Sunday, 27 July 2008

1996 April - On a Dusty Dublin Street.....

Jane and I had a holiday in Dublin in the Spring of 1996. As usual we had a brilliant time in our favourite city visiting our familiar places and finding new ones. We caught up with our friends Ken and Elizabeth and Declan. As usual we were staying the house Ken and Elizabeth rent out and it was really like a home from home.

There had been a long quiet spell with U2 through the mid-90's though we thought they were probably recording their next album now. So on the Friday we checked out their new studio which was situated in the mostly derelict docklands area of Dublin. We walked down Hanover Quay past a motor garage that had a huge German Shepherd in a kennel guarding it. We soon found the studio, a nondescript grey building with a courier business on one side and a stationery firm on the other. Behind the studio and stretching along along Hanover Quay was The Grand Canal Dock. There also were quite a few huge stone built warehouses left over from Dublin's past as a busy port, the area felt very old and had seen better days.

Opposite the studio was the noisy Kilsaran Concrete Company that constantly had lorries trundling to and fro to provide concrete to the bludgeoning building boom in the city. After sitting on the wooden seat (kindly provided by Kilsaran not U2) for a while you ended up covered in a thin film of concrete dust. If you sat long enough and it rained you'd probably end up entombed in concrete! So, it's not the most pleasant place to be but at least there was a seat.

After not too long Bono arrived in his car, he waved as he passed us and drove down the road to park in one of the warehouses further down the road. Then shortly afterwards he walked up the road towards us. We did the small talk, what a lovely day it was, how are you..... Then out of the blue Bono said, "I'd take you inside to hear some stuff if we were further on, but I'm sorry...." his voice trailed off.

Jane said that it was ok and not to worry, though both of us inside were thinking, "Take us in, take us in!" I think we came over as quite chilled about it to him.

Bono continued saying that they were a bit behind with their work and it was quite pressured and that the new songs are, "Just a load of names on a blackboard."

At this point we were joined by an Italian fan called Bruno who had been a stage technician at Modena where Bono and Edge had recently performed with Pavarotti. Bruno told Bono he's met him at Modena and then apologised for his English.

"It's better than my Italian," said Bono laughing. Then he talked a bit about Dublin and was intrigued to hear that Bruno had met a girl from Finglas.

The studio door opened and out came Guggi, "Have you been inside?" Bono said to him (well Bono, I think he had seeing he came out of the place!) Then to us he said, "It's my friend Guggi - my only visitor and I'm late. I'll have to go and talk to him." He went over the road and chatted to him for about five minutes. I think it is really good that Bono still has friends like Guggi, people who knew him way before he was famous, good for him and it also shows he can't have changed that much since becoming famous. They were quite close and we could have eavesdropped if we wanted, but we didn't we just chatted amongst ourselves.

Guggi left and Bono said goodbye to us, and added, "And good luck with the girl from Finglas!" to Bruno. As he walked away from us I tried to sneak a quick photo and at that moment, when he'd almost reached the studio door, he turned again and said, "I'm really sorry I can't let you in, you know.... if it had been later....." Once more we reassured him and he smiled and said, "See you again, take care and God bless." Below is the photo of that moment. In all the years since we never have got into the studio, though it is on my wish-list still!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

1995 October - Bono at the UK Year of Literature and Writing in Swansea

The eighteen months between our Dublin trip and Swansea had been a quiet time U2-wise. some people had started getting computers and the Internet in their homes but, in the UK at least, not many people were yet surfing the Net. So we didn't really know what was happening in the U2 world.

I was still seeing my friends though, either they visited me or me them. Jane, Dianne and Debbi had become close friends who I had a lot in common with besides U2 so we still had lots to talk about in the U2 quiet times. Through someone I knew in Glasgow I got to know Dawn, who only lived 35 miles from me - it was wonderful to have a relatively local fan and we started to meet up regularly and still do to this day. These special friendships would never have happened if it had not been for U2, I often wonder if the band realise how much they have given us besides the music?

Now to Swansea. We were really surprised when we heard on the U2 grapevine that Bono was going to be interviewed as part of the 1995 Year of Literature and Writing in Swansea. There had been no publicity, which we thought was strange and only when we called The Grand Theatre in Swansea and secured our tickets did we really start to believe it was actually true!

Dianne, Jane and I arrived in Swansea around 4pm on the 30th September and went to our bed and breakfast and were shown our rooms which were nice. We noticed that there was a Mr and Mrs Hewson signed in on the register, weird coincidence!

We went to look for the Grand Theatre which wasn’t far away. Part of us was still not entirely convinced that Bono was going to be there, even since we'd booked there had been no publicity. But we found booklets in the foyer that confirmed he was appearing there the next day, only then we really believed we would be seeing Bono.

We then decided to look for somewhere to eat and found a nice Chinese restaurant, The Slow Boat, that you entered by walking over a little bridge under which was a pool with full of goldfish. We had a delicious meal and a few drinks there before returning to our bed and breakfast and retiring for the night.

