Monday, 30 June 2008

1993 July - The Zooropa Album

The Zooropa album was different from other U2 albums. First it came out a mere 20 months after Achtung Baby instead of the usual four years U2 have between albums. The band had songs left over from Achtung Baby and were going home from Zooropa gigs in Europe and working on the album in the early hours. What resulted is an unusual album, that had some wonderful and some throwaway songs on it.

Right from the first listen for me Stay stood out and that song is still a favourite of mine. I also liked the quirky Lemon with some amazing falsetto singing from Bono. Zooropa was very much of the time with lyrics that included lines from current advertisements everyone would recognise. Other songs such as Some Days Are Better Than Others, Baby Face and Numb were, for me, instantly forgettable. Zooropa was no Achtung Baby but it was an interesting experiment, quite raw in places, and a brave album to release.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

1993 June - Cologne, Danger and Old Devils of Zooropa!

In full U2 tour madness we - Jane, Sharon and me - booked another trip to see the band abroad, this time it was in Cologne, Germany. This time there was a bit of luxury - we had an overnight stay before the concert so it wasn't as tiring a trip as Rotterdam had been.

Unfortunately behind us on the coach was a bunch of lager louts who got drunk during the journey. It was hellish and considering there was supposed to be no drinking on the coach not on! If we complained we just got a load of abuse, not a good situation.

When we arrived at our hotel in Cologne we were put on the same floor as the lads. We spoke with the driver and asked if we could be on another floor because they had been abusive and we knew they'd bother us all night. We were moved to the floor below and good job we were. We heard from other people that the lads had kept people on their floor awake by playing music loudly, and running up and down the corridors knocking on doors all night. They managed to disturb the whole hotel at 2am by setting off the fire alarm too. Typical lager louts who give the British a bad name abroad. They got a severe warning from our driver and were better behaved afterwards.

Anyway, our room was nice and the hotel had a nice bar so we went in there and had a few drinks and had a lovely evening.

Next morning we went into the centre of Cologne for a few hours, did some shopping and looked at the awe inspiring cathedral there, those spires really did seem to be reaching up into heaven, it is a beautiful building. I felt a link with the city too as I have ancestors from there, so it was perhaps more special for me than the others.

We went back to the coach and headed for the Meungersdorfer Stadium where the gig was being held. Almost the first people we saw there were our friends Karen and Jackie - it's a small world. There were no instructions on the tickets what entrance to go to and no staff around to ask so we just joined a mass of people waiting to get in, no one queues in Germany!

The gates opened at 4pm and everyone just went crazy and ran and pushed and jostled. A barrier gave way and I tripped over it's foot and fell to the ground. Jane nearly fell too but was able to grab a fence nearby to stop her falling. I lay on the ground absolutely terrified, I could not get up because people were jumping over me! I was just waiting for people to start falling on top of me and crush me to death! I could hear Sharon Screaming, "Stop, stop" at the top of her voice. Then I heard an man shouting, "Vorsicht!" (caution, careful). Then I felt strong arms lifting me up. and relief swept over me, two young men had lifted me up. They were very sweet and caring and made sure I was ok before leaving. I really don't know how that situation would have turned out had it not been for them.

By now the worst rush was over and we tried to get ourselves together, we were very shaken. Sharon was ok, but Jane had a nasty gash on her leg from the fence she'd hung onto. I had a couple of cuts to my leg and my ankle and wrist were sore, bruises were already appearing on my leg. We went to the toilets to sort ourselves out before heading to our seats.

We had good seats on the right lower balcony near the front. Support was Die Toten Hosen and Stereo MCs, neither of which I enjoyed (for me the support bands on this tour were dreadful). U2 were really on form that night, lots of energy and fun. During Sunday Bloody Sunday Bono got an Irish flag from the crowd and tore off the green and orange parts discarded them and hung the white part over the microphone. Bono sang a lovely version of Bob Marley's Redemption Song which he dedicated to the weak.

Mr MacPhisto was there again in the encore. After Desire MacPhisto said he was going to ring, "Chancellor Mr Kohl," we thought he was going to get through he was treated very cordially, but no he didn't get to the Chancellor. The audience loved it.

As Ultraviolet began Bono took off the horns and physically shook Mr MacPhisto out of his body and there was Bono again to sing With or Without You. It was a very moving performance sung entirely into the boom camera, his face expressive, pleading on the huge screens. To me it felt like he was singing literally to the media and the cameras, fame, adulation, fans "Can't live with or without you." Underneath all that there is a human being, and watching the performance on those screens he seemed very vulnerable. One of the things I've always so admired about Bono is his willingness to be so open and bear his soul to us, it's so very brave.

After the show we got back to our coach and immediately headed off home. My ankle and leg, which I'd not felt during the show, really hurt. By time I got home my entire left leg was bruised and I needed two days off work! The things you go through for U2!

Saturday, 28 June 2008

1993 May - Here We Go Again, Zooropa Rotterdam

Jane and I had decided that we'd like to see the opening show of the European leg of the Zooropa Tour so we booked our places on another of those hectic travel overnight there - see gig - travel overnight back trips. I joined the coach at Manchester, our friends Karen and Jackie were also on the trip.

After hours and hours of travelling we arrived in a very warm and sunny Rotterdam and we sat near the Feyenoord Stadium and enjoyed the good weather for a while. We saw all the band arrive. There were lots of fans around and Bono got out a long way from us to do a short meet and greet before getting back in the car. He was waving out of the car and enthusiastically blowing kisses as he passed us, he is such a sweetheart at times!

We listened to the soundcheck as we lay in the sun, it sounded fantastic and our excitement mounted. Eventually the gates opened and we had to climb loads of steps to get to our seats. They weren't very good, right at the top of the stadium, but at least we were near the front of that level. It was cooler up there too which was good, i easily wilt in heat.

