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Later today,  I board a plane for the short flight from Albuquerque to Phoenix.  I'm going to see U2 play at Glendale Arena and I can't be more excited.  A quick count reveals that this will be the fifth time overall that I've seen the Irish band since first seeing them at Kansas City's Kemper Arena in late October 1987  (a show, incidentally, I taped -- I think I may just have to convert that recording to digital one of these days).  Interestingly enough,  this will be my third U2 concert in the Phoenix area -- 1997's show was at Sun Devil Stadium and I saw them at America West Arena in 2001.

I can thank my sister for first introducing me to the band -- I do remember seeing the "Gloria" video on MTV sometime in 1982 and "New Year's Day" at the beginning of the following year, but Marilyn was a very big fan and used to play their War album quite often.  My first view of one of their live performances was watching television footage of the US Festival that May; I was enthralled with the singer's climbing all the way to the top of the huge stage scaffolding.  Later that Fall,  we saw the Live At Red Rocks concert on TV and I was hooked -- Bono still climbed high above the stage,  the band's energy was extremely high,  and the scenery of the amphitheatre -- the torches lighting up the rainy night sky -- was breathtaking.  My Christmas present to Marilyn in 1983 was the Under A Blood Red Sky mini-album.

By the Fall of 1984 I was a huge fan in my own right and purchased the "Pride In The Name Of Love" single the week of it's release; I received The Unforgettable Fire album for either my birthday or Christmas that year.  And I eagerly awaited a Kansas City concert to be announced.  Alas, the closest they came on the 1984/85 tour was Denver.  I was partially satiated by watching their Live Aid performance in July 1985 -- they truly stole the show at that mega-event -- and by a few live radio broadcasts later that year  (I believe my first semi-complete U2 concert tape -- not counting the short Live Aid set -- was the Dortmund show from November 1984 broadcast by Westwood One radio networks on KY-102).

In early 1987,  The Joshua Tree was released -- still my favorite U2 album.  I eagerly collected all of the singles released from that album -- each one came in several different formats, both 7-inch and 12-inch varieties, with differing non-album bonus tracks.  I recorded various interviews with the band off the radio or TV.  And, finally, they announced a single show in Kansas City in the Fall.  I remember waiting for hours to buy tickets at the Municipal Auditorium box office downtown.  The line stretched around the auditorium and up the street quite a distance.  But I scored two tickets -- in the Upper Level, Row P.  I attended the show with my sister's boyfriend at the time -- Rex, I believe his name was.  As always, U2 had a great opening act -- The BoDeans  (who I still enjoy listening to).  Unlike most other acts that play in the area,  U2 didn't attempt to cover the Wilson Pickett song "Kansas City," but they did play a ragged version of Neil Young's "Southern Man."

The next time I went to a U2 concert was in 1992 on the Zoo TV tour at Arrowhead Stadium.  Again, my ticket was in the far reaches of the venue -- Section 324, Row 24 (closer to my car in the parking lot than to the stage).  However, by the time U2 came onstage  (openers were Disposible Heroes Of Hipocracy, who I haven't heard of since, and Sugarcubes, an Icelandic band -- I still enjoy the solo albums by lead singer Björk), we had moved down to a position much closer to the stage -- almost to the field.  I don't remember too much about this show -- and I'm still searching for a recording of it -- but I thought it was very spectacular.

By the time of the next U2 tour,  I was living in New Mexico.  I had a choice to see the band in either Denver or Phoenix.  I chose the Sun Devil Stadium Pop Mart show on the Arizona State University campus.  That was a very overblown show -- Pop is my least favorite U2 album  (although some of the songs have grown on me since) -- with all sorts of props including the world's largest video screen forming the stage backdrop and a huge lemon on a swizzle stick that the band used towards the end of the show to transport them from the main stage to a small B-stage in the center of the stadium's field.  Although I have many live U2 recordings, the only "souvenir" I have of that entire tour is a DVD of a show they filmed in Mexico City  (on my birthday, incidentally).  I also traveled to Phoenix in April 2001 -- America West Arena was just across the street from the airport.

And that brings me to the present -- U2 are playing at the very new Glendale Arena on the western outskirts of the city.  This means that we'll be taking a taxi from the airport and staying overnight in a hotel, rather than my usual Phoenix modus operandi which is a short journey down the street to the arena  (most shows I attend are there, or close by) and then sleep in the airport, taking the first flight back to Albuquerque in the morning.  As a result, this show will be a bit more expensive than I normally like but it will be worth it.  We have General Admission tickets for the floor which will make it the closest I've ever been for a U2 concert.

And one of the friends I'm attending with has a really nice taping rig and plans to record the show  (he's fresh back from taping them in San Jose last weekend); what's interesting is that I already have recordings of EVERY show on the current tour  (well, except for last night's Phoenix show) -- I even have two different source recordings from a couple of the concerts.  The recordings are being uploaded to various servers very quickly -- but I'm beginning to rethink trying to get the entire tour  (after all, they have shows scheduled through December and their setlists don't change that dramatically from show to show).

Watch this space for a review of the concert either Saturday or Sunday  (after I've rested up a bit).  I'm sure it'll be a great show!