put the audience to the edge of their seats, bass guitarist Adam still played like before but with longer hair, and Larry still struck the drums like there was no tomorrow
-Salute to the Filipino people-
In the end, the U2 band members saluted the Filipino people, their strength and their resolve amid various crises, and the Philippine flag.
For that unique experience, and Bono’s promise to make sure the band plays again in Philippine soil, the thousands of U2 fans — leaving the Philippine Arena, facing the prospect of long hours of traffic once again going home – feel that it was all worth it.