The stage was huge, there were three massive screens, four smaller ones and lots of TVs and many tall masts. Just before the support band came on the weather suddenly changed and a storm swept in with a vengeance! It suddenly got cold, fork and sheet lightning flashed all around us and then monsoon-like rain fell. And boy how it fell, everyone rushed from their seats and sheltered in the corridors and stairwells until it stopped.

We ventured back to our seat and the support band, The Utah Saints, came on, I didn't enjoy their set at all and was glad when they were finished! Then it was just a matter of waiting for U2 to come on. After what seemed like an eternity lights on the tall masts starting coming on and blinking, the screens and TVs started flickering and images appeared on then, Beethoven's 9th Symphony boomed out across the stadium - here goes Zooropa!

Eventually Bono's silhouette appeared on one of the screens, twitching and kicking out in time to the opening industrial burst of Zoo Station and then the man himself rose up on a platform and the whole band appeared and went straight into the full song, Even Better Than the Real Thing followed. I must admit the first two songs were a bit ragged, Bono struggled with his voice, but he soon got going and his voice just seemed to get better and better as the show went on. the audience was very enthusiastic and jumping up and down - this caused the tier we were on to actually move which was a bit disconcerting!

The highlight for me was the very first appearance of another of Bono's alter ego, Mr MacPhisto. He appeared at the first encore, and almost just as he appeared the storm returned worse than ever. So there was Mr MacPhisto, dressed in a sparkling gold suit, wearing huge platform shoes, white face, and wearing red horns on his head being introduced to the audience whilst all around fork lightning was flashing and thunder rumbling. Quite an entry for the old devil!

Mac Phisto was a wonderful character, sleazy, pompous, funny, sad, a bit mad, all at the same time. Bono played the part brilliantly, he just seemed to be this washed out old man, his whole persona was different. MacPhisto intoned through Desire and then after that song talked to the crowd. He used a posh British accent for MacPhisto and talked slowly and deliberately, it fitted the character perfectly. He talked about the Eurovision Song Contest and recited the inane lyrics of the 1972 Dutch winner of the contest Ding a Dong as if he was reciting Shakespeare, it was hilarious.

Then he showed of his huge platform shoes saying, "Look what you've done to me, I used to be five feet eight and now look at me, I'm gigantic," waving a leg in the air to show off the shoes. Then the band went into Ultraviolet followed by With or Without You. There was a kind of pathos about them and in With or Without You Bono sang into the camera and smeared the white make up on his face and gradually became himself again, very, very moving, like he was removing the mask of the character and bearing his own soul to us. Wonderful.

Then that was it, the end of our first Zooropa show. We tumbled out of the stadium amongst the thousands, and tramped through the mud in the cold night to our bus. But the crush of people, mud and cold didn't matter, we were still high on the adrenalin from the gig and the journey home seemed to fly by!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

1993 April - Edge's Crashed Car!

Jane and I went over to Dublin once more in April. We met up with our friends Debbi and Jackie in Docker's, they had been in Dublin for the previous week and were going home shortly. They told us that U2 were at The Factory recording. I had no idea where The Factory was but Jane had been there a few years earlier, it isn't that far from Windmill Lane.

We decided to check it out a few days later. We found a few other fans hanging around there including a couple young Irishmen called Declan and Paddy, who were good company and helped pass the time chatting away. U2 were indeed working there on their next album (which was to be Zooropa) and were very busy and we only caught fleeting glimpses of them.

But the most memorable thing that happened at The Factory involved Edge and it wasn't a meeting! We were waiting outside and saw Edge's car come down Barrow Street, he smiled at us and waved and started turning into The Factory's car park - and right into the path of another car! The other car breaked, it's wheels screeched on the tarmac, but he couldn't stop in time and there was the inevitable collision with the sound of breaking glass. All you could hear from Jane and me and the other fans assembled there was a united sharp intake of breath as we heard the crunch - then silence.

Both Edge and the other driver just sat for a few seconds, then Edge got out of his car and went over to the other driver. The other driver was quite upset and distraught at first but Edge was very calm and soon the other man relaxed more, he probably was just shocked. Neither car had been going very fast so no one were physically hurt. Our small group of fans stood watching all this in silence, worried Edge was going to be angry with us because we had been the distraction that caused the crash.

At this point two members of U2's staff came out and dealt with situation and Edge walked away towards the car park. As he passed us he just shrugged and smiled. We were relieved that he wasn't annoyed at us! Good to see he was philosophical about it. Mind you it must be nice to have other people around to sort out situations such as this for you as he has.

So, one of our claims to fame is that while in Dublin we made The Edge crash his car! That's a hard one to beat!

1992 December - Friends, A Hothouse Flower, Meeting a Rockstar in the Street

After Zoo TV life soon got back to normal. I got together with a lot of my new U2 friends and with some I found I had a lot more in common than just U2 and people such as Jane, Debbi and Dianne became close friends. Others drifted away, including Jeanette who found God and left U2 and me behind. Achtung Baby was a time when a lot of Joshua Tree era fans lost their interest in U2, it was such a radical move away from their old sound that it wasn't for everyone. My very first U2 friend, Pat in the US was one of these but we have remained in contact to this day.

Jane, Bee and Kelly and I had another holiday in Dublin in December. This time we decided to rent a house and we found a lovely three bedroom terrace house in Dun Laoghaire, it had plenty of room for us and was very homely It was owned by Ken and Elizabeth who lived next door. Lovely people, who were very welcoming and over the years they too have become good friends, and though they sold the rental house years ago, I still go to see them whenever we go over to Dublin.

We did all the usual things in Dublin, lots of nice meals including one in Dillons a lovely restaurant owned by Bono's brother Norman. We'd seen a session at the Harcourt Hotel advertised which included Liam O'Maonlai from the Hothouse Flowers in the line up. We were all fans of traditional Irish music and Kelly was a big fan of Liam's so we decided to go along. We got seats right at the front, and soon the place was full and the session started.

