Barcelona is one incredible city; heading up to the venue in the mid- afternoon, it killed me to give up sightseeing time. Ed, too, seemed to be enormously taken with the city. On top of all of this, the venue was rather distinguished, being in the middle of the site of the 1992 Olympics, perched high on a hillside above Barcelona, with the views stretching out over the city and the Mediterranean. All of this bodes well for an amazing show, right? Or so one would think. It was an excellent performance, simply because the band is so great right now, and the songs are so great - so 'average' for this band is better than most bands on their best nights. But, not outstanding.
This being the first full arena indoor show, we finally really got to see the light show in action. There were two large inflatable balloons hanging in the back of the stage; these were used during the show for various backdrops and other projections. The only problem is, when they're not being projected upon, they look kinda silly hanging there. You may well disagree. Otherwise, though, the projections themselves were appropriate and compelling.
"Long Road" is strong but no one seems to notice much; "Breakerfall" is a great second song but it's clear this crowd isn't familiar with the new record. "Corduroy" gets the first big reception of the night; it's here I notice Mike's tshirt - he'd arrived wearing it but we were too far away to make it out: an undoubtedly vintage Queen tshirt, sparkling with rhinestones. (The day before I had found a net cafe in downtown Barcelona, and commented to Jean how they had to pick that hour to play 'Queen's Greatest Hits' and that I'd forgotten how popular they were in Europe. Obviously, Mike didn't.) "Hail Hail" charges into "Animal," Mike's solo not as expansive as usual, much more compact.
Ed addresses the crowd next - thanks a lot, how you been, it's been, what, 2, 3 years? You look good. "This next song is called 'I save cigarette butts for a poor girl'" and it's "Evenflow" - what's not to like? Someone tosses up an Argentinian flag; there was a very strong South American contingent at these Spanish shows. Mike is on the side of the stage, pointing out some fans in trouble to PJ security.
(The crowd is a rough one tonight; Ed comments on it a few times, the usual "give yourselves some space" and "take care of each other" statements. It doesn't seem to help; even over on the side, 10-15 rows back, it's needlessly, mindlessly rough. This is not the unabashed enthusiasm of Lisbon, this is the "let's fuck shit up because we can" attitude of a major city. Much more alcohol, and the scent of hashish is absolutely overpowering at times. )
"Nothing As It Seems" brings the energy down a little, and I am still finding this song utterly compelling each and every time I see it. Commanding is probably a better term. And what's not to like about Mike's solos? "Light Years" is followed by "Given To Fly" and the crowd is loving it - even if this is definitely the big woo girl song, climbing on their boyfriend's shoulders all throughout the audience.
"Insignificance" meets with no reaction; Mike's even up there singing along - I hope they were singing along down front. "Daughter" meets with the predictable crowd reaction, and once again, more hamming it up from Mc Cready. He hops up on the monitor, puts his hands on his hips, and then falls backward with a grin. Who needs Mr. Pickles when we have McCready the Muppet? R.E.M.'s "The Wrong Child" tags this one to a close.
"Rearviewmirror" tears in out of nowhere, absolutely unexpectedly and the crowd screams with delight. There's a desert road backdrop projected in the back; the song has a different feeling, and the jam is tighter, way more focused - Mike's with staccato bursts on guitar, and a definite melody towards the end. He runs around behind the drum riser and ends up on Stone's side, behind him, and manages to completely surprise him - he grins wickedly and runs back to his side of the stage -- where he ends the song by smashing the guitar to the stage.
"I Got Shit," and then Ed starts off -- "Can I tell you a story?" Sure, Ed, go right ahead. He talks about sightseeing that day, being at Casa Batllo - "Gaudi? Antoni Gaudi?" The crowd applauds its recognition of the legendary Spanish architect. "If he had been a musician, he would have been the first Jimi Hendrix..." "I was taking pictures every 30 seconds," and then a little boy got into the picture. Then his friend wanted one. Then the two girls they were with wanted their pictures taken. Finally Ed organized them all into a group photo - "these 10 year old boys, they're about here" - at waist height - "While girls at 10 or 12, they're about here" - and Ed almost reaches his shoulder and then laughs and adjusts it down a little bit. "So this is I think a song about new love, and those kids were finding new love, it's written by Stone and it's called 'Thin Air'." At this point I am totally lost but the story is classic Ed and I could really care less if it made sense or not. It's priceless.
"Black" and "Betterman" (no tag, either), a semi-raucous DTE, and "Alive" closes the set, Ed tentatively climbing up on Matt's drum riser. 18 songs; we'd bet earlier we wouldn't see more than 21 or 23 for this show. We would obviously be wrong.
The band comes back out to a football chant, Ed dancing around again, bopping in circles, waving his towel; he takes the bottle of wine and baptizes the crowd. "Grievance" comes tearing out next - zero crowd recognition - and then into "State" which only about 12 people in the entire venue seem to recognize. (But it's a *great* segue!) Mike's running out on the speaker stacks on the side. "Wishlist" calms things down, even if some guy makes it up on stage, crosses behind Ed, taps him on the shoulder and escapes stagediving into the crowd before security reaches him.
"Elderly Woman", Ed looks to the crowd for the words, finds his place again, and then says 'Yo siento' - 'I'm sorry' in Spanish. He thanks the Vandals for opening, and then tries to explain that the reason he fucked up the words in the last song was that he suddenly remembered that the guitarist for the Vandals had taken off his pants during the last song (he does it every night, wait for it) and he had been hitting his penis with the microphone, and it was the same microphone (yeah right). "Ya know, I could take my pants of..." and you don't need to know any Spanish to understand that the girls behind us are screaming, "Take it off!" "Go" up next, once again bringing things to a close.
Another encore. Ed comes out with the Polaroid (as he did in Lisbon) and took a panorama of the crowd; he notices that the others haven't come out with him and exclaims, "I'll go get 'em!" Everyone returns for a full band "Last Kiss". The houselights are on, the crowd is chanting again, and Ed puts his hand on his heart and says, "I'd like to fuck every one of you." Mike nods his assent violently. And then, of course, "Yellow Ledbetter," Eddie clearly still moved by the city - "I don't wanna stay - but I'm thinking about it!"
At the end of it all, this show is memorable not for the show itself, but for the afternoon preceding it: lying on a hillside in the sun outside the venue, talking to other fans, watching the band arrive, and hearing the soundcheck: "Insignificance" thundering wonderfully and majestically several times from the outside was more moving than anything that happened during the show, save Ed's story about the kids. Not outstanding, but not a bad effort either by any means. It's one show out of 68, and they can't all be the best show we've ever seen in our lives.
© 2000 Caryn Rose