I’ve been a U2 fan since I first heard Edge’s frenetic guitar lick that kicked off “I Will Follow.” Up until that time, I was a classic rock kid growing up on the tasty album rock my uncles had served up for me, but this was something fresh… and new… and special. Adam Clayton’s bass pacing the way, thunderous drums from Larry Mullen, and that passionate Irish voice of Bono’s. Damn near genius.
U2 – The Early Years
The song was the first track off of their wonderful 1980 offering, Boy. Now, 35 years later, that album remains one of the greatest, most complete debut albums ever. But, U2 followed that with October, which turned out to be their weakest album. I wasn’t sure what to make of these Irish lads. Were they a one album wonder, like so many other bands of the era?
Those fears were quelled as soon as I had my first listen to War. Their third album was their first foray into more mature topics, and the tracks were fantastic, led off by “Sunday, Bloody, Sunday,” a song about the Easter Uprising massacre during Ireland’s “Troubles.” The murders on Bloody Sunday took place at Croke Park in Dublin, which is now the country’s largest concert venue. For a passionate young man of Irish Catholic descent, the song was music to my ears, and to my proud Irish heart. The Irish fight for freedom meant a lot to me, and Bloody Sunday was an integral event.
I still hadn’t had a chance to catch them live, but that all changed on Spring Break, when they came through Philly on their The Unforgettable Fire Tour. One of my brother’s friends called with an extra ticket and I eagerly snatched it up. By then U2 had a good reputation, but they were just about to cement their legend status.
We sat in the very last row of the dump that was the Spectrum, about as far from the stage as possible. And, we witnessed the best concert of my life. The band was amazing, and Bono’s charisma and passion were Springsteenesque. I was hooked. In the years that followed, I saw them several other times, and always left impressed and thoroughly satiated. Yet, I wondered if I’d ever experience a U2 concert moment as impactful as that first one in the Spring of 1985.
Croke Park 2017
A few months ago, as my wife and I prepared for our first trip to Ireland, we noticed that U2 was playing there in late July, at Croke Park, the site of the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1920. We tweaked our itinerary and made sure we were in Dublin the night of the show.
Everything was working out great, except for one missing item – tickets! We had every possible connection working on scoring us two seats to the long sold out event – our distant relatives, our pastor, my sparse rock music connections and friends everywhere.
A few weeks later, we had a possibility. Our friend’s parents’ business associate’s soccer club was auctioning off two tickets in Ireland. We went all in, and bid generously, and we had a chance, thanks to a helping hand from a kind person in Ireland we had never met. A huge thanks to the Butters, the Butters and the Greaneys!
Two weeks later we received the news. Our bid had won the tickets. We were headed to Dublin to see U2 play a cozy hometown show with 80,000 neighbors, in a historic location.
Day of Show
We had just wrapped up a five-day driving tour of Southern Ireland touring the Emerald Isle’s stunning scenery, and finally it was the day of the show. Dublin was abuzz and there were signs of the show everywhere.
Most of the locals were excited to see the band back in town, and we chatted with more than a few bummed folks who were unable to score their own tickets. But, there were several people who were over U2, feeling that they sold out years ago, and lost their rebel passion in the 80’s. They weren’t raining on our parade, though.
An hour before showtime, and we were trekking through the city towards the historic stadium which stood high on a Dublin overlook. Croke Park has no parking around it… none. So, as we strolled up the hill, we were surrounded by 80,000 other fans doing the same thing. It was a cool, if not exhausting, experience. U2 souvenirs for sale everywhere, pubs overflowing with fans, and just a generally warm and welcoming vibe the entire journey. And the closer we got, the thicker the rabid crowd became.
As we worked our way to the Hogan Stand, and approached the stadium, I realized this was really happening. An event in the works for 35+ years: my favorite band, in their hometown, playing in a venue that meant a lot to my Irish heritage.
I had goosebumps as I walked through the gate.
Check back tomorrow for my concert coverage.
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