The line up was Liam O'Maonlai, Donal Lunny, Paddy Glackin and Nollaig Casey. And so began a wonderful evening of great music and fun. They all were exceptional musicians and you could tell they loved every moment of their performance. Liam sang a few songs in Irish, they were beautiful and haunting and you didn't really need to understand Irish to feel what they were about. All in all it was a brilliant evening.

Another evening we decided to check out U2's newly opened Garage Bar. How can I describe the place? Well, there was sawdust on the floor, the seating was old and often ripped bus seats, the tables were bits of metal, the bar was made of corrugated red plastic, and there were bits of plaster hanging from the ceiling. It probably cost a fortune to get some hot person to design the place! But it definitely wasn't our type of bar and we didn't stay long. And as it turned out the Garage Bar didn't last long either, I'm not surprised!

We then decided to go into the nearby Clarence Hotel that Bono, Edge and others had just bought. We went in the front entrance and it felt as if we'd stepped back into the 1950's! It was very quaint and old fashioned and there was a tea dance going on in what was later to become the Tea Room Restaurant. It felt like a time capsule. So we didn't stay there long either!

Later in the week we went to Principle Management to see if we could meet any of the band, we had absolutely no idea if they were in town. It was very cold and despite many layers of clothing I was shivering. But after only about 15 minutes Bono and Edge arrived, they went straight into the office - Bono giving us a little wave before he did so.

Shortly afterwards Bono and Edge left again with two men we did not recognise. One of these men opened the window and said to us, "We'll be back." Beside him was Bono who gave us the thumbs up. Naturally we decided to hang on.

While we were waiting a huge lorry stopped in the middle of the road and the driver shouted out to us that Bono and Edge were being interviewed just around the corner. We thanked him but just stayed put as it was clear they would be coming back.

And it wasn't long before they came back and both Bono and Edge came over to us right away. Bono didn't have his Fly shades on and it was lovely to see his blue eyes once more. He looked quite tired and I noticed a lot of grey in his stubble. He said that they didn't have much time and if we wanted anything signed they'd be happy to do that. Bono recognised Jane and said,

"You were here last November weren't you?"

For once Jane was lost for words, we were both amazed that he'd remembered that! He kept saying, "You were, you were" to Jane who still didn't answer, I eventually said, "Yes we were," and Bono nodded with a 'I was right' look on his face.

Edge asked what we were doing here at this time of year and Jane, in full flow once more, said that we were on holiday and we couldn't come earlier as we had been following a certain band who had been on tour earlier in the year. Both Edge and Bono smiled at that.

I then asked if Bono would sign a photo of the band at Sellafield that I'd got from my local paper, he immediately laughed and showed it to Edge and said, "We should have had this with us at the interview as an example of how four people can dress up like complete dickheads!" He then signed it and passed it on to Edge who also signed it. at other meetings I managed to get all four of the bands' autographs on the photo and I've uploaded it at the end of this article - they do look like dickheads! Edge was very sweet, he had such gentle eyes and I loved the little bit of shyness he has.

Paul McGuinness arrived at this point and Bono went over to him, he said something about going to a Guggi exhibition to him before coming back over to us. Some passing lads now stopped and got autographs and then both Bono and Edge left heading for the city. We did hang on a little longer to see if Adam was around for Jane, but there was no sign of him so we left and headed into the city.

As it was December though it was only about 5pm it was dark and very cold and the icy wind roared down the quays. We put our hoods up, put our gloves on and wrapped our scarves round and round our necks to try and keep the biting wind out. I looked like a gnome with my pointy hood and Jane looked like she had on a neck brace as her scarf was wrapped round so many times! But we didn't care what we looked like as long as we were warm.

As we walked along I looked up ahead and saw a man approaching wearing what looked like a sheepskin coat very like Bono's. I thought that it couldn't possibly be him. Where we were on the quays wasn't very brightly lit so I looked and looked at this approaching person before realising it certainly was Bono!

"It's Bono!" I said to Jane


"It's Bono coming down the road!"

She too was amazed and we agreed we would only stop if he did. We were also aware of how ridiculous we looked all wrapped up against the elements but we couldn't do anything about that now! In contrast Bono's sheepskin coat was open, flapping in the wind and his shirt open well down his chest, does he not feel the cold??

As he got closer he recognised us and smiled (maybe my gnome look caused that!) and he stopped just in front of us and said, "Hi."

"Hello again," Jane said, "We'll have to stop meeting like this!"

Bono laughed and asked where we were going. We said we were off to have a nice hot drink.

"It's just closed," he said, probably meaning the nearby City Arts Centre, " but there are lots of nice coffee shops in Temple Bar where I've just been."

As we talked people were passing us and recognised Bono but though they stared no one stopped. We said we were off to Bewley's and with an "Enjoy yourselves," and a little touch on my shoulder off he went walking down the road towards Principle Management. We could hardly believe we'd bumped into Bono in the street and that he'd stopped to talk! It could only happen in Dublin. As we headed towards Bewley's for some reason we didn't feel the cold anymore!

(Cumberland News)

Saturday, 21 June 2008

1992 June - Fuck BNFL Bozo

Jane and I had a welcome day of rest after the Glasgow Zoo TV gig. The next day was 20th June, the day that there was supposed to be a protest at the Sellafield nuclear station near Seascale in south Cumbria and U2 were strongly rumoured to be taking part. An injunction had been obtained by British Nuclear Fuel Limited to prevent the protest. I had rung an anti-nuclear group asking whether the protest was still going ahead and though they did not directly say so I got the impression it was. So we decided to go down to Sellafield!

We had the local radio on as I drove and at 9am there was a report from Sellafield saying there was a protest happening on the beach and U2 were there! I pressed the accelerator and we motored on. But Sellafield is only reached by fairly minor roads and some were blocked to prevent possible protesters getting through, so it took ages to get there. By time we arrived U2 and most of the protesters were gone, only a few people were left on the beach and many others were packing away things in the car park.

