U2 and Me

Yesterday I was interviewed by Stuart Bailie from BBC Radio’s Across The Line about U2 gigs I had seen. ATL celebrates its 30th birthday soon and there are several features looking back over those 30 years.

The first U2 gig I was at was not their first in Belfast. They had played the Art College before. I was still a DJ in Downtown Radio where I was playing their music and music from other young and emerging bands.

These are my notes for the interview.

23 January 1981 – McMordie Hall (now Mandella Hall)

The Boy album had been released in October 1980 and was getting a lot of airplay on more “progressive” radio programmes like my own Nothin’ Better on Downtown Radio.
U2 had won just about every category they were qualified for in the Hot Press annual poll a few weeks before; Best Band, Best Album, Best … If I remember correctly they were winners in 10 or 12 categories.

This was a TV recording for BBC’s Something Else  – a “Youf” programme, precursor to Network 7, The Tube etc.

Stiff Little Fingers were to be on the next night. At that time SLF were a lot bigger than U2 in general and particularly in Belfast.

I was introducing U2

It was the days of “Gobbing” and in an out-take I was to see years later, a beautifully aimed gob was caught in the stage lights as it was launched from the audience and arced through the air before colliding with my left shoulder.

There was much more gobbing and complaints from Bono.

It did subside.

20 December 1982 – Maysfield Leisure Centre
Maysfield was a great place for concerts. I can’’t remember how many I saw there – Kid Creole, Ultravox, (Black Crows or is that my imagination?)
A couple of months before the release of War. As usual Bono climbing over the speakers
White flag stuff. Played Sunday Bloody Sunday – “This is not a rebel song” “If Belfast doesn’t like it we won’t play it again.” I was pretty far back not in the main crowd. I did see some bad tempered walk outs before the song began. There was a fair amount of eye rolling – after the concert – about the white flags.

Just after the release of War, I say them again at the Tyne Tees Television studios in Newcastle playing The Tube live.

8 March 1987 – Balmoral TV Studios
BBC used to have a TV studio in the grounds of the Kings Hall normally used for the Agricultural Show. This was another TV recording for BBC – The Old Grey Whistle Test. It was co-produced by the new Youth Programmes Unit just after The Bottom Line was launched. I was working in the Youth Unit and had been told that there was a band playing later in the week and it was very hush-hush. I was to interview them afterwards.

This was to be the first performance of tracks from the Joshua Tree album a few days before release. Some tracks were already being played on Radio 1. Small “secret gig” audience. You can find some very poor recordings on YouTube. This was the album to change everything for the band, to transport them from big in Ireland and the UK – even Europe to Global.
There was a fantastic atmosphere – but the opening act almost blew away U2. It was Sinead O’Connor and to be fair, her performance. This would have been her first TV – probably first time in Blefast. Lion and Cobra was to be released more than 6 months later.

26 August 1997 – Botanic Gardens
And this is where we hand over to the next generation – the first gig I brought my 12 year old son Adam to. The biggest U2 concert I had been to – and the first where I was not working or behind the stage hanging out.
From the BBC Canteen, some of us had been watching the erection of the yellow arch that was part of the stage presentation.
There was a Scottish DJ Howie B playing records to start  with – which was really quite nice – Ash were support.
It was big, loud, and perfectly enjoyable – but it was the bigness that was memorable.

So from a fairly intimate gig in Queen’s University and an interview with two 22 year olds in the Europa Hotel – Bono in his fake fur jacket and Edge in his pre hat wearing days – to the massive stadium band in 16 years.

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