- 29 Nov 17
10 Hot Press writers share their favourite U2 moments as we get set for the release of Songs of Experience on December 1. On our ninth day, John Walshe recalls fighting tooth and nail to catch the Love Town tour at The Point.
It’s not even a thing, just a shadow of a thing. Yet that long dark silhouette of a cowboy hat causes my breath to catch in my throat. There’s a tingle, not quite sexual but not far off, in my confused 15-year-old limbs. It’s Stephen’s Day, 1989, in an old tin shed down by the port. The Stones’ ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ is blasting from the PA, as my favourite band in the entire universe take to the stage.
Despite being just a decade and a half on the planet, it had taken me quite a while to actually get to see U2 live. I’d heard them loads, staying up late to watch them torch ‘Maggie’s Farm’ on Self Aid and serrate ‘Springhill Mining Disaster’ on the Late Late, and the countless bootlegs I’d bought from Alternative Sounds on Liffey Street with money earned from my part-time job. When they played Croke Park two years previously, my parents had deemed their small 13-year-old music obsessive too young to go, so I sat outside on our wall in Drumcondra and sang along with every word, self-consciousness blessedly a thing of the future.
By the time the tickets for the four Love Town gigs in the Point went on sale, I’d been waiting to see the band for almost three years, 20% of my life to that point. My mates went in and queued overnight to get their tickets. Once again, I wasn’t allowed to go. No ticket? Disaster. Scouring the small ads in the Irish Press, ringing a landline and agreeing a price. Sixty old pounds: cheap by today’s standards but four times the cover price and a fortune for a teenager who earned two quid an hour hauling Coke crates up the steps in an old football stadium. My parents, guilty for not letting me queue, stumped up twenty quid. Deal done. A beautiful yellow and blue ticket in my sweaty paw, back in the days when stubs were collectable things of beauty.
So there I was, in the shadow of a Stetson, keyed up like a giddy schoolgirl at a Niall Horan meet-and-greet. When they started to play, I think it was ‘God Part II’ they opened with, my teenage head exploded in all manner of wonderful ways. For the next two hours, I jumped up and down with a feverishness I’d never dreamed, roaring along with every word, except when Bono segued off into other songs mid-bridge - I think ‘Sexual Healing’ got an airing that night if my memory of the subsequent bootleg is accurate. But then, my recollection of that whole night has very little colour – it’s as if the entire gig took place in glorious sepia – until I emerged, sweat-sodden into the cold Liffey air.
These days, I live a couple of streets over from where Bono grew up on Cedarwood Road and on a semi-regular basis, I emerge from my house to see confused U2 fans from all over the world furiously flicking their Google Maps to find his old house. My own adolescent adoration may be a thing of the past but I’ll never forget that first thrilling ride aboard the Bono Vox rock ‘n rollercoaster, an epiphany of unadulterated joy of the kind that usually takes chemicals to induce. I.. I… believed in love.