Apparently U2 had arrived on the Greenpeace ship Solo which they had boarded in Workington, a town a few miles up the Cumbrian coast. They had landed at Sellafield very early in the morning when the tide was well out and they walked on the Crown land of the foreshore with other protesters. Someone worked out that BNFL did not own the foreshore, it was Crown property, and citizens are allowed to walk on it. It was a very clever way to stage the protest and not break the injunction.

We were disappointed to miss the band, but we were aware it was unlikely we'd get to see them anyway. We were very proud that they had come despite it, "getting messy" (to quote Bono),and by doing so they had given this event valuable publicity.

It was a lovely warm and sunny day so we went down onto the beach. It is actually a very beautiful long, sandy beach surrounded by lovely countryside, The cliffs of St Bee's Head to the north and the Lake District mountains to the rear and south. Such a shame about the huge nuclear station looming menacingly nearby. We noticed that there were people by the fence of Sellafield watching us with binoculars! Rather scary.

I felt that Bono could not have been there and without leaving his mark, we followed the footprints of the protesters in the sand and soon came to some sand graffiti of a no entry sign and FUCK BNFL BOZO written in large capital letters in the sand. That must have been Bono's work!

When we got back to my place later in the day U2 at Sellafield was headline news in the local paper, complete with photos of the band in white coveralls in semaphore poses! They looked ridiculous, but their point was made all the same. It was very special to me personally that they highlighted what was happening at Sellafield, that place is a bit too close to my home for comfort.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

1992 June - Glasgow the Last of Zoo TV

Jane and I left Sheffield at 5am to catch the train to my hometown in Cumbria. We arrived at my apartment at 8.30am and had a meal and a rest before heading off in my car to Glasgow a couple of hours later. Talk of rushing about, I couldn't be bothered or manage trips like that now, but I was 16 years younger then!

I'd never been to the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre before but it was very easy to find and we soon had the car parked and walked the short distance to the venue. Again the weather was lovely so we sat in the sunshine to wait for the band arriving. We saw Larry, Adam and Edge arrive in Mercedes cars but none came over to the fans. Shortly afterwards another Mercedes arrived with a dark haired man wearing sunglasses in it and we thought at first glance that it was Bono so we waved, the person inside ignored us with an icy stare and set face - we realised we'd waved at Phil Joanou! Talk of feeling stupid.

Not long afterwards the real Bono arrived and opened the window and shouted and waved at the fans. And, of course, he came across to meet us. The group was quite excitable and soon a crowd of people surrounded Bono, Jerry the security man carefully managed the situation in his own diplomatic way, he was such a lovely man with great respect towards the fans.

I was almost up to Bono when two large men pushed right in front of me, I could just see in between them and saw Bono motion with his hands to move aside which they did and there I was right in front of him. He's seen what had happened and I was so chuffed he made sure I got through. He looked very tired and pale and didn't talk very much, he seemed exhausted, yet he still found time for the fans. I got my ticket signed said thanks and then got out of the crowd.

Jane and I then joined the queue and got into the SECC at 6.30pm. We were amazed to see there were still places available at the B-stage. A Trabant was sitting on it so people hadn't stood there thinking their view would be blocked, but we knew the car was lifted at the beginning of the show so we got an ace position right at the front of the B-stage. We bumped into some of our friends who were already there and chatted before the show started.

Once the show got going there was quite a crush where we were, especially when any of the band were on the B-stage. But I am quite tough and wasn't too bothered by that, I had a perfect place right at the front and I was going to hang onto it!

The SECC's roof nearly blew off during this Zoo TV show, I think the band were really buoyed up by the Glaswegian crowd, who were behind them from the word go. I've since found that U2 gigs in Scotland have always been special, I think it is the Celtic connection between the Scots and the Irish, there always seems an extra-strong bond between U2 and their Scottish audiences. Another thing I love about Scottish shows is that they are always very well organised .

Highlights of this show, well, there were many. In Bullet the Blue Sky Bono changed the words to make a scathing attack on BNFL and Edge did the same with an amazing guitar solo. I was reduced to tears during Running to Standstill, it was so beautiful and Bono's hallelujahs were heart-rending. It was very moving and beautiful performed just about six feet in front of me on the B-stage. It was wonderful to be so close to see every expression - I also noticed that the sole on one of his platform shoes (though nowhere near as high as he wears nowadays!) was loose, it's surprising he didn't trip up! During Streets the whole bulding seemed to be bouncing up and down and the crowd drowned out the band - as they often did that night. It was one of those emotional roller-coaster U2 shows where you are laughing, crying, happy, sad, in other words a U2 show at its best.

After Love is Blindness that was it for me and Zoo TV, but it was good to see it out on such a high. We had sweated so much crammed up against the barrier that we were literally wet and the cool air outside hit us, we quickly scooted to my car to take off our tees and put on light jackets we had.

We actually got to meet Larry after the show which was really nice! He was charming and chatty, freely signing autographs, but declining photos which is fair enough. People were asking him about the Sellafield thing but he was very non-commital in his answers.

Bono came out just after Larry and a big crowd soon formed around him, we stood back as we'd met him earlier and let others have their turn. He looked really tired again, and it amazed me how he could be exhausted before and after a show, yet perform full of energy during it, it's amazing what adrenalin can do! Edge and Adam did not stop that night.

Jane and I went back to my car still high on the adrenalin from the show ourselves. The drive home seemed to pass in a flash and we fell into our beds as the sun was rising at 3.30am!

Monday, 16 June 2008

1992 June - Zoo TV Sheffield

There was a break of just over two weeks between the UK Zoo TV shows we were attending, which gave us a welcome break from the travelling. The next show we went to was at Sheffield on 17th June. Jane and I arrived there around midday and met up with our friends, I got to meet my penpals Debbi and Jackie for the first time there and I got along especially well with Debbi, who still is a close friend to this day. I also met Julia and Linda, two sisters who were friends of Jane's, it was really nice to know so many people who were also U2 fans.

