23 years ago tonight, U2 played Iowa City, Iowa.

I remember the day tickets were announced to the show. I was aimlessly flipping through The Daily Iowa, our student newspaper delivered daily to our room, as I ambled my way to the dining room in Burge Residence Hall for breakfast. Suddenly, my eyes caught a display ad – 1 night only U2 Carver Hawkeye Arena, October 20, 1987. All of the rumors I had heard were now true. U2 were coming to the University of Iowa. They changed the venue from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls to Iowa City just because they weren’t allowed to put up their outdoor stadium stage inside the UNIDome. Or, at least that’s what the rumor was when it hit the streets and bars on campus four weeks earlier. More shocking was the band would be coming to where I was going to college. It was as if the rock gods were looking down on us and hit our campus with a lightening bolt stating, “With the powers vested in us, U2 will play Carver Hawkeye Arena.” It was a life changing moment and one everyone wants to have when they are in college.

Let’s back up a second and talk about what this meant for ticket buyers 23 years ago. There was no Internet and no Ticketmaster in 1987, just good old class skipping and waiting in line, no matter what the weather, for those coveted ticket numbers. It’s a bygone era, which I miss dearly. I loved the camaraderie of standing in line wearing the smell of the night before’s U2 celebration still on our breath. Some of us would be huddled under a sleeping bag for warmth. An errant Thermos, filled not with coffee but something along the lines of other warmth, would be passed around to get us through the boredom. Others would be knee deep in the books trying to look studious with good intentions if the Prof. stopped by. More importantly, you would make new friends whom you would see in six week’s time at the show sitting near you. All of this is a long-gone era, as the intimacy of the Internet has taken away our street socialization of making friends and talking about our band months before the show. The swapping of stories with new found acquaintances has been forced to technological interaction with an “LOL” or “BTW I was there too.” Now, you never know whom you will sit next to at the show and how they got their ticket.

Technology aside, we all have our first, U2 show that is. Whether it was 23 years ago this week for me or last summer on the 360 tour or even before me, we can share and revel in the fact that we can remember exactly what happened to us on the night we first saw the band. I was taken to campus security inside Carver Hawkeye Arena and had my U2 banner taken away from me. My cousin, who I was with at his first show which was on the PopMart tour, lost $10 to a bootleg t-shirt seller as the seller was bum rushed by the cops outside Soldier Field. I upset a table of food and spilled Champagne, on my then girlfriend and my now wife, moments before her first U2 show. These are the experiences that never leave us. Add to this is our reminiscence of where we were in life, who we attended the show with that night and what our pre-U2 concert ceremonies were. Oh, and there is the U2 show itself.  Witnessing one of the great bands of our generation, taking the stage in front of us, and becoming a life altering moment, an event ingrained in our memories for life. I still remember the lights going down 23 years ago tonight and the fans rushing down the stairs and spilling onto the floor with U2’s energy emanating from the stage. It was as if I went to a tent revival, one that has stayed with me all of this time.

In closing, I guess the real question is why, or how, does U2 have this affect on us no matter when you see them for the first time. It should be an easy answer but it isn’t as they touch us in various ways by writing brilliant lyrics, sonic guitar riffs, odd stage antics, or just performing a solid show by master craftsmen. Maybe, we believe that they are doing right in the world or make it a better place or perhaps they suspend our daily pain for an evening as we take in a night of great music. All of those are valid points. Even better, it’s the community they create as we congregate amongst ourselves in anticipation of the next show we attend or next U2 whatever. In my 23 years since the first show, nothing has changed. U2 are still attracting the same passionate fans. Some of us are older but young at heart. The real question is where did the 23 years go?

I share with you video from my first night. U2 opening the show at Carver Hawkeye Arena with Where the Streets Have No Name.

I invite you to tell the story of your first show. Share with others. Come on. It’s OK.

  1. liljbau Reply

    A friend from U2.com asked me to post this that I posted on U2.com:

    mine- I’m sure many people are sick of hearing it, but I dont know if you have – so at least one person wont be bored.:
    I was living in upstate NY at the time. The year was 91 (i believe) when the tix went on sale for ZooTV at Nassau Colliseum , on Long Island (where the Islanders play). They might have went on sale early 92, but the show was in March , so I believe it was late 91.
    Before the days of internet, I had to try on the phone since I was so far away. To no avail ,and the tix sold out VERY QUICKLY , beat the record that Michael Jackson previously held for quickest selling out of a concert.

    FORTUNATELY- i had met this dude who had cousins who were AS DIEHARD AS ME – fans of U2 (hard to believe that i had only been a fan a few years when i look back on it )

    THEY HAD SCORED TIX and INVITED ME!!!!(bless them forever- havent talked to them since Zoo TV at Giants Stadium, but I still remember them fondly)

    So , in typical NY fashion, we left much too late to catch the opening band , the Pixies ( I regret that now), but it didnt matter , we got there on time for the only band that existed that night- U2.

    We listened to Live from Red Rocks on the way there and sang out loud together. We also listened to Achtung Baby and sang out loud.
    The show- BLEW MY MIND – WAY BETTER THAN I COULD HAVE POSSIBLY ANTICIPATED – much different than the Joshua Tree tour footage that I had watch a million times – BETTER !!!!

    Well – I’m running out of room- I had too piss like a racehorse from the very moment the show started and HELD IT THE WHOLE TIME- i wasnt going to miss a second of this moment.
    Bullet the Blue Sky blew me away (sorry Scout 6 ) , Ultraviolet was amazing , with the disco ball lowering and the spot light hittihng it , and the whole arena was disco- and Streets, oh my God , Streets – I cried like a baby !!!!I saw it FOR MYSELF!!! and it DIDNT DISAPPOINT!!! and … THE FLY !!!! WOW!!!

    ONE OF THE GREATEST NIGHTS OF MY LIFE- thanks for asking

  2. Cheryl Reply

    I had just begun teaching at Iowa, and one of my students was on SCOPE (the group that brings events to campus). He helped me to get amazing seats. I’ve always remembered how much blue lighting they used on this concert, but even so the video startled me because of the color and because my memory of the event is so strong. 23 years: a mere bagatelle.

  3. Karin Reply

    I was at that concert!!!! I actually made a banner that hung Ruhr behind the stage. My little sister and I snuck into the seats and the guard actually let us stay standing at the rail, holding our sacred banner the entire time! I will never forget the moment when Bono looked up at us and said, “Hey! Cool banner! Throw it down!”. In a state of shock we tossed it down at which time he sand TWO sngs with it draped around hime before throwing it back up to us. I still have that banner…. Tucked away. On late nights when I have had too much wine it emerges…. My husband LOVES when I pull it out and go through the story!! LOL!!

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