I saw U2.
The venue: Croke Park, Dublin. In attendance: 57,000 people including one cool American chick and her crabby Irish boyfriend. The line-up: Irish band In Tua Nua, a practically unknown REM, The Alarm, Squeeze, and, of course, a certain Irish band named U2. The day: June 29, 1985.
Important Background Information
After graduating from college, I went to Ireland to avoid getting a job and to stalk U2. What started out as a 4-month adventure ended up being a 2-year . . . um, adventure . . . of poverty, waitressing, and drunkenness. Of course there was a man involved. No, it was not Bono. But the man—Donal—was reason enough to stay in Dublin much longer than I’d intended. We shared a greasy flat with some mice and had a lot of fun when we weren’t dodging the landlady or going without heat. When I heard that U2 would be playing at Croke Park, there was no question that we would scrape together our dole money and go, even tho Donal, like every good Irish citizen, was not a U2 fan.
Here, in a “You Are There” format, are excerpts from the journal I kept at the time.
JUNE 24. Five more days until U2! I’m so excited I could puke. The signs are everywhere. All the local mags are full of interviews and headlines like “A Sort of Homecoming” and “Local Boys Make Good.” U2 is on the cover of Hot Press and In Dublin and even had a center spread in the Sunday World!! Golden Discs has dedicated their window display to them. I finally broke down and bought the “U2 4-Play” for £6.99 [I would later sell this on eBay for about ten times that amount].
JUNE 26. My last day of work before the concert. I made £30.00, all of which is going to the concert. Unfortunately I forget about food, bus fare, and the rest of the rent, so I’m left with £12.00. It’s enough! So that’s one of my worries eliminated. I can’t do anything about the weather, and as for keeping healthy, I’ve been loading up on high-fiber bread, vitamins, orange juice, and liver tablets. So, my only worry left to be dealt with is the question of getting good seats. I gather up the courage to broach the subject with Donal. I begin innocently enough: “Do you think they allow camping at Croke—?”
“WE ARE NOT CAMPING OUT!!!!!!!!!”
OK. No amount of wheedling, cajoling, crying, or threatening will make him relent. Unless I want to go by myself (I don’t), I will have to be content with going early. He insists it’s completely unnecessary to camp out, and it turns out later that he’s right, but this doesn’t stop me from sulking for 24 hours.
JUNE 28. I spend the day eating Maalox to calm my nerves, listen to U2, pore lovingly over my scrapbook, and keep checking my underwear drawer to make sure my tickets haven’t disappeared, melted, or been sold by Donal, who is out getting drunk and probably complaining to anyone who will listen that I’m dragging him to see U2. I’ve warned him that we’re getting up early, and while he seemed to accept this news fairly well at the time, something tells me there will be trouble later on. This is confirmed when he stumbles in from the pub around 2:30, and I cheerfully inform him that we’re getting up at 5:oo. He cheerfullly throws a chair at me. I set the alarm for 7:30.
Needless to say, I don’t get much sleep, but I do have a troublesome dream in which I go to see U2 with my dad in London. They’re playing in a parking lot filled with stone benches, and only about 40 people show up, all girls. During “11:00 Tick Tock,” Bono searches the audience and looks right at me. This is it, I think, this is where he brings me up on stage to dance with him! Instead he sits down and starts talking to me. All is going well until my dad accuses him of being a lazy alcoholic. I scream, “You’ve ruined everything!” and run sobbing from the parking lot. What the hell does that mean?
JUNE 29. THE CONCERT
7:30. It’s been light since about 4:00, so for the last 3 hours I’ve been peering anxiously out the window, waiting for the inevitable thunderstorm, tornado, or monsoon. But while it’s gray and unimpressive, there is NO RAIN!
After a breakfast of tacos, I’m happy and excited and ready to go. Donal is cranky and tired and hungover. He assures me that he is approaching U2 with an open mind, but he has also said that he’d be just as happy leaving after Squeeze. I bring him cups of tea in bed, rub his feet, whistle cheery little tunes, and generally make a fuss over him. After he’s up, I make about 12 sandwiches, which I pack in a suitcase-sized tote bag, along with 2 pints of milk, 2 books, aspirin, throat lozenges, a pad and pen for taking notes, a raincoat, sweater, sunglasses, and those precious yellow tickets. We get on the bus and make our way to Croke Park.