The next day the weather was beautiful, sunny and warm so we did a bit of exploring around Swansea. It was a lot smaller than I thought, and, to be honest, there was not a lot happening there really. We went to the Marina area, which was very pretty, and we saw the Dylan Thomas statue and the theatre named after him with excerpts from his writings on its outer walls. We went into the plush harbourside Marriott Hotel for a snack and a drink.

Later, we met up with our friends Debbi, Jackie, Julia and Linda and waited at the theatre for Bono’s arrival. There were quite a lot of other fans waiting, many like us had travelled from other cities and even other countries to be there.

Bono arrived in a black Daimler at 7pm. He got out of the car and immediately started signing things. He looked well but had a scruffy beard that didn’t suit him at all. He wore a brown tweedy cap put on backwards, a v-necked cardigan, brown trousers – he looked like he’d borrowed the cardigan from his father! It wasn’t his coolest outfit to say the least! When he got up to us Jane, Debbi and I got a kiss from him, he smelled of a mixture of aftershave and alcohol, I’d noticed a bottled of wine on the floor of his car as he got out. He seemed a little tense but was very pleasant and patient, especially with a large, male fan that was being quite demanding and getting in everyone’s way. After about five minutes outside Bono went into the theatre.

We also went in and had a few drinks in the theatre bar before going into the auditorium. I was surprised to find that although it was a modern building on the outside, inside it was a typical Victorian theatre which held about 2000 people at the most. We were in the stalls, twelve rows from the front, and had a great view. On the stage were two green settees, a two seater and a three seater, in front of which was a coffee table with bottles and beer and glasses on it. The backdrop consisted of two open books with Irish-style writing on them.The interview was done by Robin Denselow, a music journalist and he gave a lengthy introduction that I thought was never going to end - we wanted Bono!

When Bono eventually came on there were lots of cheers and applause. Cameras started flashing and the theatre staff were not happy with that and were taking cameras off people, Jane got hers confiscated, I managed to keep mine by looking all innocent as staff came my way! Bono was clearly very nervous; he was smoking a cigar but coughed every time he drew on it. In the end he asked for a “proper” cigarette from the audience which he was duly given. All the time he was on stage he was asking for cigarettes, in the end a girl gave him a packet and he jumped off the stage and walked her back to her seat and gave her a big hug and kiss to lots of cheers!

The first half of Bono’s appearance consisted of a proper interview. He talked about lots of things, the Passengers album, his love and respect for Ali, Zoo TV, MacPhisto, how much he missed having the rest of U2 with him that evening (this was long before he started doing all the solo projects he’s involved with now) and much more. He was consistently entertaining, funny and witty. The nerves still showed a bit, he sat on the edge of the settee and was often wringing his hands.

The second half of the interview consisted of questions from fans that Robin had written down on a bit of paper. Very annoyingly, he often either didn’t give Bono a chance to answer fully or cut him short. It must have been annoying for Bono too as in the end he asked the audience just to directly ask questions and this turned out to be the best part of the evening. Bono visibly relaxed, he was in his element and a wonderful rapport soon built up between him and the audience, he thrives in situations like that. The questions were very varied, funny, and serious.

Are you part of the Dublin scene?

"In Dublin I think people hate our guts and that suits me just fine. When a band gets as big as U2 it can be a pain in the arse for people who have to put up with it all the time."

What do you think of Supergrass?

"Supergrass? Keep smoking."

After visiting Graceland, do you think, when you pass away, your house will be open to the public?

"It's funny because we're actually working on a Bono ice cream and I just brought some with me. Erm, absolutely."

The questions kept coming and it amazed me how quickly Bono responded, after all he didn't know what questions the fans were going to ask. He seemed to be really enjoying himself.

If, in the event one of the members of the band being tragically killed, could you see yourself recording in 25 years time with some long-lost tapes?

"Anything that's even kind of good has been released. I hate the idea of someone releasing stuff like that."

Would you play in Omen 5?

"Omen 5? Now you're talking! It's funny, my mother used to call me the Antichrist." Lots of laughter.

Do you like grunge music?

"I find grunge music desperately boring. Offspring, that's heavy duty. I can get into Offspring but I have to be really pissed off."

Is it true that during the Zoo TV tour you woke up in a room one morning surrounded by prostitutes and with a boa constrictor across your chest?

"It was a python, not a boa constrictor. It's funny the things that happen to you on tour. You see people when you travel the world and some of them keep pythons, but that was a sign and that sign said "Go home". So I did."

Who's closer to God, Blur or Oasis?

"Well first of all, I am God. And Liam is my only son. I think they are both good songwriters and everything but I do think that when that guy Liam sings that there is something, there's some sort of ache, as well as the anger, and it's the ache that separates some music from others. It has to be magic. His band is great."

Bono talks a little more about his lyrics which are, he says, the only place in his life where he is completely honest. He is asked about religion

"I don't really go in for it myself. I am a believer. But I am a really bad advert."

It was all very informal and it amazed me how Bono could be so sharp and witty for such a long time, he never seemed uncomfortable nor out of his depth, only in the last ten minutes did he seem to be getting a little weary. All in all he was on stage for one and three quarter hours.