The weather was really warm and we hung around waiting to see if we could catch the band arriving. It has actually struck me while writing this that the Zoo TV tour was an exceptionally good tour for meetings with Bono, tours since have not been so prolific on the meetings front.

The band arrived at around 5.30pm but only Bono came out to meet the fans. He wasn't as lively as at Birmingham but still very warm and friendly. I got my Even Better Than the Real Thing CD signed. I wa sgetting more confident about talking to him and I asked,

"What's happening about Sellafield Bono?" I'd heard that an injunction had been obtained by British Nuclear Fuel Limited to stop the protest on it's land.

Bono paused and then said, "It's getting really messy."

Jane pushed a little more and said that we were thinking of going but weren't sure whether it would happen or not, but Bono didn't answer and said no more about it. I realised then that the band were going to be there, Bono couldn't say more, and he stayed silent as he didn't want to lie to us.

Someone passed Bono a packet of Silk Cut cigarettes to sign,

"Ahh, nurses cigarettes," Bono said with a laugh. Someone asked him why he called them that and he laughed and said he didn't know why, but that what they called that brand in Ireland.

All in all Bono was with us for about ten minutes, and once more everyone who was there got what they wanted signed. He was so patient and had a very calm, sincere manner when with fans which tends to stop too much hysteria developing. Once more I must say - he has amazing social skills!

Sheffield Arena was a good venue, it was very new and had loads of toilets for the ladies! Yay! Our seats were about the same as at Birmingham so we had good views of the show. The show was good, but not exceptional, it wasn't as much of a party as Birmingham had been, and nothing stood out to be me as special, but we still enjoyed it.

1992 June - U2 in Cumbria?

Just after the Birmingham show it came out that U2 were going to play a Stop Sellafield gig in Manchester on 19th June. Around this time there was a lot of protest against the commissioning of the THORP plant at Sellafield nuclear station in my home county of Cumbria. In fact I live only about 70 miles away from the plant and have never been happy about being on its doorstep. Ireland, being just on the other side of the Irish Sea was very vociferous in it's protests and one of U2's ways of showing how they felt was to join with Greenpeace for the Stop Sellafield concert.

It was indeed exciting to think U2 were coming to Cumbria. Jane and I decided that we could not manage to attend the concert as we were in Glasgow for a show the day before and it just would not be feasible to get from Glasgow to Manchester for the gig. But we did decide that we would go to Sellafield on the 20th June when there was going to be a protest which it was rumoured U2 would attend.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

1992 June - Birmingham, Soundcheck and Bono

Early on the 1st June Jane and I set off for the next Zoo TV UK show at Birmingham's NEC. We said goodbye to Bee who was not coming to the show and got the train first into London (we were squashed in with the morning commuters, what a nightmare to have to do that everyday!) and then on to Birmingham. We arrived at midday found our B & B, which was really nice and then set off for the venue which was close by.

It was a sunny day and lots of people were hanging around the back entrance of the NEC so Jane and I joined them figuring this was where the band would enter. A tour bus arrived and I didn't take much notice of it, but, surprisingly, Bono must have been on it for suddenly there he was walking towards the crowd.

He started signing autographs and chatting at the opposite end to where we were and I thought there was no chance that he'd get to us as there were a lot of people there, about 60 or 70 I'd guess . But he was very patient , took his time and soon was near us. He was being bombarded with all kinds of questions, one I remember was,

"Do you still read the Bible?" to which he replied yes. He also said that there would be a "few surprises" in tonight's show.

Jane passed him her programme to sign and after he signed he looked up and immediately recognised her,

"Hi! How are you?" he said smiling and Jane said she was fine, "Were you at last night's show?" he continued. Jane said that yes we were and that we'd gone to Paris as well.

"We weren't happy with the seating in London," Bono said and with that Jane told him that we couldn't see a thing and that it was very disappointing. He shook his head and then asked,

"Which show did you prefer?" Jane said Paris and he nodded in agreement.

With that he moved on and was almost at the end of the line of fans when it started to rain. At this point a very pregnant woman was let around the barrier to go up to him. Bono's face was a picture and everyone was laughing.

"What's happened to you?!" he exclaimed to even more laughter, the woman said something to him and he said, "Oh that's wonderful" and gave her a big hug, it was very sweet. Then he got hold of her hand said goodbye to us all, and proceeded to run back into the NEC dragging this woman with him.

Bono had barely gone in when the heavens opened and there was an almighty storm! Shortly afterwards the lovely security man Jerry came out and said to the now much smaller group,

"If any of you want to see the soundcheck come in!"

I couldn't believe it, there were about 30 fans and of course we all went in. We sat at the front to the left of the stage and Jerry told us just to sit quietly and not take any photos, the pregnant woman was already there. So we hung our soaked kagouls and jackets up to dry out and waited. Edge, Adam and Larry came out and went through Zoo Station, Mysterious Ways, Angel of Harlem and Satellite of Love. It was really interesting to watch them, Bono didn't appear at the soundcheck at all.

It lasted about thirty minutes and afterwards we were allowed to stay inside the arena. So we got our merchandise, food and drink from crowd-free stalls as the doors had not yet been opened, what a treat!

The NEC is like a huge shed but our seats were really good, on the side close to the stage, there would be no problems seeing the band this time! I'm not going to write up each show I saw in detail here in the blog, as I feel that could get a bit repetitive - and I have seen a lot of U2 gigs! So I will pick out highlights or special things that were unique to write about in each show.

Birmingham was so different from London. We could see everything, the audience was lively and responsive from the start and the band were on excellent form. Bono was in a very playful, mischievous mood throughout, at one point he said,

"Edge-man, I think I've split me trousers!" I looked but I don't think he had . The song that stood out for me in this show was Running to Standstill with Bono taking the part of an addict shooting up, very dramatic and effective, great lighting. This show was a real party, yet also intimate and we all had the night of our lives.

