In 1985, Snappy, Groo, Budoff, and I were pencil-necked high school sophomores with tickets to see U2′s Unforgettable Fire show at the Brendan Byrne Arena and no ride to the show. Still without our learner’s permits, we did what every other non-licensed teenagers would do to make the 20 mile pilgrimage from Long Island to New Jersey — use mass transit, right? No, we bought a fifth ticket and asked our trig teacher, Mr. Composanto, to drive us. The concert was on a Sunday night, and Mr. C’s only stipulation was that none of us blew off his class first period on Monday morning. All of the excitement of my first U2 show returned tonight, when the world’s best live band took the stage at Madison Square Garden.
With the house lights still up, the quarter that “for an entire lunch period” was known as The Larry Mullen Band opened up the show for the nublie fans with the obligatory singles from All That You Can’t Leave Behind. But make no mistake about it — this was a show for real fans. “Until The End of the World” — the first of many offerings from Achtung Baby– was followed up by “New Year’s Day,” “Kite,” “New York”, and what turned out to be the triple crown of the night — “Out of Control” into “11 O’clock Tick Tock” into “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” In today’s world when the lyrics “fact is fiction, tv reality” have never rung more true, Bono had twenty-thousand adoring fans in the palm of his hand.
Then, Bono masterfully turned the trembling arena into his living room. Long-time collaborator Daniel Lanois joined the band on “Stuck In A Moment.” And in a stirring tribute to Joey Ramone (whose mom and brother, Mikey were on hand) the band played the modern R&B ballad, “In A Little While,” which is reported to have been the tune Joey was listening to when he “walked on.” With the lyric “That girl, that girl she’s mine/Well I’ve known her since/Since she was…” Bono captured Joey’s heart and the soul of Al Greene. Next up was The Ramones’, “I Remember You,” and the “unplugged” set was closed out with “Desire” and “Staring at the Sun.”
The crowd was once again united, with a track that’s turned into U2′s very own Jungleland — “Bad.” Even the E Street Band’s Little “Silvio Dante” Steven got in on the chant of “Let it go/And so to fade away.” Among the other notable in the house were garden regular John McEnroe, Fischer Stevens, Tiger Woods, Chris Rock, Winona Ryder, and Jimmy Iovine. It wasn’t until nearly 2 hours into the set, when The Joshua Tree was finally tapped — and it was done in a huge way. Like the 747 jumbo jet that adorns the “Beautiful Day” video, the Garden seemed to take off with “Where The Streets Have No Name.” Lights blaring, the Edge’s guitar searing, the crowd was transported to 1987. By the looks of the mostly thirty-something crowd, we were all in our late teens when this seminal album of the 80′s was released and for that moment we all felt young again. The band not only felt it; they looked it. If the Knicks played on the garden floor with that kind of intensity, there’d be more than two championship banners hanging in the rafters.
After a couple of more tracks from Achtung,the crowd was treated to a video credo by Charlton Heston about how guns are bad when they’re in the hands of bad people, and how nobody gets hurt when guns are in the hands of good people — only bad people. Hey Charlton — try telling that to Amado Diallo.
The encores played out like a greatest hits compilation — “With Or Without You,” “Pride,” “One,” and — once again for Joey — “Walk On.” The minimalist set and lights complimented the real star of the night — the music. This wasn’t about Pop Marts or Zoo TVs — it was about Rock and Roll. Bono embraced New York as his “second home” and one of the few holes in the set list was the absence of “A Sort Of Homecoming” — which would have been fitting, because “…for tonight at last/I am coming home/I am coming home.”
The set list is as follows:
Until The End of the World
New Year’s Day
Out Of Control
11 O’clock Tick Tock
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Stuck In A Moment (f. Daniel Lanois)
In A Little While
I Remember You (The Ramones)
Staring At The Sun
Bad (f. Stones’s Wild Horses and 40)
Where The Streets Have No Name
Charlton Heston’s Credo
Bullet The Blue Sky
With Or Without You
Source: Evan Trees