They say you never forget your first, but I have to admit that my first U2 show was a long time ago and has become somewhat of a blur. I remember highlights of the week but not much else, so at least some of this is coming from looking at sites like U2gigs.com to remind myself.
I was born and raised in New Zealand, and spent much of my life there, although I am now an American citizen and have been here for nearly twenty years. I was too young (and perhaps not aware enough) to see U2 when they came to New Zealand in 1984, although I saw Dire Straits live in 1985, my first official concert. It wasn’t until U2 returned in 1989, by which time I was a die-hard fan, that I was able to see them live for the first time. I had seen Rattle And Hum many times, so had a good idea what to expect, but it was still overwhelming and wonderful.
My first show was on November 4, 1989, at Lancaster Park in my home town, Christchurch. I had seen many cricket and rugby matches at Lancaster Park, but this was one of the few times I had actually been on the field. Me and 65,000 others according to the internet, and I remember that it was the largest crowd to see a concert in New Zealand at the time. Realize that Christchurch had a population of 300,000 back then, and that should tell you the level of interest.
Among the things I remember was that they faced the stage towards the main stand, and immediately there was a big bounce back of sound when they began playing, the sound echoing off the stand and back to the field. It wasn’t something that bothered me for long, or perhaps at all. I was fairly close to the stage, perhaps ten rows back in the GA crowd, and sort of aligned between Edge and Bono. I remember Streets opening the show, and being so overwhelmed and happy to be seeing it live. The other thing I remember was them pulling a guy out of the crowd and having him play guitar, he played Desire according to the internet. I remember wishing it was me, although I had no experience with the guitar back then (and little now).
So they had planned a three show tour of New Zealand, and I had planned to travel with them. They ended up adding a second show in Auckland when the first sold out. I took the train to the North Island, my first trip away from home by myself, and went to the Wellington show and then on to Auckland for the two shows. In Wellington I was much closer, I was about three people from the stage, right in front of Adam. I remember that part clearly, perhaps the best time of my life at that point.
It was a great week. It was a week I think back on often, wishing I could go back in time and experience it again. I haven’t even gone out to see if there are any bootlegs of the shows, I probably should do that. The biggest regret is probably that being so far away from anywhere else in the world, I couldn’t easily go see them anywhere else. I had dreams of going to see them in Australia in 1993, but I couldn’t afford it. Perhaps if I had grown up in the US and had a week like that, I might have ended up spending my life following them everywhere I could.