Sunday, 13 July 2008

1993 August - Leeds - What a Show, What a Night, What a Zooropa!

The evening of August 13th saw Jane, Dianne, Bee and Caroline and myself enjoying a lovely meal at an Italian restaurant in Leeds and looking forward to the gig the following night. We were having a good laugh, well, all except poor Caroline who unfortunately didn't seem to have a sense of humour so everything went over her head.....

We all stayed overnight at Jane's place and next day headed for Roundhay Park where the U2 gig was being held. The car was parked at Jane's boss's house that was supposed to be near the park. I wrote supposed because it was certainly a lot longer walk than I thought it would be! We walked along a busy road, through woods, down a country lane, along muddy paths, through a golf course, more woods, past a small lake, up a big hill and then from the crest of the hill the natural amphitheatre of Roundhay Park was spread out before us.

The weather was sunny once more (we were so lucky on this tour with the weather) and we had something to eat and then just enjoyed relaxing in the sunshine. At 5pm Jane and I left the others as we had photo and hospitality passes and tickets to pick up, as Jane also produced a fanzine, Prattle and Fun, these were her passes/tickets from Propaganda. We both used the one photopass we each had here.

We had no idea where to go to get these and with Roundhay being such a huge venue we gave ourselves plenty of time to find the place handing them out. After a long walk up and down hills we found the tent, but only the tickets and hospitality passes were there. A very snotty woman snapped at us that the photopasses would not be there until 7pm. We had an hour and a half to kill so we just waited nearby, and had a snack and drink. At 6.30pm we noticed a plane come down rather low and circle above a couple of times, we wondered if that was U2 arriving, we later found out it was.

7pm we were back to the tent and this time a very pleasant girl called Sorcha had our passes and told us go and wait at the backstage entrance and she would come along and show everyone where to go. It was quite a walk there but we did it and waited. But by 7.50pm no other photographers had arrived and we were starting to get worried. We asked someone with a swinging laminate and walkie talkie if we were in the right place. He was really lovely and helpful and said he'd find out. Sure enough he was soon back and said that the photographers were meeting up the hill and around the corner. Big panic!!! Having these photopasses meant so much to us and now there was a chance that we would miss out.

We literally ran up the steep hill and, not being the fittest of people, nearly killing ourselves in the process. We reached the top gasping for breath looking desperately for people with big professional cameras. We couldn't see any, we walked on a little way and there they were, a small group of photographers - we could have kissed them! We joined them, still breathless and almost hysterical with relief and laughter, the "proper" photographers must have thought we were crazy.

At 8.20pm Sorcha came along and lead everyone down the hill back to the entrance we had been waiting at earlier! She walked very fast and as it was quite a steep hill we only just kept our footing. I must admit it was such a thrill to be let into the backstage area - and we did literally walk right through it as it was all set out behind the stage. It was a mix of marquees, portacabins, caravans, pretty basic and temporary looking, which of course it was. We didn't get much time to look around as it took all our time to keep up with Sorcha who was continuing to march us to our destination. I did think though that somewhere is this temporary village U2 were getting ready for their show.

We came right round right side of the stage and we saw lovely Jerry Mele standing there. Then as we came round into the public area I was literally hit by the power of a crowd of 85,000 people. Previously I'd only ever been within that mass of people and that was great, but to have those people there in front of you was mind-blowing. The physical energy generated by that took my breath away, I had never experienced anything like it and it gave me a little insight into how it must feel for the band.

We were led right in front of the stage and there were two platforms one on the left and one on the right that was for the photographers. We went to the left hand one, it was very nigh and we wondered how we would get up there. Regine Mowlett, U2's main PR person, was there, she was really lovely showed us a bar hidden under cloth that we could stand on to help us get up the onto the platform. It was still a struggle but we clambered up albeit in a rather ungainly fashion!

Jane and I looked at each other, hugged and jumped up and down - we were so excited we thought we'd burst! To be in that position, right at the front of the stage, was our idea of heaven. Up close though the stage was quite tatty, you don't notice that further away, it's amazing what a bit of distance and good lighting can do! I turned around looked out at the vast crowd and took a photo, I had to have a souvenir of of that scene.

