Tuesday, 29 April 2008

1989 December - The First U2 Concert - Lovetown

By now I really wanted to see U2 live and was waiting for the band to announce the dates of their Lovetown Tour. When they did I was dismayed to discover there were no dates in the UK! I was very disappointed, and thought I would have to wait years until the next tour to see them play live. Then, I saw an advertisement in my local paper for a concert trip by bus to see U2 in Dortmund, Germany on 15th December. I jumped at the chance to see a Lovetown gig and immediately booked my place. I was travelling by myself but I wasn't fazed by that, Germany was a very familiar to me as my mother came from there and I'd often visited the country when I was younger.

On December the 14th I travelled to Newcastle to join the coach. I got it ok and so began a seemingly endless journey south. We stopped at York and Leeds to pick up other people, the coach was nearly full.

We arrived in a Dover at 1am, a storm was blowing and it was so severe that waves were crashing over the sea barriers onto the street! I was a bit worried when I saw this because I knew we wouldn't be able to set sail in a storm of this magnitude. We found out that no ferries had sailed since 8pm and none would go until at least 5am, and only then if the storm had abated.

There is nothing worse than sitting for four hours on a bus being buffeted by storm-force winds on a dark quayside in the middle of December. Most people took the opportunity to get some sleep, but I can never sleep anywhere except in my bed, so the night turned out to be long for me.

Thankfully, the storm blew itself out and at 5.30am we drove on board the ferry and set sail at 6am. The crossing was surprisingly smooth, no problems with French customs and by 7am we were on the autoroute heading for Dortmund. As we were so behind schedule due to the ferry delay to make up time we didn't stop for refreshments enroute. The journey was quite boring be it France, Belgium, Holland or Germany the landscape looked the same - flat. So far there had been a lot of tedium on this trip!

Our hotel was in Dusseldorf (about an hour's drive from the gig venue) and we arrived there at 2pm, it was a much nicer place than I expected, very modern and clean. It was good to freshen up, change my clothes and get something to eat! Though I had no sleep the previous night the anticipation of seeing U2 play live kept me wide awake.

I went out to explore the area as I always do when I arrive somewhere new. It was a commercial area so there wasn't much to see - one supermarket and lots of banks and businesses. I was soon back in my hotel counting the minutes until we left for the concert.

We left for the Westfalenhalle at 5pm for what should have been an hour-long journey with our representative guiding our driver. Although the rep. had been to the concert the night before she did not seem to be very confident at finding the venue. When I saw the big blue Bayer sign pass by for the second time I knew we were going in circles and not that close to Dortmund. People on the coach, were getting agitated. Around 7pm we passed a taxi rank and someone suggested getting a taxi to guide us to the venue - the rep. went with that (think she would have been lynched if she hadn't!). We were all worried that after travelling this long and far we were not going to get to the arena in time! So there we were, a coach load of British U2 fans following a taxi through the industrial cities of the Ruhr looking for U2!

By 7.30pm we were stuck in a horrendous traffic jam within sight of the Westfalenhalle. The driver told us where to look for the coach after the concert and then let us get off and we walked the last couple of hundred yards.

At the entrance to the venue was a huge crush of people who all seemed to be trying to get through one door, no one seemed to be organising things. It was a nasty experience, cans underfoot made walking difficult and being small I could not see where I was being pushed to by this seething mass. Once we were inside I was relieved to see the mass fan out and the crush abate, I hoped all this effort to see U2 was going to be worthwhile.

There was no hope of getting near the front and I thought I'd see nothing due to my lack of height. But it turned out that the back part of the floor area was made up of stepped platforms, so I stood near the back and could see really well. I breathed a sigh of relief and the excitement mounted - after all the delays I was in the venue and would see U2 live shortly!

I'd barely found my spot when B B King came on stage. I do not like his type of music and i must admit that I found his set quite forgettable, all I wante was U2!

They came on the stage at 9pm and I felt I was going to burst with excitement! They opened with Bullet the Blue Sky and it was stunning, Edge's guitar solo was amazing. All I Want is You was beautiful, the audience was very responsive and sang along swaying and holding up lighters and sparklers. The audience went ballistic when they played I Will Follow, jumping up and down manically. They played the haunting One Tree Hill, a song I've always loved, it was to be the only time I would hear it live. The opening notes of Bad rang out and I got goosebumps as I always do when that song is played. It brought tears to my eyes, the intensity of Bono's delivery of the song was breathtaking, his stage presence like nothing I'd ever seen before.

I had my first spiritual experience at a U2 concert that night. I am not a religious person and don't relate to U2's personal Chrisitian beliefs very strongly, but something happened that night. I felt close to everyone in that building, we were joined together in this uplifting experience. It transcended being just a music concert , I was taken out of myself - this music touched my very soul. I've experienced that many times since at U2 concerts and each time it takes my breath away!

Bono had been having problems with his voice during the tour and at times that was clear at this gig. He encouraged the audience to sing with him and boy did they! It was a very enthusiastic and responsive crowd and they really helped Bono out that night. It turned out that Bono could not finish the show the following night because of his voice problems and then had to cancel a few shows - we were so lucky to get a full show.

BB King and his band joined U2 for a few songs towards the end including When Love Comes to Town and Love Rescue Me. I would have preferred less of B B really, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it.

40 closed the night, it was beautiful, but I felt sad as I knew the show was coming to the end. Most bands finish shows with high tempo hits, but not U2, they say goodbye in a low key but moving way - the music slowly winds down as they leave the stage one by one. Tears stung my eyes as I watched them walk off stage - Bono, Edge, Adam and finally Larry - and that was it, the end of my first U2 live experience.

I had worried that, after the build up, I might be disappointed in the band live, that they might not live up to my expectations. But they had lived up to my expectations and more, the concert had been a roller coaster of emotions, a spiritual experience, full of sheer joy and also fun. Now, looking back there have been better gigs and tours, but that first one is always special.

On the coach back to the hotel everyone was buzzing and talking about the gig. We'd had a bit of a nightmare just getting there, but that was all forgotten now. I saw the big blue Bayer sign shining in the night once more and smiled, the things you go through for U2! I kind of knew then that this was only the beginning......

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