Afterwards we left the theatre and went round to where we had been waiting earlier to see if we could catch Bono leaving, there were other fans there too. There was a journalist asking fans questions, I avoided him but Jackie spoke to him. I later found out he was from the New Musical Express.

We waited quite a while but it turned out that Bono had left from the deserted front entrance of the theatre. It was now after midnight and we wanted something to drink, I looked around and saw the red neon sign of the Marriott Hotel shining in the darkness and suggested to the others that we go there as most other places in Swansea would be closed by now, they agreed and we set off for the hotel.

It wasn’t a long walk and it was very mild night, the streets were deserted and a half moon hung low in the sky. As we got closer to the hotel we saw a car parked outside, as we got closer still we realised it was the Daimler Bono had arrived in earlier, its engine was running. We literally just got to the hotel when the doors opened and Bono came out! He looked at us and we looked at him and mutual expressions of surprise were exchanged, then he gave a big smile and came straight over to us. “We only came for coffee!” Jane said, which was perfectly true, we weren’t following him and we didn’t want him to think we were.

“How was it?” Bono asked looking intently at each of us in turn.We said that it was really good and that he’d done very well. Bono admitted that he had been “terrified” and when Dianne asked if he would do it again he exclaimed, “No, never!”He said that he had agreed to do this a year and a half previously and then, “Pow”, and punching his own hand, “It was here!” He said that there was a good atmosphere in the theatre and that usually in these situations only the media is involved and he thought it was a good idea to do something for the fans.

He was now very relaxed, informal and quite mischievous, and very chatty. Jane asked if she could take “Just one photo”

"Yes," he responded then proceeded to cover half his face with the fanzine that Debbi and Jackie had just given him. Jane said, “That’s not fair!” and Bono laughed and moved the fanzine and put on his most mischievous look, I got an excellent photo of that moment.

everyone else took a few photos before he said that he had to go because he had a plane to catch. He got in the car and as it pulled away the driver tooted the horn and Bono waved goodbye. We stood there in front of the hotel waving too with big grins on our faces and watched the car disappear into the night.

It had been quite a day – seeing Bono in a totally new environment being interviewed in the theatre, meeting him, the second time being totally unexpected, an amazing coincidence, that red sign in the night sky led us to him! Sometimes things are just meant to be. And we never did get that cup of coffee!

Saturday, 19 July 2008

1994 May - Mr Pussy's, Bingo and Bono

Jane, Dianne and I went to Dublin for a week in May. One of the visits we made was to the new place in town that we heard just had to be seen, Mr Pussy's Cafe Deluxe. It was a cabaret cafe in which Bono and his brother Norman a stake amongst others. It was situated in Suffolk Street on the site where Norman's restaurant Nude is now. It was only open for a relatively short time, there was a lot of opposition to it and eventually it was forced to close.

So, one evening we went along to Mr Pussy's. It was a long narrow building with a small balcony at the far end. It is almost impossible to describe the place on paper, but I'll try my best! First of all, think of kitsch, ultra kitsch, pink, lots of willies, garish colours, feathers, numerous cat statues, there was a neon MacPhisto sign, and the Mario Lanza picture from MacPhisto's dressing room was behind the till. It was surreal, I'd never seen anything like it before and never have since!

While we were there Mr Pussy (aka Alan Amsby) opened a cabinet on the wall close to where we were sitting - which already contained Naomi Campbell's signed satin knickers - and put MacPhisto's gold boots into it. Jane asked, "Did Bono drop those off himself?"

To which Mr Pussy replied, "Yes, he's in the back peeling the potatoes for the chips."

We had some of those chips and they were definitely homemade and delicious. The menu was unusual too, you could have a "pint of pussy" which was a pint milk served in its bottle with a straw. If finances were tight you could have a plate of broken biscuits for 50p, wine was served from a teapot into a cup. Nothing was very expensive so you could have a cheap night out there.

I went to the toilet downstairs and again my senses were assaulted by major weirdness. Pink and gold, kitsch statues, rosary beads on top of the hand drier, a pair of gold stiletto shoes nailed to the floor underneath the sink. The photo here of me in there give you an idea of what it was like. It's the first and only time I've had my photo taken in a toilet but I just had to have a memento of it!

Not long after we had arrived we heard a waitress tell some American lads on the table next to us that "One of U2" was coming to the cafe after 1am. We took that "one of U2" to be Bono because we could just imagine him loving such a surreal place! What good timing on our part too.

We got quite excited and looked at our watches, it was only 9pm! We ate and drank, drank and ate as we had to buy to stay! Good job the place was cheap. We noticed Norman (on crutches from a recent hip replacement operation) popping in and out regularly.

By 1am we were very full and we watched every person that came into the cafe. 1.30, 2, 2.30 passed by. Then Simon Carmody a good friend of Bono's came in, followed by the man himself. He walked quickly, not making eye contact with anyone on the way, trying to avoid being stopped by anyone. As he passed us one of the American guys next to us jumped up and was in front of Bono like a flash. Bono stopped shocked for a second, then his expression changed to surprise as the young man held out his hand and said, "I'd like to shake your hand Mr Hewson." Rather an odd thing to do! Bono shook his hand and said, "Hi." He then walked on and up the steps to the balcony.