Television, the Drug of the Nation played and we knew this was it, the last song before U2 came on. We felt a bit nervous now. Suddenly Edge, Adam and Larry ran on and Bono rose up on the platform high above us, and Zooropa Leeds was go! Zooropa rocked, Jane and I were dancing away and sometimes forgot to take photographs as we were enjoying ourselves so much being close to the band! At one point when Bono passed us he looked right at us and gave a little wave, that was so sweet. Next was The Fly which was brilliant, when you are that close you can see all the physical effort Bono puts into it, within a few minutes sweat was literally pouring off him. Even we wilted a little under the heat of the stage lights, I never realised how hot they were.

The nerves I had felt were now long gone. But during at one point Bono stood right in front of me looking down at me, I got flustered and ended up with a photo of his crotch rather than his upper torso!!!

During Even better Than the Real Thing Bono really played to the photographers. He lay down on the stage right in front of us, crept along the stage towards Jane and kissed her! I thought he would do that, he had a soft spot for Jane, when he was so close, a foot away, I had to resist the urge to touch him! Afterwards we jumped up and down with glee, I noticed Edge smiling at us, I suppose or reactions were a little different from those of the professional photographers. Our friends later told us that we had featured on the big screens a few times during the photoshoot, of course we had been oblivious to that at the time.

Then that was it, our three song photoshoot was over all too soon. Someone helped us down from the platform and Regine and Sorcha were there to escort us and the other photographers out through the backstage area. Jane and I didn't want to go out and all the way round to get into the venue with our tickets and so miss quite a few songs. I asked Regine if we could go back to watch the show and flashed my ticket (the other photographers weren't bothered about staying they were just doing their job). She glanced at my little non-professional camera and said, "Of course, just go back the way we came and into the audience". We said thanks and headed back like a shot!

We got a really good spot at the front on the left side of the stage and had only missed part of Mysterious Ways. During Until the End of the World Bono fell backwards heavily on the catwalk. He soon sprung up again probably buoyed by the adrenalin, he'd probably feel it the next day.

The set followed the usual pattern and the band were in good from, also for an open air venue, it also had good acoustics. At one point Bono said Roundhay Park made Wembley look like a "bowling green" (it certainly did!) and that this gig was the biggest live show they had done for a paying audience. There was a really good vibe, like a huge party, and all too soon it was over -but the party wasn't over for Jane and me, we still had the after-show to go to!

We went out of the venue and ploughed through the crowds towards the backstage entrance. We showed our passes and were allowed in. There was no one there to show us where to go so we just wandered around, obviously the band was gone (Roundhay is notorious for horrendous traffic jams so I don't blame them for doing a runner) otherwise I don't think we would have been able to wander about so freely. Then we saw a large hospitality tent and went in. From the outside it looked ordinary but inside it had "walls" like Austrian blinds and even a chandelier! Down the middle were tables laden with various alcohol, nuts, crisps, popcorn and other nibble. Much better than Glasgow where there was nothing to eat and a limit of two drinks each. We met up with friends Rosie, Martin and Helen there and had a really good time, there was a great atmosphere in there.

We hung back so we were almost the last to leave so we could take a few souvenirs to remember this very special evening by, we had drunk quite a lot of wine and had got to the silly stage by now . Jane and I decided we'd play the superstars on our way out of the backstage entrance saying, "No autographs tonight" as a joke to our friends who we knew would be out there waiting. Unfortunately that didn't work because they were waiting at another entrance!

Writing this now 15 years later I get a warm feeling and the memories have flooded back (aided by my trusty journal!) - all the excitement and fun of that night, a great show, good friends to share it with. I think it probably was the best U2 night I've had at a gig over all the years. One of MacPhisto's most popular sayings describes the night well. "What a Show, What a Night, What a Zooropa!"

4 comments:

DebbiV said...

Stop trying to pretend that your photo of Bono's crotch was an accident!!! LOL

Northern Star said...

LOL! I knew you would pick up on that!

Davie LO said...

I was there! I was there!! Christ, that was a long time ago....

Dave said...

I was there - we were up on the hill to the right of the stage. I remember that plane circling and never knew til today that U2 were on it. I could be wrong but I'm sure Marxxman were playing at the time. F*ck Columbus, indeed!