Afterwards we were all high on the adrenalin of the show, we'd had such a brilliant time. We went out and to the back of the NEC again wondering if we'd see the band leaving, again there were already a lot of fans waiting there. Suddenly Bono appeared out of the shadows and, ever the performer, leapt in the air like he was performing Zoo Station. He looked like he was getting into a car then he suddenly started running towards the fans - he caught the security people unawares and one had to quickly leg it after him. Bono looked great in a burgundy corduroy suit. He didn't sign anything, just went along the line of fans saying thanks, shaking hands and kissing people. It was a lovely thing to do, I think we all wanted to just say thanks.

"That was better than Paris" Jane said when he got up to us, he said nothing but leaned over and gave her a big hug. Then, as quickly as he arrived he was off again and into the car, the other band members didn't come over. We really appreciated what he did and it made a wonderful night just perfect.

1992 May - Zoo TV London - U2? Where?

The first UK show of Zoo TV was at Earl's Court on 31st May. Jane and I arrived there in the morning and met up with our friends, Bee, Karen, Serena and Rosie and others. We spent time catching up with each other and had something to eat. We tried to catch the band arriving but missed them as there is more than one entrance to the venue.

We went into the arena, it was my first visit there and I was very disappointed with the venue. It was large but badly set out and looking tatty. Not that long later I remember hearing about part of the seating collapsing at Earl's Court and I was not surprised! Also, there were hardly any female toilets and it was a lenghty wait when you wanted to go, in the end we just went into the men's!

Our seats were on the floor near the back and as the floor was not raised at all the view was very poor. I can honestly say that because I am quite small I did not see U2 on stage once, I only saw them on the screens, and even they were not on all the time.

Also the audience was not very responsive and it took until well into the concert before they started to get into the show. So these things combined to completely spoil the show for me and it felt like a very different experience from Paris. It was all very disappointing as this was my first UK U2 show.

And just to finish off a bad day we managed to miss the last Tube back to Bee's where Jane and I were staying for the night! Some days are better than others ......

1992 May - Zoo TV in Paris

It was 7th May and this Paris show was the first of the European leg so there was a sense of anticipation and excitement. Again this was a time when not many people had the Internet so though the first leg of Zoo TV had been in the US, we'd only read a few things and had reports from friends so there was still a bit of mystery about what to expect.

Our journey to Paris was uneventful. It was a very warm and sunny day when we were dropped of at the Bercy arena, and initially, we'd wanted to go Notre Dame which we could see in the far distance down the river. We decided against it as we did not really have enough time, it was a shame as I love Paris, but this was one of those cheap arrive-see the show-go home trips. Most people on our coach trooped off to a nearby MacDonalds, but Jane and I wanted to have a little taste of France while we were there so we wandered off to look for a restaurant. We found a lovely little place and had a delicious leisurely meal there.

We left the restaurant and met up with some of our friends who had also come on this trip. There was nowhere else to wait so we just hung around the venue hoping to see the band arrive. However, we missed them, they went in by another entrance and the fans who were there got their autographs.

We started queueing - it was really hot by now and we felt like cattle as we were literally penned in with barriers and watched over by security men. That meant it was almost impossible to leave because you had to climb over these high barriers that were all around us. It was not pleasant, the sun was relentless and we were squashed together, perspiration running down our bodies. I ended up with sunburn on one side of my face! I prayed for the gates to open. Eventually at around 6pm they did and we were let out of our pens. There was a stampede - we'd expected this as we'd heard that this happens in France - we had to join in otherwise we would not get a good place.

Inside we had already agreed to go for seats rather than the floor, again because we felt it might be too much of a crush for us there. We raced past the bag checker, the ticket collector, down steps, up steps and into the arena. We manged to get good seats three rows from the front in the lower balcony to the right of the stage. We sat down on our seats and recovered our breath for a while and laughed at the madness of it all.

The French audience were brilliant, cheering and really building up the excitement long before anyone came on stage. There always is a great atmosphere at European shows. Fatima Mansions were the support band which we did not enjoy very much. At 9pm Zoo TV started with Bono, dressed all in black, strolling onto stage with little ceremony. He sang a beautiful song that sounded almost traditional Irish. In America Dianne had met Bono and had asked him what the song was and he'd said it was just something he'd made up.

The rest of the band came on-stage and blasted into Zoo Station amidst a barrage of words and images from the 20+ small screen and four large screen on the stage. Six garishly painted Trabants hung above the stage at weird angles, their headlights were on and there were spotlights shining from inside the cars. It was a real assault on the senses and like nothing U2 had done before in a live show.

The Fly was next, and Bono went into character, all in black, Fly shades, jerky dancing, sleazy, having great fun with this character. Edge's guitar razor sharp, words flashing up at breakneck speed on the screens, adding to the relentless pace of the song.

Mysterious Ways was funky, complete with bellydancer which worked well. This was one of my least favourite tracks on Achtung Baby, but live it was excellent with an extended ending. So many of U2's songs really change and come alive on-stage.
One was wonderful. Simple and poignant, lighters lit like fireflies all around Bercy, the audience swaying and singing along. It was obvious then that this song was going to be a U2 classic.

Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses was most mostly sung by Bono lying on the stage, I don't know how he can sing so well lying down! He was in great voice for all of the concert, and I could appreciate just what a good singer he was, for when I'd heard him in Lovetown he was having voice problems so he was not at his best.

And so the show went on and I thought just how different it was from the Lovetown show I'd seen three years earlier. It was much better, and very powerful, and the Achtung baby songs were so damn good! At one point Bono leaned into the audience and held hands, then suddenly he disappeared he's been pulled into the seething mass! It took a lot of tugging from the security to get him back on stage. But it didn't stop Bono continuing to have physical contact with the crowd - and that too was different from Lovetown where he had no contact with the audience.