Bono looked well and wore a black suit with a fine pinstripe, the sleeves were turned up and the trousers bunched up around his ankles. He had on a scarlet red shirt with ruffles down the chest and at the wrists, the shirt tail was hanging out, typical Bono!

Behind Bono was his beautiful wife Ali, and behind her trailed Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington. They looked like giants as they wore extremely high heels which added to their already well above average height, Ali looked tiny compared to them. The men in the place couldn't stop themselves from gawking at them! Another person I recognised in the following entourage was Jim Sheridan. All these people and others with them went up to the balcony area. Naomi and Christy sat at the front of the balcony and seemed to be enjoying the attention they drew. Bono and Ali sat further back and were not in the slightest attention seeking.

At 3am the cabaret started. Mr Pussy (who is a drag artist) came on dressed in a black sequinned dress and huge blond bouffant wig to introduce Chutney Heuston, another drag performer who covered Whitney Houston songs. Chutney had on a black lycra dress (that he had a lot of trouble with!) and thigh length black patent leather boots. He was a good laugh but not a good singer.

Naomi leaned over the balcony watching with not the hint of a smile on her face, Christy completely ignored what was happening on the stage. Bono stood further back grinning and clapping along enthusiastically, really getting into the spirit of the fun night. It was really nice just seeing him enjoy himself like that.

Next Mr Pussy himself did a song, then we played Bingo with him calling the numbers, the prizes being jellybeans! We had a good laugh, I noticed that Bono was often looking down from the balcony at the "ordinary" people in the cafe, I wondered what he was thinking, maybe he would have liked to have been down there, anonymous, having a laugh playing Bingo.

Mr Pussy finished off with another ditty called, I'll Sing A Song That Gets On Your Nerves, over and over, and it was irritating, but also very funny and everyone sang along. Once more Bono stood watching, smiling and clapping getting into the spirit of the night.

Shortly afterwards Bono went to the toilet and two of the American guys followed him! Poor Bono, he wasn't down there very long! No one else took any notice of him. Shortly afterwards Bono's party left. As Naomi strutted past us I heard Mr Pussy say to her, "Thanks for the knickers." Classic!

Bono and Ali stood talking to Jim Sheridan near us as they waited for the rest of their party. They had their arms round each other and she was gently rubbing his back (he had been having back problems recently). Jim left and Bono and Ali talked as they waited, you could see and feel the love between them, it was lovely to see, they are the perfect couple. They were soon joined by the rest of their party and left.

We paid our bill - the till receipt was about a foot long! - and left minutes later. We blinked in the cool, early morning light of the real world. I felt like I'd been in a bizarre alternate universe and now had stepped back into reality. Kitsch, drag acts, supermodels, Bingo and Bono at 4am ..... did all that really happen?

Thursday, 17 July 2008

1993 August - Dublin 2, The Last Trip to the Zoo

Another hot and sunny day found us back in a queue outside the RDS, but this time we had no shade and the heat was unrelenting. We kept going to the nearby shops to get cold drinks and ice lollies in an attempt to cool, but it didn't work very well. After a while I started to feel nauseous and got a headache, heatstroke in Dublin!

It was a relief to get inside, and though we had standing tickets I felt so ill I couldn't be bothered to run to try to get a good place. But, even so we actually got quite a good position at the front barrier towards the right of the stage. Luckily the audience was not as rowdy as the previous night so there wasn't a lot of pushing and jostling.

My friend Debbi had a photopass for that show (she and Jackie were editors of a fanzine called The Real Thing that's how they got the pass) but she could not find out where to meet the other photographers. She decided to hang around and then just join them when they came in. She looked very nervous and I felt sorry for her as that is a nerve-wracking position to be in, I know I would have been nervous too. But it all worked out in the end and she got into the pit when the other photographers were brought round.

It was a warm, balmy summer evening and a full moon hung over the RDS. This Zooropa gig was being broadcast live around the world, so as expected the set was pretty standard. The mood of the show was much more "up" than the previous night. Streets was amazing, the place just erupted, Bono came to the part of the stage where we were and was just standing there grinning. It must have been very special for the band to have their home crowd so behind them.

At one point a man almost got up on the stage and about five security men tussled with him. Bono noticed and watched what was happening and tried to calm the man down to no avail, the man was really fighting with the security. He had to be dragged away, "Be careful with him" Bono said as he watched. I was actually a bit concerned as to what that man would have done had me got on stage.

I was a bit sad when MacPhisto came on as I knew it was the last time I'd see him and I'd grown rather fond of him! He was in good form, chatting and posing, showing his glittering shoes with the huge platforms.

During Love is Blindness Bono slow danced with a girl he got up on stage for a long time, I just love Edge's guitar solo in that song, so hauntingly beautiful. For me it felt like Bono was symbolically dancing with us all, saying goodbye, as this show was also the last of the European leg of the Zooropa Tour.

