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Posted by on Feb 2, 2011 in EdsPick1, Entertainment, Featured | 16 comments

The Inner Workings of the U2 360° Inner Circle

Joe-&-Edgeor Making the Most of Your U2 360° General Admission Ticket

Meet Joe. That’s him there next to The Edge. I’ve labelled the image in case you don’t recognise them.

Joe lives in Canada. Joe is a really nice guy. And most importantly for purposes of this conversation, Joe is a U2 Super Fan. And that’s not an exaggeration in any way at all. He is a total, absolute, complete U2 Super Fan.

Let me illustrate that “U2 Super Fan” status for you…

Joe has been attending U2 concerts since 2001. Since then he has seen the band perform live a total of 41 times! He has plans in place to see them in concert at least another 15 times this year. Suffice to say that by the time the 360° Tour draws to a close Joe will have attended almost 60 live U2 concerts.

Joe is such a serious and committed fan, that not only does he shoot and then publish the photographs he takes at each of the shows, he also reviews many of them and documents the set-lists as they are performed. You can see all of the photographs that Joe has taken during the Elevation, Vertigo and 360 Tours on his Fotki Photograph pages. And you can read his concert reviews and find out much more about Joe’s “U2ouring” exploits on his Online on the Horizon U2 Fan Site blog.

All of that is interesting, but not really the chief reason that I wanted to introduce to Joe. You see, the other major thing that Joe has done is compile The Unofficial Guide to the U2 General Admission Queue.

What is this mystical “Inner Circle” anyway?inner-circle

Of the 41 U2 concerts that Joe has been to so far, 39 of them were seen using General Admission (GA) Field Standing entrance tickets. And in all cases Joe and his friends have managed to secure positions for themselves in the centre Front of Stage (FOS) area, normal in the front row right up against the rail. 18 of the 360° Tour shows have been watched from the very front of the Inner Circle – that special area of The Claw staging that sits between the main stage area and the circular ramp the runs around it. It’s reasonable to suggest that Joe knows a thing or two about the U2 General Admission Queue!

This Inner Circle area would normally be reserved for VIP/Golden Circle type ticket holders. But in the case of the 360° set-up, those cash-heavy fans have the opportunity to access the two areas on each side of the ramp – known as the RedZones. In the case of the 360° Tour that prime viewing ‘should be a Golden Circle’ area becomes the domain of a few lucky, determined U2 fans who hold standard, nothing special GA – Field Standing tickets to the shows.

And that’s where Joe shows his generous nature. His Guide is without doubt the most detailed, comprehensive and honest “Instruction Manual” explaining how to best go about queuing for and making the most out of your U2 General Admission concert experience. And he also advises people on how to get into the Inner Circle, if that’s what you’re aiming for.

The big question now is “How do they decide who gets into the Inner Circle?”

Initially, Big Concerts and Computicket suggested that they would issue Inner Circle armbands a day prior to the concerts. This subsequently changed to the information below:

Cape Town Concert: Inner Circle tickets will be issued on a first-come-first-served basis to the first 2,700 fans with general standing tickets. Obviously many people will queue at the venues from the day before the show in order to get these tickets – and accordingly we will ensure that a safe area is provided for these fans, with security, food, bars, toilets etc. (Big Concerts via Facebook – 25 Jan)

Johannesburg Concert:  The first 2,700 people with general field standing tickets to queue at the venue gates will be issued with Inner Circle armbands. We are preparing for fans to arrive from the day before the actual show. We will be ready from early on Saturday for people queuing for the inner circle. In fact we are on site from the 5th February already and both our security head and the metro traffic police will be keeping a watch on crowd build up and making allowances for any unexpected rush. (Big Concerts via Facebook – 26 Jan)

Slightly different wording in each case, but the approach sounds the same: if you want to get into the Inner Circle for either of the U2 concerts in South Africa, be prepared to tough it out in a General Admission queue that will probably start forming the day before each show. And if you aren’t one of the fortunate 2,700 at the head of the queues, don’t despair. Try to get to the centre front of the rail on the outside of the ramp. I think the experience from there will even better than it will be for the RedZoners in similar positions on the sides!

Joe answers all your questions in his Unofficial Guide

Joe covers every conceivable eventuality in his Guide in a nicely ordered and detailed page. He even throws in a Table of Contents for us that covers areas such as “Time to Arrive at the Queue”, “Camping Overnight”, “Meeting the Band”, “What to Bring to the Queue”, “What it is like on the Floor”, and much more.

Throughout the Guide Joe answers the questions burning in all our novice concert-goers’ minds.

Questions like “What time should I show up to the queue?”, “Can I get the queue early and save spots for my friends who will arrive later?”, “What do you do all day in the queue?” and the ever important “How do I get to the floor (inner- or outer-circle)?”

To add more clarity he even tosses in a bunch of real-world photographs and a couple of diagrams too. Here he illustrates how best to access the Inner Circle area, depending on the size and position of the two RedZones:


Sadly, Joe won’t be joining us in South Africa

Which really is a great pity because I know there’ll be loads of people who would have liked to have thanked him personally and shown him some true South African friendship once they’ve read his Guide. Even so, please do drop him a note in the comments on his blog and tell him we sent you.