9:30. We reach the area outside the gates and find, to Donal’s utter amazement, that we are not the first insane people to arrive early. The atmosphere is relaxed so far: mostly kids 10 to 15 years younger than us sitting around the courtyard. Donal and I sit on the stairs and begin the wait. I felt like a chaperoning mom with my huge bag full of supplies.
10:52. A group of young assholes decide that it would be fun to rush the gate. So the entire crowd of by now hundreds of people decide to join them. We can’t help but get carried along the wave of people moving toward the gate. Donal keeps grumbling that we should go back and sit down—or better yet just leave, but I grimly stand my ground. Anyway, it’s impossible to move forward or backward. We are flattened against a wall with very little oxygen. People are fainting. We get to stand right next to a group of really obnoxious, drunken fuckheads who are intent upon driving everyone around them crazy, and when that gets boring, trying to kill each other. If they’re not throwing up, they’re throwing bottles, trash cans, and each other. Some fights break out—those blind “I don’t care who I hit” fights where you—a nice American girl in your mid-20s—find yourself face-to-face with some drunken, empty-headed sixteen year-old who is convinced that you threw that bottle at him. Several terrifying hours pass with no fatalities.
1:00. We are finally allowed through the single turnstyle that will get us into the stadium. Yes, a single turnstyle on each side of the park for 57,000 crazed drunkards. This whole time I’ve been clutching my precious ticket between numb fingers, but when I get to the ticket taker . . . the ticket is gone. FUCK! I try to find Donal in a panic, but he’s several people behind me, and I’m being pushed and smashed from every direction. I look at my empty hand and back at the ticket taker in disbelief. He looks at me, then spies a yellow piece of paper on the ground. He thrusts it at me: “Here!” I give it back to him as if it were a ticket. And . . . I’m in!
In sheer joy I start running onto the field. Donal is yelling somewhere behind me. We start out fairly close to the stage but decide to move to the bleachers, as I’m sure we’ll be crushed in the crowd. Our seats aren’t bad: a bit to the side but not too far. I wish I didn’t have this giant bag with me. Why did I think I’d need to bring a book?
2:00. The concert begins! In Tua Nua are OK; the sound system is terrible. The only songs I know are “Coming Thru” and “Somebody to Love.” REM are fantastic; Michael Stipe is SUCH a performer, alternating between epileptic seizures, tap dancing, and singing with his back to the audience. But Ireland is not ready for REM. I’m the only one cheering. They played “So. Central Rain” and “Pretty Persuasion” but not “Radio Free Europe.” The Alarm are fucking AMAZING! Mike Peters is an aspiring young Bono, full of energy and excitement. A great accent and butt, too! They did “Marching On,” “68 Guns” (great!), and others I recognized, but the highlight was definitely “Blaze of Glory,” which they dedicated to U2! Squeeze is boring, boring, boring. Even Donal can’t pretend to be excited.
8:30. THIS IS IT!!! Dave Fanning introduces U2: “Now they’re back! They have conquered the world. Are you ready for the greatest live rock & roll show you will ever see? Welcome back Bono, Larry, Adam, The Edge: U2!” OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!! It’s really them! I can’t believe I’m seeing U2 live! Bono looks extremely sharp: tight black jacket, white blousey shirt, leather trousers, black hat, cool black boots. They played:
11 O’Clock Tick Tock
I Will Follow
The Unforgettable Fire
Sunday Bloody Sunday
A Sort of Homecoming
The Electric Co.
New Year’s Day
Pride (In the Name of Love)
Out Of Control
The crowd goes crazy during the entire concert. This is the opposite reaction of what I’d expected, after talking to people who were so cool and uncaring about U2 and their success. But here they were: singing, cheering, and waving flags. Amid the noise, I heard a strange croaking sound. It was Donal. He was singing, too.
If you want to see U2 in Ireland:
Apparently no one had cell phone cameras in 1985, but here’s what U2 at Croke Park looked like in 2005.
Apparently someone had some sort of antiquated video device in 1985, because here’s what U2 looked like in 1985 (in Toronto).
Read this fan’s much more coherent account.
* Today’s lyrics are courtesy of U2!!!