Finally Can't Help Falling in Love, and I can remember watching Bono in his gold lame suit walking away from us as he sang, the gold glistening less and less as he stepped out of the lights and was swallowed up by the shadows. A great way to end a show, low-key but emotional, so U2.

That was it, the last trip to the Zoo with U2. It had been a hectic three weeks, I felt as if I'd been on the road as much as U2! We saw a lot of shows, the most I've ever done during a U2 tour, and as I've written before, maybe too many, as much as I love U2 I don't know how people can go to dozens of shows during a tour. But still, thinking back now, it was a mad time but it was also great fun, there were a lot of laughs and I saw places I'd never visited before and met lots of new people and consolidated good friendships that have lasted to this day.

The Zooropa Tour itself was very manic, big, over-the-top, colourful, ironic, a media bombardment of the senses. We were treated to great concerts and grew to love The Sleazy Fly and the Old Devil MacPhisto. U2 as they had never been before, yet still with the same spirit underneath it all.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

1993 August - Dublin Zoo Time 1

I'd had a welcome weeks break from travelling to u2 gigs before setting off for Dublin. I met Jane at the UK airport and we flew over together. We went to our accommodation in Dublin where Dianne and Caroline were waiting for us. In the intervening week they been to the two Wembley shows and Cork that we had decided to miss, so we caught up on all the news they had from their experiences there.

The next day Jane and I went down the quays to Principle Management to pick up two tickets. It was the first time that I had been there. We rang the intercom and were let in, we walked up the marble steps, there was a huge modern art painting on the staircase wall. The main office was open plan with various U2 pictures on the walls. I noticed the fax machine was in overdrive! The doors to the boardroom were open and I could see a huge oval table with chairs around it in there and discs on the walls. Cecilia came across to us and was very pleasant and gave us our tickets and then we were off out again.

We met up with our friends at the RDS in Ballsbridge and waited in the queue. It was once more a very warm day but luckily we were well sheltered by trees that lined the road.

Unfortunately once more we entered by the gate furthest from the stage and had to run down the field. Needless to say, being crap runners we didn't get to the barrier by the B-stage which was our target but we were fairly close. There was quite a crush and some very pushy fans, I also couldn't really see the main stage so it was far from ideal.

After what seemed like an endless wait the show started in the usual way and followed the usual set. I could almost predict what would be next and what Bono would say. I always remember him once saying that the hardest part of a show is making it look spontaneous. I knew what he meant now, each time he said the same things it sounded like the first time, so he was doing a good job! I kind of realised then that, even though I was enjoying the gig, I'd seen too many shows close together on this tour and vowed I would not do that again - and I haven't.

Stay was performed on the B-stage close to where I was. It was lovely and the voices of U2 and the crowd rang out over the stadium and floated off over Dublin city. Bono grinned from ear to ear impressed with the home crowd. Anytime a band member came to the B-stage the crush was awful, this was the first time I'd experienced this. Being quite small I was getting pushed into people's backs and it wasn't very pleasant. I decided to leave my friends (who were all quite a bit taller than me) and get out of there. I didn't have to move far back to be in a much better position and I could see most of the main stage too.

MacPhisto said that it was good to be home and, "To be where people call me dad. Shall I give them a telephone call?" He dialled the number and got an answer-machine message from his four year old daughter Jordan, "Hello, we're not home, we're away on holiday. And daddy if that's you we're not coming back until you take the horns off." She sounded really cute and chirpy. MacPhisto didn't say anything, he put the phone down and started singing Ultraviolet. The call seemed to affect Bono, he seemed very emotional and distressed afterwards and for the rest of the show.

During Edge's wonderful solo in Love is Blindness Bono got a girl up on the stage and held her close laying his head on her shoulder. Then he took her hands and tenderly ran them down each side of his face, all the while his face was creased with emotion. Bono can't hide his feelings and it was like intruding on something very private, and yet not being able to look away because it was also very powerful.

Can't Help Falling in Love finished the show with the part where Bono and the crowd sing "Falling in love" to each other lasting longer than usual before fading away into the night.

I felt so moved that I was close to tears by the end of the concert and when I met up with my friends again they felt the same and instead of feeling high on adrenalin we felt sad, so powerful was the emotion we had witnessed.

When we left the RDS there was absolute chaos outside. There were at least a couple of hundred Mediterranean fans screaming and running after any car that left the venue. They banged on the cars band members left in and even hung on to them. It was very dangerous for the fans themselves and those trying to stop them and must have been frightening for the band inside the cars. Other fans, including us, just watched this chaos in disbelief. I'd never seen anything like it before and luckily I have not seen anything like it since.

We left and went to Jury's Hotel across the road to get a taxi intending to go back to our accommodation. There were no taxis there and a huge queue so we decided, at 2am, to go into the hotel and see if we could get anything to eat. Surprisingly we could (probably just because of the gig, there would be lots of ravenous fans wanting something to eat post-show).

Our time in Jury's soon lifted our mood as we had the most entertaining waitress. Caroline, who was a vegetarian, asked for a vegetable stir-fry. "Oh don't have that, " said the sour-faced waitress, "It's not very nice, it's bland."