In his absence, I did assure Joe that we would keep an eye out for two of his good friends and fellow U2 fans who will be in the country:

If you are spending time in the General Admission queue, you should meet my friends who will be there.  Jana Pinto (from Sao Paulo, Brazil) will be there, as will Cathal McCarron (from Derry, Ireland).  You can spot Cathal pretty easily.  He’s a tall, red-headed fellow wearing a black T-Shirt with "Me & U2" on it.  Cathal’s promoting his book about growing up with U2’s music in Ireland.

Now don’t let me down on this one: look out for Jana and Cathal and be sure to pass on Joe (and my!) regards.

That’s it Blablanians. Get reading. Get planning. Get queuing! Rock on!

A last word from Joe

I truly believe U2 are the Beatles of my time, and I do not regret seeing as many shows while I still can. One day, all of this will be gone, and I want to look back with the fondness and richness of memory. I look forward to sharing more experiences with you all — see you in the queue!

A personal note of gratitude to Joe for his unhesitating support for this post, and for giving me permission to take from his material so freely. Any and all errors in this post are mine alone, not his. Joe, I’m sorry that we won’t have the pleasure of your presence here in South Africa. Hopefully one day in the future we’ll meet in a U2 concert queue and I can extend my thanks personally. Until then – Thank you, you are a true legend!


  1. So all this means that its no use paying top price for best tickets you still won’t get best view of showe as cheapass ticket holders. I won’t bother buying high priced ti
    ckets anymore, clearly low tickets holders get the best. I wish should have known but hey its neva too late to learn new tricks.

  2. Michelle, when U2 announced this show in 2008 or 2009, they said that they want the die-hard fans to have the best time. Not the wealthiest. I think it is extremely noble for the band to make it possible for you to get up close with the cheapest tickets in the house, if you really wanted to. For people who are prepared to spend more cash, the Red Zone is pretty cool too, and you do get up close, with no hassle or queues. And a portion of those proceeds go to charity.

  3. Also, the Big Concerts Facebook page, there is now a notice saying they will facilitate queueing from 7AM on the day of the show. Not sure what the implications are for people who go camp the night before…

  4. Bloody hell mate, that is a lot of U2 shows! I saw them in Sydney last year – U2 I mean not Joe, although I see for his page that he was there. I landed up standing about midway down the GA area and off to the left somewhat. That’s the side Edge plays from, and the sound and view from there was pretty decent.

    It is a brilliant show and I reckon no matter where you land up watching it from you are going to be blown away by the spectacle!

    Having said that tho, if I’d known of Joe’s guide beforehand I would definitely have tried for Inner circle area. At least I know where to go next time…

    And Joe… What a brilliant shot of you with The Edge! It must have been a real thrill to meet him. And he even cracked a solid grin for you! Awesome!

  5. Damn boet, I am so excited I could shit myself, now all I need is a ticket…

  6. I really appreciate them giving GA tickets holders the opportunity to get access to the inner circle, however I would have preferred them sticking to the original plan of handing out the special inner circle bracelets the day before. It’s going to be a hell of a loooooooong day to start queing up from the break of dawn (or even the night before), if U2 are only performing at 21:30. I would hate to feel all tired and wasted by the time they get on stage. I confirmed with a lady from big concerts that once you enter the stadium at 07:00, you have to stay inside for the whole day. Wouldn’t it have been better to hand the inner circle access goodies out a day in advance, and then let everyone enter the stadium at 16:30? Anyway, I’m still a huge fan and will try my best to get into that special zone!

    • Hey there Chantel

      As Joe suggests in his Guide there are different ways in which U2 have managed the Inner Circle around the world. Sometimes it’s been through a lucky draw process, other times its’ been as you suggest with armbands issued before the concert day itself. But, for the vast majority of the 360 concerts the way it’s being done here is the method used.

      I do think there’s a little bit of confusion about it though. Specifically with the “you can enter the stadium from 7:00” bit. I think what they mean is that they will allow people to start lining up at the stadium gate in a designated Inner Circle queue from 07:00. No-one will actually get ‘into the stadium’ until 16:30 when the gates open. There’s way too much going on in the stadium before the concert to have a couple of thousand people floating around the place for hours on end.

      I left this comment on the Big Concerts page this morning, hoping for them to clarify things:

      You’re not going to be able to pitch up in the morning, get an armband and then disappear for the day to return an hour before the show and expect to get into the area.
      BC saying “you’ll be allowed to begin queuing at the designated gate for IC from 07:00” means just that – you can start queuing. It does not mean that IC armbands will be issued from 07:00.
      My understanding of the queue is that if you are amongst the first 2700 fans in the designated queue at 16:30 when the gates open, you get an armband for IC. You then go into the stadium at that time and stake out your space in the IC.
      The whole point of the queue is that those determined and dedicated enough are the ones who will get into the IC.