The old songs were brilliant too - Bad as always sent shivers down my spine, Streets nearly blew the roof off. Running to Standstill was a new arrangement which I really liked. The audience were amazing and sung along so loud with passion and fervour. But we were glad we weren't on the floor as mass of people kept "rippling" and the crush was scary.

All too soon the show ended with Love is Blindness which was very moving. The stage was lit with red and purple lights and constellations of stars in black and white spun slowly on the four big screens. It was strangely peaceful and almost hypnotic. Bono got a girl out of the audience and danced with her closely for a long time, it felt like he was dancing with us all. There was such a sense of intimacy in that huge arena, it was a special moment.

And that was it, my first Zoo TV show, and what a ball it was and what great memories it has left me with!

Saturday, 14 June 2008

1992 April - Zoo TV Ticket Frenzy

This was my first proper U2 Tour and my first stressful scramble for tickets. Jane and I wanted to go to as many shows as possible, and in the end it worked out really well as we got tickets for UK shows in London, Sheffield and Glasgow through Propaganda. It was really easy in those days to get tickets from the fan club. They allowed you two tickets to one show and all you did was fill out a form with what you wanted and send it off and a few weeks later your tickets fell through the letterbox. No jammed up websites or phone lines.

Jane and I shared our Propaganda allocation and as Jeanette was unable to go to the London show so she let us use her allowance. We managed to eventually get tickets for Birmingham through the public sale.

We also decided to go to the opening show of the tour in Paris in May and booked one of those all inclusive trips. So there we were, all set for Zoo TV!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

1991 November - Cold Weather & Warm Meetings

We had a few days left to enjoy Dublin after the release of Achtung Baby. In that time we listened to the album time after time and I loved it! It is still one of my favourite albums, it was risky for U2 to move so far away from their old sound and it paid off with a ground-breaking album.

We did the usual Dublin things and visited our favourite places. One night the difficulties between Carol and me reached a head and I had a row with her and walked off to my accommodation! I'd had enough and was not going to put up with being totally ignored and disrespected by her. She looked shocked when I retaliated - she didn't think I'd do that. I rarely lose my temper, but when I do it's not a pretty sight!

Next day I went to where we'd all agreed to meet up and only Jane arrived. I felt bad for Jane because she was friends with both of us and was in a difficult position. It gave us a chance to discuss the situation and she told me she'd had a big row with Carol after I left, and that she'd had enough of her too, I felt a bit better knowing Jane's position on it all. Apparently Carol had gone off with the Aussies today.

All week we'd kept just missing the band. By being at the wrong place, or leaving early, it was getting a bit frustrating. Jane and I went down to U2's offices at Principle Management on the Liffey Quayside. After quite a short time Bono arrived in his Jaguar, he honked the horn and gave us a big smile. He screeched to a halt just inside the gates and jumped out of the car leaving the engine running and door open, and asked the security man to park the car for him. He then headed towards us,

"I'm sorry, I'm 15 minutes late for an important meeting."

Jane said it was no problem and that we understood, but he kept heading towards us, hair blowing in the wind, his open sheepskin coat flapping around him. He came right up to me and kissed me firmly, but gently on the cheek, I felt my knees buckle . He had lovely aftershave on. He then kissed Jane on the cheek also. She just had to say something about the album, but found it difficult to get the words out. Bono stood waiting patiently, looking at her intently. I was just gobsmacked after my kiss and was probably just standing there with a silly grin on my face .

Eventually Jane blurted out, "It's just ..... wonderful!"

"Really?" said Bono, his face had lit up as if he was really please to hear that, "We weren't sure about it you know."

Jane managed to get more words together and said that it was a great album etc and Bono beamed and said, "Good girl!" enthusiastically slapping her on the shoulder quite hard twice.

Then in a whirl he said, "I'll see you again", waved goodbye and rushed off into the office. He was like a human hurricane!

It was a very short, but sweet meeting. It was nice to see that Bono was so keen to know what we thought about the album, and that our positive response made him so happy.

Jane's favourite band member was Adam and she hadn't met him so far on this visit so a couple of evenings later we went back down to the office with the Aussies and Carol to see if we could meet him. So far I had only met Bono and I was hoping to meet the other band members too.

It was so cold that I was shivering and wondered what the hell I was doing standing on a bitterly cold quayside in Dublin in the evening! But, luckily we didn't have to wait too long before the first memeber of U2 left the office. Edge came out and got into his car but stopped at the gates, there were quite a few fans there so I suppose it was safest for him to stay in the car.

"Are you not cold?" He asked looking right at me seemingly genuinely concerned.

"Yes" I said quite sheepishly with a wry smile. I noticed how gentle his eyes were and he was also a bit shy which was so sweet. He signed album covers and very politely shook hands with everyone, what a gentleman!

Next was Larry, and surprisingly for him, he stopped to sign autographs, but asked for no photos to be taken and everyone heeded his request. He was very pleasant and signed for everyone who wanted an autograph.

Third one out was Adam, he too stopped, stayed in his car but happily signed autographs and posed for photos, like Edge he was very polite and respectful. I'd just got my album cover signed by him when I noticed Bono had come out of the door and was just kind of standing in the dark in the background.

Carol and I went over to him and I asked him to sign the free poster I'd got in HMV. I'd given him a silver pen to sign it with but it wasn't working and Bono kept saying,

"Dear me, dear me" as he valiantly tried to get the pen to work. I told him to press it down gently, he pressed it down hard and a big spurt of silver came out all over the poster and his hand!.

"Oh dear me!!" he exclaimed as he bit his lip. He tried to rescue it by using another pen, but it was still a mess, ahh well, it's unique anyway. By then Carol was asking him twenty questions and the Aussies and some German people had come across also, so I stood back.