Caroline insisted that was what she wanted, "I wouldn't have it," insisted the waitress seemingly oblivious to the rest of us falling about with laughter, "we get a lot of complaints about it, it depends which chef is on." Obviously it was bad chef night tonight .

Eventually she accepted Caroline's order with a shake of the head and a tutting noise. We were by now hysterical with laughter - all except Caroline, who even now could not see the humour in the situation. I always think it's really sad when you don't have a sense of humour, you miss out on so much.

The waitress continued to amuse us by almost dealing the plates across the table like they were cards, we had to catch them to stop them flying off the table.

Our food was really good and much needed and when the waitress was clearing away the plates Caroline said that she had enjoyed the stir-fry. "You must be easily pleased" said the waitress absolutely deadpan without a glimmer of a smile. That was too much for us, we all just fell about laughing - except Caroline who looked at us all as if we were mad - we laughed so much we were becoming hysterical.

We left Jury's at 3.30am and found a row taxis waiting outside. Still laughing we fell into one and headed off "home". Never will we forget our 2am meal at Jury's Hotel Ballsbridge!

Monday, 14 July 2008

1993 August - Cardiff, Last UK Zooropa

August 18th and I was on the road again, this time it was to Cardiff in Wales for the last Zooropa gig I would be seeing in the UK. Our B & B was literally on the other side of the River Taff from Cardiff Arms Stadium where the gig was being held, perfect! Dianne, Jane, Caroline and I met up with friends Lori and Ellen from America, they seemed really nice people.

We had field tickets and unfortunately the entrance we went in was right at the back so we had to do that awful run down the field! Even when I was very young I wasn't a good runner so I stood no chance now! Amazingly we still managed to get a place right on the front barrier though it was well to the righthand side. We sizzled in the sunshine for over two hours before it got mercifully cooler.

It was the usual set, no great changes except for a nice little tidbit of Abba's Dancing Queen and a scintillating version of Bad. Musically this show was wonderful. MacPhisto's phone call was to Margaret Thatcher and of course went unanswered - I would have loved to have heard MacPhisto speak to her!

Because we were right at the front we got some great close up views of MacPhisto strutting his stuff, we had become quite fond of him, he was such a character and Bono played the role so well. He's a character that fans remember fondly to this day.

After being dropped for a few shows With Or Without You re-appeared at Cardiff and it was a blistering version. Bono sang it to the audience tonight, either via the boom camera or by direct eye contact with the crowd. He smeared the lipsick across his face, tried to rub off the white face make up whilst his gaze never wavered from the camera as he sung, his face filling the huge screens. MacPhisto's mask had slipped away, and it was Bono once more singing to us, vulnerable and baring his soul. I so admire Bono's ability to give himself in that way, it's brave and open, few can do that, but that's exactly one of the things that makes him such a special performer.

At the end of the show Bono said, in an excellent Elvis impersonation, "Thank you, you are a beautiful audience," before the band finished the show with Can't Help Falling in Love.

So that was it, the end of the UK Zoo, for me. It had been a ball, traipsing across the country, staying up to the early hours, fun with friends, great music, even meeting U2 occasionally. But the Zooropa experience wasn't quite over yet for me I still had two shows to see in Dublin later in August.

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!"

Saturday, 12 July 2008

1993 August - Wembley Zooropa 2 and Sunflowers

August 12th. We had a lie in today after yet another very late night the night before, all this touring is tiring! After we got up we wandered around the local area and did some shopping. In the afternoon we all headed off to the stadium, once more it was a gloriously sunny day and the walk was leisurely and pleasant. Soon ahead of us the white towers of the stadium gleamed in the sunlight.

We met up with friends there and soon headed inside the huge stadium. Our seats were from Propaganda and they were not good and we wee not happy! So we moved to the unreserved seats that were much closer to the stage. Even then due to tall people in front of me I had to stand on my toes to see and kept getting cramp in them! thank God for the big screen though, I could see them perfectly.

This Zooropa show was brilliant, much better than last nights show, the spark was definitely there, plus the sound was spot on. At this show was one of the new live performances of Babyface during which Bono got a girl up out of the audience to film him. He lay on the catwalk and encouraged the girl to sit on him while filming, he seemed to enjoy that a lot! But even after seeing it played live I still didn't like the song.

Bono became very upset during the Sarajevo link-up and was crying during it, and the last two UK shows I saw, Leeds and Cardiff, the link-up didn't happen though I don't know if it happened at other shows afterwards.

MacPhisto tried to speak to Princess Diana, "I just love her, don't you think she's funky?" he said with a gleam in his eye. Of course he didn't get through to Diana and was cut off, he sang I Just Called to Say I Love You" which segued into a stunning Ultraviolet this was becoming my favourite song of the gigs. It was so impassioned and theatrical as MacPhisto gradually disappeared and Bono came back to us.

After the show we went round to the stage door again, there was lots going on as the stage was being dismantled and loaded into lorries ready to head for the next venue. There were also a lot more fans there. While we were waiting we got talking to one of the security guys there, a huge black man who was so funny and entertaining that he should have been on the stage! I think he thought we were all mad waiting there. Karen and him got into a banter of mock insults, "Lady, if you were my wife I'd trade you in for a mountain bike" he'd say and she'd retort. Again he would say, "Lady, you must be on drugs", they were well matched and it was all done in good humour and kept us all entertained.