      As Joe points out, again in his Guide, if you need to leave the line for a short while, and check with those around you there generally isn’t a problem. It’s when people either stand by themselves in the line and then at the last moment try to get 20 of their friends into the line, or when people claim a “number” early on and then disappear for the day only to arrive back 10 minutes before the gates open and assume that the people who have been slogging it out the whole day will be happy when they try to get back into the line at their position.

      Personally, I think the way they are doing it is the fairest, and rewards those that deserve it – the die-hard fans who will forsake comfort for a chance to get front and centre with the band.

      • If we arrive at the stadium to queue from 7am, how will we know whether all 2700 armbands for inner circle are available when we get there… Will somebody be controlling this area from Big Concerts?

        We have bought our parking ticket so that we can get through to the stadium as they warn no parking ticket no access. Does anybody know where the assigned parking will be as they have said on the BC facebook website.

        Thx Bev

        • Yeah, it is going to be a tricky one to control definitely Beverly. Joe suggests in his Guide that he’s only ever seen the organisers handle some sort of queue order system once. In most of the other occasions it seems that it often falls to the fans at the head of the queue to implement some sort of basic system – either with numbers marked on wrists or in some cases with a written notepad list! Either way, I think that if you ask the people ahead of you in the line when you arrive, you should be able to get an idea of how many of the 2700 are ahead of you already.

          I strongly recommend that you (and anyone else contemplating trying for Inner Circle tickets) makes a point of reading points #5: The Morning of the Queue; #6: The Number System; and #7: Saving Spots in the Queue in Joe’s Guide here:

          To stand in line all day only to discover that you’re #2701 would upset me… Discovering that I am now #2701 because someone who had not been in the line all day like me decided to return to “his place” with 5 of his mates would trigger a lot more than just a little upset in me though!

  7. this info seems like it’s changing constantly! firstly coputicket say wristbadns the day before, then big concerts say you can expect to queue from the day before if you want inner circle (not quite the same thing), and then they say you can queue from 7am on the day of the show?!?
    so which is it, does anyone have any major insight? is anyone actually planning to camp overnight or at least try to?

  8. Cape Town will be my 30th U2 concert since 1983. I’ve seen all kinds of people in all kinds of queues in all kinds of countries, my own country having some of the worst queues you can find on the globe, I must admit. I’ll be happy to share my experience and assist with organising the Q. Numbering people and drawing a list with names so nobody can jump the queue, ….

    If anybody has a contact with venue security … it comes in so very handy if they work with us.Talk to them now, please!

  9. tina – def think some numbering will be in order, guess it’s down to the people who are there near the beginning of the line though. what time you plan on heading down (and where are you from with horrid queues?)

  10. I’m from Belgium and I’m afraid I must admit I’m used to being squased in U2 queues. Going abroad has thought me things can be different so when the 360 tour came to Belgium, I contacted the concert promotor … pretty much begged them to set up a system and promised we would help where we could. They know how things used to be, they had to open the doors early for the Vertigo show because pressure was getting too high and they feared injuries. So they were quite willing to listen when I approached them with the variety of systems used in differend countries and got organised.
    On the days of the show, we (fans) numbered people who arrived, listed their names and were up on our feet all day along with security to straighten out the queue, throw out queue jumpers and spread info. it worked extraordinary well and the security crew had learned a lot, looked forward to working with us for the second show so that was good :-). As stressed as I was about the queues, they turned out to be two very relaxed queues and that was amazing for everyone in it.

    What time I’ll get to the queue in Cape Town? I still don’t know. it depends on the athmospere I find when I arrive in Cape Town. This tour is amazing from the inner circle but its equally amazing outside of it, where you get the full view on that extraordinary stage and screen. I still haven’t decided where I want to stand, can’t seem to make up my mind, lol.
    in Rome, I got to the queue after 12 (noon) and still got in the inner circle easily. And the Roman queue was one of the fastest growing ones in Europe because so many diehard fans – early queuers – wanted to see the final european show.

    if you’re outside the inner circle, you always have full view on all band members and the full stage. if you’re in the inner circle, there’s times when you won’t have a clue where some of the band members are … you’ll have bridghes moving over your head (they stop and stand still a few times too and block your view on the stage – keep that in mind), the boys will be on the stage in front of you and next thing you know, they’re on the outter walkway behind you and you’ll be turning and moving trying to find them. I remember thinking ‘where the heck did everybody go?’ when all 4 of them were somewhere on the outter walkway and I couldn’t find any of ‘m. LOL

    I stood at the back of the field next to the sound system for a show and it was one of the best I’ve seen. it’s breathtaking! gosh, I look forward to it!!! 😀

  11. Sounds like you’ve had a good time! We ran a similar system in Boston which worked out pretty well, i was hoping the SA shows would be a bit more chilled though.
    I’m the same as you though – may go outer rail which has great unobstructed views, but may go inner if there are decent spots available.
    Really looking forward to it, just hate the queue stress!

  12. Awesome blog, it’s just like a game for me! It’s so infomative and usefull, thanks a lot! If you post more of this great stuff, I’ll visit your blog again!


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