I wouldn’t call myself the world’s biggest U2 fan, so it’s safe to say I went in there with pretty much zero expectations and had my mind blown in every conceivable way.
J-Rab and I hit the Cape Town stadium at about 4.30 to beat the (non-existent) traffic and make sure we got into the VIP lounge that Nokia very kindly provided us with tickets for. Problem was the lounge only opened at 6pm so we bought a couple of beers and killed a bit of time wandering around the stadium and checking out THE CLAW.
THE CLAW has gotten a shiteload of press over the last two weeks and for good reason. It’s possibly the single coolest staging rig I’ve ever seen. It’s colossal and looks like it could get up and start walking like some giant killer spider-robot, blasting the audience with intense death rays at any minute.
We got a lot of pics of it before it was all lit up, much to the dismay of one of the security guards we had a chat with who was like, “You’re not allowed to take pictures.”
“What?” I said, “We’re allowed to take pictures?”
“No,” he replied, “not allowed.”
“Ok,” I said, and took some pictures. He smiled at me, I smiled back. What a rad guy.
Once they opened the VIP lounge, I was so excited I bounded in there and immediately ordered two suitcases (what?! They didn’t have any tequila ok?) and a couple more beers. Nokia really pulled out all the stops – for the next two hours I was like a kid at Christmas, munching all manner of froo-froo finger ding-a-lings, taking goofy pictures with J-Rab and drinking suitcases like there was no tomorrow.
At 8 they closed the VIP lounge and we headed upstairs to catch some of the Springbok Nude Girls set, which would have been a lot better if the sound was sorted out. As it was, it sounded a little like the guys were playing underwater which is apparently an old trick that’s been used for years in the industry – the headline act gets the killer sound and the supporting guys play through amplifiers made of rusty tin cans.
After the Nudies finished up, J-Rab and I went in search of some more free drinks and were immediately drawn, like moths to a flame, to this mesmerising green light that was glowing at the Heineken VIP bar.
“What do you think that is?” J-Rab asked in awe.
“I dunno…” I replied, “but Jeannie D’s in there so it must be important.”
“Go see if you can get us some free drinks.”
I approached the security guy at the entrance with the kind of total confidence only 7 suitcases can give you and proceeded to walk straight past him.
He gripped my arm like a vice.
“Where’s your wristband?”
“Right here brother,” I said, proudly displaying my white Nokia lounge VIP wristband.
“That’s the wrong colour,” he said, sternly.
“What! I’m the wrong colour?! What the hell is this, the Apartheid Bar?”
“Your WRISTBAND is the wrong colour.”
“What in God’s name are you talking about?”
“It’s white. It’s supposed to be black.”
“So it’s the REVERSE Apartheid Bar? Man, I can’t wait to blog about this unfair discrimination!”
“Please step aside sir, this is for people who were invited to the Heineken bar ONLY.”
“Cool. Whatever. I’m too white for this bar. It’s cool, I understand…”
As I was sulking off to tell J-Rab the bad news, I saw a MAJOR flaw in the security setup. White blocks.
They were at the perfect height for sitting on and then, when no one was looking, casually swinging your legs over onto the other side and then casually standing up and WAPOW! You were in the Heineken Reverse Apartheid Lounge.
The second both J-Rab and I had executed this security-defying manoeuvre we whipped out the camera and took about 15 pictures of ourselves pulling more goofy faces while we talked to each other in very snooty voices indeed because we were in the HEINEKEN LOUNGE BABY!
We swanned over to the bar to start klapping some more free drinks and very quickly froze in our tracks. The people here, they all had cards. Heineken cards! And these cards, you had to produce them to get the sauce – no card, no sauce. J-Rab and I hovered at the bar, furiously trying to think up some way to beat the system when who stepped in front of us? Liesl Van Der Westhuizen, that’s who!
Now, I know what you’re thinking, Liesl V, Schmiesl V, who cares. Well, I’m here to tell you that Liesl Van Der Westhuizen is a fucking cool person. The second her and her boyfriend stepped in front of us she turned around to apologise for cutting in front of us to which I calmly replied, “No sweat. We’re not even supposed to be here, we slipped past security to score some free drinks but apparently you need a green card or something…”
“Do you guys want some drinks?” she said, without even skipping a beat, “We’ll get you some!”
And that’s how we ended up drinking in the Heineken bar for free with Liesl V. Until security kicked us out. That was kinda embarrassing. But we met up with Liesl outside again and they got us a SECOND ROUND OF DRINKS!
What a lovely person, seriously. I don’t care what anyone says about her, Liesl is cool in my books. She helped a Tiger out so I’ll have no more Liesl-bashing on this site thank you very much. Um. Not that there ever was any to begin with, but yeah. Just so you know.
After that U2 took to the stage and THE CLAW came to life in a multitude of colours and images and flashing lights. Unfortunately by this stage J-Rab and I were about twelve sheets to the wind so it’s hard to recall the exact details of the concert, but I can confirm this much – U2 put on an INCREDIBLE show and no, I’m not just saying this because I was there and you weren’t.
About halfway through the set, J-Rab and I somehow managed to get into the outer golden circle to get some pics from the ground just in time for them to play “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “One” which, I’ll be honest, was an emotional moment for me. It’s my favourite U2 song of all time and hearing the guys play it live right there in front of us was intense.
Not sure if I was cool with all the Nelson Mandela / Desmond Tutu references and imagery that we were bombarded with and the snippets from interviews with both of them, I just think it’s a pretty obvious ploy to get the crowd all gooey with emotion (it worked like a bomb).
But I’ll let it slide because U2 have always been a political band and have actually done a lot of good in this world. Also, in all fairness, I don’t think I’ve ever watched a band play in this country and NOT mention Nelson Mandela or Desmond Tutu in some way so I’ll reserve judgement on this one.
It was a brilliant experience and an amazingly well-executed concert. Big up to Nokia for making it all possible, you guys spoiled us and we really appreciated every second of it, let’s be pals forever.
In closing, here’s a pic of THE CLAW in its full glory after a massive CONE of TV screens extended down towards the stage like it was going to tractor-beam the band into space.