Edge was the first band member to come out to sign auto graphs. He was very polite and pleasant and signed for everyone who wanted his autograph, but he didn't talk a lot. There's a little shyness about Edge that I always find so endearing, he is so different from Bono.

Adam and Larry left quietly without coming over shortly after Edge finished signing.

The crowd were more boisterous than the previous night and when Bono came out it got a little rowdy and there was some jostling. But it never got out of hand and our friendly security man was keeping an eye on things. Bono was carrying a huge sunflower when he came out and held on to it all the time he was with the fans someone asked him about it and he said, "Doesn't everyone carry a flower?"

"I haven't time to sign things I've just come to say hello," Bono said. Then a girl near us asked him to sign something! "Ok but I can't sign for everyone" he said. Then someone else asked, and someone else and someone else - and he obliged. He finds it hard to say no, he's so kind and patient, even when people don't listen to him. We didn't ask for anything from him and it gave the opportunity just to watch him interact with the other fans.

U2 fans are really, very, very lucky that they can meet the band members relatively easily and that the band are so obliging and friendly - not many people that are so famous are that accessible. U2 are the best!

Friday, 11 July 2008

1993 August - Wembley Zooropa 1 - What? Am I In Pain?

I had thought very carefully whether to bother going to the London Zooropa shows at Wembley Stadium. After the bad and very frustrating experience at Earl's Court the previous year, I was unsure whether I'd even enjoy another London gig. It was also a long way from my home. In the end I decided to give London another chance and go to two of the four Zooropa shows that were being played there.

So August 11th saw me on the train heading south. We had arranged to meet Caroline, a Canadian fan who some of us wrote to, at our hotel near the stadium. I was the first of our group to turn up and Caroline was already at the hotel. Unfortunately I found it very difficult to talk with her as she just didn't make much conversation and she talked unbelievably slowly and seemed to be in a kind of daze. I tried my best and was friendly while praying for Jane and Dianne to arrive. After what seemed like hours (but which was probably only about half an hour!) they did arrive and things were not so stilted, though they too had the same difficulty as I had with Caroline. We did try our best to make her welcome though.

After a longer than expected turnaround (due to Caroline being really slow in getting ready and nothing would make her speed up the slightest). The stadium was within walking distance and it was a pleasant walk in the summer sunshine. As we walked up Wembley Way and saw the two towers I was surprised to find there was a real buzz everywhere, good vibes. We met up with friends Karen and Serena and caught up on each other before Jane and I went one way and Dianne and Caroline another - we had seats in different areas.

The sound was a little off at times during this concert and the show was good, but not fantastic. It wasn't the audience, they were enthusiastic and got behind the band. As I wrote, the show was good but not mind-blowing, there was that extra spark from the band missing.

The main event during this concert was that Mr MacPhisto telephoned Salman Rushdie - who was in hiding because of the fatwa issued against him four years earlier for perceived blasphemy in his book The Satanic Verses. MacPhisto spoke to him on the phone and then suddenly Salman walked out on stage to a huge cheer from the crowd, phone still in his hand, and did a little repartee with MacPhisto finishing with, "Real devils don't wear horns". It made headline news in the papers the next day. I knew they would have something special lined up for the London shows but I don't think anyone expected anything like that!

After the show we went to the stage doors, met up with our friends and waited for the band to leave. After a while a man came out and said, "I'm a very rich man!" waving a wad of Zoo Ecu's in his hand (this was U2's take on the precursor of the Euro currency, but at this time the ECU was only used for internal EEC business, it wasn't a currency but it symbolised a united Europe). These ECU's were showered down over the stage during MacPhisto's set. This man cheerfully gave everyone a note and I still have mine.

There were quite a lot of people waiting for the band now and the weather was still being kind to us. I always enjoy the vibe at these times of waiting for the band to leave, chatting to other fans, having a good laugh, talking about the gig, all the camaraderie.

Then suddenly there were Larry and Adam coming out of the darkness. They went to opposite ends of the group of fans lined up behind the barrier and started signing autographs. Larry was in a good mood, full of smiles and looked very handsome! He got to Jane who had a pen ready for him to use, and seeing that he had a pen already said, "I see you're prepared."

Larry looked up at her with a puzzled look on his face, "What? Am I in pain?"

Jane looked back at him equally puzzled, "What? you've just been paid?" then both Larry and Jane and everyone within earshot burst out laughing - it was like an inadvertent double act, hilarious and it was good to see Larry saw the funny side of it. It was one of the funniest interactions I've seen between a fan and a member of U2.

Shortly afterwards Adam reached us and on seeing Jane said, "Hello Jane, how are you?" Jane was really chuffed that he recognised her and even remembered her name as he is her favourite band member. As usual Adam was his polite and friendly self with everyone.

Edge left next but he got straight into a car without even looking at the group of fans, obviously not in the mood for the meet and greet, and was whisked away.

