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.