- 07 Nov 18
The Walls were among the support acts at what is often considered the ultimate U2 gig: their second night in Slane Castle in 2001. Steve Wall recalls when the Elevation tour came home...
“It was an amazing feeling looking down into the crowd...”
It was funny how our involvement in the Elevation Tour came about. Things had been going really well on that tour overall for U2. All That You Can’t Leave Behind had gone to No.1 all over the world, more or less, and they ended up playing to over 2 million people in total on the tour – and Slane was like the apex of it in so many ways. The first Slane Castle show was a sell-out and we heard then that they were maybe going to do a second gig there. We’d just put out the Walls’ debut album, Hi Lo and we have a mutual friend with U2, who was in school with them. We said, “If we gave you a package, would you give it them?”
They were still in America on tour, so it was kind of a long shot – but it was worth a go. We put together a package for each one of them with a CD of the album, a packet of Tayto crisps and some Barry’s teabags. And there was a handwritten note, telling them to be careful with their backs when they were lifting heavy equipment into the van and stuff like that. Three or four weeks prior to the gig, which was on 1 September 2001, we got a call from somebody working with U2, asking us if we were free for Slane. We immediately assumed it was somebody pulling our leg. But it was them – and so we got to do the second Slane show, alongside Ash, Moby and Nelly Furtado, amongst others.
There was such a sense of occasion, it was unbelievable. That same day, Ireland beat Holland in a World Cup qualifier, so there was a incredible excitement – Jason McAteer’s goal was shown on the big screens and we ended up celebrating with the whole Irish team that night in Lillie’s Bordello… thanks to U2!
Back then, we were relatively limited in how we could advertise the fact that we were doing the gig. If we were doing it now, we’d have it plastered all over Facebook, Twitter and the rest. But we exploited it as much as possible. We really enjoyed the fact that a lot of other, more high profile acts were asking how The Walls got it. The record was self-released, we weren’t signed, so that was gratifying.
I remember going on – it was an amazing feeling looking down into the crowd. There was a huge number of people there. It was a really good show for us and the reaction was great.
We’d never met any of the guys in the band before, but we met them that day. Their hospitality to us, as just another support band on the bill, was second to none. At one stage, I was leaving the hospitality tent and I saw Bono with a crowd of people around him. I went up to him and thanked him for the opportunity. I always remember, he was still holding my hand, and he said, “I got your tape.”
I was thinking, “Hang on a minute – we sent him a fuckin’ CD!” (laughs). He said, “We needed a wild card for this show – and The Walls were the wild card.” I remember I turned around and a journalist asked me what he’d said. So I told him, “He said The Walls were the wild card.” Bono is a real pro that way: he’ll always give you a great sound bite.
But it was a very emotional occasion too. If you remember, Bono’s father had just died a short time before that gig, and everyone was aware of his state of mind, his vulnerability and how hard it must have been for him to sing certain songs. But he did it beautifully. The crowd were really with U2 that day and the band put on a phenomenal show.
We were really blown away by U2’s performance. It had been a while since any of us had seen them, but we had Access All Areas passes, so we could get right upfront in the pit area – and you could see in close-up the incredible showmanship. Bono spotted a photographer who was with us, Allen Kiely, and pulled him up onto the ramp. He started singing to him while Alan was snapping away! Allen’s pictures of Bono with the crowd in the background were seen all over the world – Bono’s a master of that stuff.
From start to finish, it was an unforgettable experience – and it was a privilege to be part of such an extraordinary occasion.