Shortly after Bono came across to the fans and though there were a lot of people waiting but everyone was well behaved. He was out for quite a while, about 20 minutes, until everyone got something signed, most of the time he had a cigarillo in his mouth. He was very patient, softly spoken, didn't chat quite as much as he usually does, though he was still warm and friendly. I got my Zooropa CD cover signed by him. It was the first meeting for Caroline, yet afterwards she didn't say anything about it or show any emotion, I found that hard to understand as she wasn't shy. I think she just found it difficult to express her emotions.

So the first Wembley show was over and though it wasn't one of the best U2 shows I'd seen, I still had a ball and was looking forward to the next Zooropa the following night.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

1993 August - Zooropa Glasgow Two

Next day we skipped breakfast in favour of longer in bed - we'd not got back to our accommodation complete with early hours pizza until 3am. This touring is hard work!

Dianne looked out of the window down onto the quiet Sunday streets of Glasgow and said, "Red light, grey morning", I glanced out too and so it was, just like in the song. We explored Glasgow a little and had something to eat before heading towards Celtic Park. We got into what seemed like an enormous queue but after the doors opened we were soon inside, thanks to the excellent Scottish organisation once more.

This show was good, but for me not as good as the previous night, Bono seemed a little distracted and seemed to get very upset by the Sarajevo broadcast which was very moving, a mother talking about her son who was somewhere in the audience. I think it affected him emotionally and he wasn't able to shake it off. He also wasn't quite into MacPhisto either, he didn't keep the posh English accent up as well as he usually does.

Zooropa was premiered that night though unfortunately it was a mess. As Bono said, "It's great writing the songs, then recording them, but then you've got to learn how to play the fucking things!"

It was an ok show, but for me nothing like the previous night. We headed off home to my place straight afterwards but got stuck in stadium traffic for ages. This meant that we didn't get back to mine until 3.30am 9th August. We had pizza - again - and then bed.

This tour was the most exhausting for me. Firstly because I saw the most shows of any tour during Zooropa. And secondly because of all the travelling it involved, zigzagging across the country from north to south, east to west. Plus inbetween all this I was doing night shifts at work, crazy! Two days after arriving home from Glasgow we were on our way to the next Zooropa port of call, London.

1993 August - Zooropa Hits the UK, First stop Glasgow

7th August found Jane, Dianne and I heading up the M74 to Glasgow. This was the first time Dianne had come over from the US to join us for a tour and we all got along great. The venue was Celtic Park football stadium and once there we met up with our friends Debbi, Jackie and Karen.

In those days U2 were very generous towards fanzine editors, they gave them two free tickets, two hospitality passes and one photo pass per tour. I had been promised the tickets and hospitality passes for this first Glasgow show. I had absolutely no idea where to go for them but eventually saw as sign saying "U2 Guests". It took three attempts to get them. First try they weren't there, second there was an envelope for me but it only had two tickets in it so I had to go back, but had no trouble getting the hospitality passes. Third time lucky. It was my first experience of the general disorganisation around U2, in the end I got used to it! The hospitality passes made me laugh, they were triangular and reminded me of the badges worn by the agents in the 60's cult series The Man From Uncle! But we were very chuffed to have them, the only sad thing was that Dianne did not have one as well.

When the time came Jane and I separated from Dianne who went off with our other friends as we had seats and they had standing tickets. The seats were really good, lower block near the front to the right of the stage. Celtic Park was very well organised, lots of stewards to keep things right, not one door or gangway was blocked by fans and you felt safe in this vast crowd because of that.

The huge papier-mache heads of Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry that comprised Macnas came on, then P J Harvey and Utah Saints, none of them very exciting. Finally, just after "Television the Drug of the Nation" played U2's set started. Bono rose before the symbol of the EEC, the circle of stars, one star fell down and Bono began his jerky dance to the strains of Zoo Station - and we were off! It was the usual Zooropa set until after New Year's Day the new song Stay (my favourite from the Zooropa album) was played. It was wonderful with everyone singing along.

This was followed by Numb which definitely did not work live, everything kind of stopped, people lost interest and started talking while it was being played.

There was a set on the B-stage and then a live satellite link to Sarajevo which at the time was in the middle of a bloody war. Bono spoke to ordinary people from the city. I'm still not sure that was a good thing to do during a U2 show, though I'm sure the thinking behind it was well meant.

Bad followed and it was scintillating, the hairs stood up on my neck, it was so powerful and emotional and it made me cry as it often does. It was incredible.

MacPhisto was in great form that night he was into Macbeth. "Is this a phone I see before me?" he said as he rang the Scottish minister Lang. He was asked to spell his name and he spelt it out, "M-A-C, I think you're familiar with that, P-H-I-S-T-O." He didn't get through to the minister but shouted, "Out, out damn Scot!" as he put the phone down. Great stuff and very funny.

At the end of the show it took Jane and I a while to find our way to the hospitality area which was within the football stadium's buildings. It wasn't that exciting really, we were obviously the z-lister guests, we saw no one famous but we got a couple of free drinks all the same!