U2 performing in Madison Garden, 2005 (© Wikipedia Brown / Wiki Commons)
FOR a band formed 31 years ago, U2 still rocks! Not only is it still making good music and speaking up on socio-political issues, it is also setting new benchmarks in the use of online technology.
A record-breaking 96,000 fans watched the U2 concert live at the Rose Bowl Stadium in California, USA on Sunday, 25 Oct 2009. At the same time, millions all over the world got to “experience” the entire concert through live-streaming webcast on YouTube.
Throughout the concert, lead singer Bono asked what time it was for people watching from different parts of the world. In Malaysia, it was late Monday morning on 26 Oct.
Screencap of U2′s YouTube page (source: youtube.com/u2)
Alas, as a result of the high traffic for the live webcast, coupled with the painfully slow internet connection at the office in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, I ended up spending more time waiting for the buffering than watching the two-hour concert live. I gave up after a while and waited for the rebroadcast the next day.
U2 on YouTube, aka U2tube, was already the “Top Favourited” video within its first day of being online. “The band has wanted to do something like this for a long time. As we’re filming the LA show, it’s the perfect opportunity to extend the party beyond the stadium. Fans often travel long distances to come to see U2 — this time U2 can go to them, globally,” its manager, Paul McGuinness, said on the band’s website.
Dave Matthews Band (© Spoco2 / Wiki Commons)
The decision to do a live webcast of the entire Rose Bowl concert, part of the band’s “360° Tour” in the US, was announced only days before the show. Word must have spread like wildfire. According to the LA Times, the Google-owned YouTube page for the concert received at least seven million channel views. It also noted that U2′s performance was the second major concert aired online in recent months, after Hulu broadcast a gig by the Dave Mathews Band in June 2009.
To give U2′s live streaming a viral boost, the concert’s page included social media applications that encouraged visitors to post comments directly to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. It also asked fans to use the hashtag #U2webcast in their tweets. Not surprisingly, #U2webcast and Rose Bowl were among the top ten trending topics on Twitter from 25 to 26 Oct.
To Alfred Hermida, a digital journalism professor at the University of British Columbia, Canada, what was significant about the U2 concert webcast was the integration of social media features like Twitter on the live-streaming page. “This added a real-time, social dimension to the concert, enabling thousands of fans to participate in a shared experience,” he wrote in his blog Reportr.net. “Essentially, Twitter helped [to create] a virtual, networked community around an event, in this case the U2 concert.”
Here are what some fans had to say on Twitter:
Aung San Suu Kyi
Those familiar with U2′s activism were not surprised when the band dedicated a song to Burmese Nobel Peace laureate and pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest by the ruling military junta in Burma. Free Burma! is among the many campaigns the band supports. In July 2009, U2 announced at its concert in Dublin, Ireland that Amnesty International had named her its Ambassador of Conscience for the year.
Aung San Suu Kyi Mask photo gallery (source: www.u2.com)
Guitarist, Edge, heads the Aung San Suu Kyi Mask photo gallery on U2′s website. Supporters are invited to print out the mask and send photos of them wearing it to draw international attention to her plight. Edge selects his favourite photos and has them put up on the gallery.
After belting out Sunday Bloody Sunday at the Rose Bowl concert, Bono dedicated the Irish lullaby MLK to Suu Kyi. As information about her flashed on the huge cylindrical LED screen, he asked the audience to take out her picture or put on her mask — “Let her face be your face tonight.” Then, as he moved on to the next song, Walk On, Amnesty International and Burma Action Group volunteers went onto the stage with their masks of Suu Kyi.
As expected, many of the songs in the concert were from No Line on the Horizon, U2′s latest album. Other than being stumped by the buffering, my only disappointment is that it did not play the theme song to Miss Sarajevo. The award-winning documentary, directed by Bill Carter and produced by Bono in 1995, shows how people in war-torn Bosnia tried to lead a “normal” life, and even held a beauty pageant amid all the chaos.
And so, I shall end with my favourite U2 song, performed with the late Luciano Pavarotti. The video includes Carter’s footage of the beauty pageant participants holding up a banner with a message for the rest of the world: “DON’T LET THEM KILL US.”
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