- 05 Nov 18
Paul Charles booked U2 for what was their first ever major festival gig, supporting The Police in Leixlip, just outside of Dublin.
“They were building a reputation as impressive live performers...”
I was the promoter for The Police’s gig at Leixlip Castle, in July 1980. There was a bit of a buzz about U2 at that stage, obviously coming mainly from Dublin, and from Hot Press in particular. This was before their debut album Boy was released. But ‘11 O’ Clock Tick Tock’ had been launched, they seemed to have a good gigging plan in place for the UK and were building a reputation as an impressive, must-see live act – to the extent that they might be a good addition to our festival bill with The Police. I decided to go for it.
In the end, even as far as Police fans were concerned, U2 were clearly one of the day’s better acts, which is tough when you’ve got the likes of Squeeze, John Otway and Q-Tips also on the bill. These were all serious live acts, who were making their reputation from gigging.
Because U2’s debut album hadn’t been released yet, their set was a relatively short one. I remember the band themselves being young and fresh-faced – but you could tell right away that they weren’t just a collection of musicians.
That’s what some bands are: a collection of musicians that never actually gel, whereas the four of them together – they already looked and sounded like a real band. It was clear, even then, that musically and personally speaking, they belonged together. So it was obvious to me that this was not just another ‘promising band’. I also remember them being very polite and gracious backstage. There were serious demands being thrown about backstage that day by other people, but none of the demands were coming from U2. They came across like they were just thrilled to be there and to have the opportunity to play their music – and to try and make a connection with the audience.
As I recall, The Police and Squeeze, to their cost, were both rather too preoccupied with the size of the crowd, and the scale of the event. They sounded like they felt it was necessary to play a set to a big crowd – so much so, in fact, that neither band really played a successful set. U2, however, clearly weren’t really under any such pressure. Their preoccupation was with their music.
Unlike The Police and Squeeze they kept it natural, kept it real, kept the music as their priority. They took the time to create a space for it, kept it special and built a connection with each other. The result was that they made the stage their own. There was a small percentage of the crowd who were fans of them already, but with their performance – and the reaction from the audience – they’d won a lot more fans by the end of their set. It was a big gig, in front of a huge crowd – and they turned out to be the undisputed stars of the show.