Meanwhile Adam, who was giving Bono a lift, was patiently waiting,

"What is that man talking about?" he said to Jane, who had been happily chatting to Adam when everyone descended on Bono. I was really pleased that she got her meeting with him.

Eventually Bono threw himself into Adams car, it was a sporty Aston Martin and so there was not much room, and Adam had to shove Bono and his voluminous coat coat out of the way in order to get at the gear stick. They had all been so kind and friendly with us, I watched Adam's car disappear into the night and thought how lucky we were to be fans of a band who are such nice people.

We walked up the road and saw all of their cars outside Docker's, but we just walked on into the city and left them to enjoy their drinks in peace.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

1991 November - Achtung Baby!

Achtung Baby was a longtime in the making and over the summer and autumn fans got more and more excited about the coming of a new U2 album after three years waiting. I must admit this was the time my fandom became rather over the top, and I had to have everything that came out that had anything to do with U2! I now knew quite a lot of other U2 fans in the UK and well beyond and some of us decided to go to Dublin for the release of the long-awaited Achtung Baby.

In Dublin I met up with Jane, (who I had become very friendly with over the last few months) and her friend Carol who I had not met before, first impressions were not good there was something I didn't like about her, but I was determined to try to over come that and have a great holiday. We did all the usual Dublin things, by now I was becoming very familiar with the city and still loved it as much as ever.

By Sunday 17th November quite a few songs from the new album had been played on the radio and we had listened on our Walkmans. Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses which I loved and recognised some of it from the Berlin Bootleg. Until the End of the World was another dark song that initially I didn't take to, it was only when I saw this song performed live that I grew to appreciate it. Then there was One, what can you say, it took my breath away from the first listen, and even then it was clear that song was going to be a U2 classic, I loved it.

The album cover was so different from before, instead of the monochromes we were hit with a kaleidoscope of colour, U2 wearing make up, Adam naked (unless you lived somewhere that censored the image with a X!), snake-charmers, U2 in a garishly painted Trabant - in other words U2 as we'd never seen them before! Gone were the serious, earnest young men and in their place was a new incarnation of U2, and it was quite an assault on the senses, but I liked it!

HMV in Grafton Street was opening at midnight on the day of Achtung Baby's release and we were determined to be near the front of the queue, so we went along there at 1pm! Looking back I'm a bit embarrassed I did that and waited all those hours outside in the middle of November! But I'd say around this time and for maybe the next couple of years, was my most obsessive time as a U2 fan. It was madness time, but we did have great fun!

We weren't actually first in the queue, that place was taken by a bunch of Aussie fans that we knew but had not yet met, they were really nice. The windows of HMV were a riot of colour that advertised the new album, right down to a whole Trabant in one window! It really got us into the U2-vibe.

We caused a bit of a sensation in Grafton Street, and got lots of comments from passers by, but after a while we became immune to it. Unfortunately my first impressions of Carol proved true, she was rude and wound up like a spring, a very angry person who never shut up. She had taken an instant dislike to me and proceeded to completely ignore me in conversations and if she was sharing sweets would pointedly not offer one to me. She only showed herself up with this childish behaviour though and I just bit my tongue, there were lots of nice people around to occupy my time with and I didn't want to get into a row with her.

The afternoon and evening went surprisingly fast, chatting, getting things to eat and drink, going to the toilet, trying to keep warm, aching feet..... It was only from around 9pm that other people joined the queue, we could have saved ourselves a lot of hanging around! TV, radio and press people also arrived around then, I managed to get out of their way most of the time but did end up with a microphone shoved in front of me by some radio guy. I just waffled on about U2 and the forthcoming album (can't remember about what I said) and he seemed happy with that! Our picture was in the paper the next day.

Dave Fanning, who was doing a radio show for 2FM live from HMV that night, arrived and we watched all the action inside the shop. Rumours started flying around that U2 were coming for the release, that they were going to be interviewed by Dave, that they had come in the back of the shop and so on.

At midnight the shop was opened, we were amongst the first 25 people and got a free album and poster, so we were chuffed with that. There were lots of people now and the crowd was getting a bit out of hand, one of the shop windows was cracked by the pushing and the Garda were called. They emptied the shop on safety grounds, so we reluctanly trudged off into the night. It was a bit of an anti-climax, we thought we'd be able to stay in the shop and listen to Dave's show, have a bit of a party, maybe even see U2. Instead, there we were after ten minutes in the shop, back out in the street holding our precious albums heading back to our accommodation in the pouring rain! And no sign of U2.........

Sunday, 1 June 2008

1991 October - It's No Secret.....

The release of Achtung Baby was coming closer and I heard that DJ Simon Mayo was playing The Fly, a track from the new album on BBC Radio One at 9am on 9th of October. In those days this was how you first heard anything from a new album, it was always so exciting waiting for it to be played! But this was a workday and I was due in work at 9am, oh, dear me, I had a flat tyre and would be delayed......well, needs must!

I sat right in front of the radio to listen to the song and had the tape recorder on to tape it. When it came on I was stunned, what on earth was this? Totally unlike anything U2 had done before, frenetic, menacing, with a dark, edgy (excuse the pun) industrial sound. I was shocked but not horrified, this was U2 taking a big risk with a totally new sound and I admired them for doing that.

I listened to the song again and it was definitely growing on me. The lyrics were amazing and I especially loved,

Its no secret that a conscience can sometimes be a pest
Its no secret ambition bites the nails of success
Every artist is a cannibal every poet is a thief
All kill their inspiration and sing about the grief

The following week the video was shown on Top of the Pops and again it was so different from anything U2 had done before. Bono had turned into The Fly with shades so black you could not see his eyes, he had a haughty, throwaway manner with a hint of menace, yet he was also very sexy. I loved the video and it complemented the song perfectly. I realised then that Achtung Baby was going to be like nothing U2 had done before and that only whetted my appetite for its release all the more.