Thursday, July 19, 2012

First Stop on the 'War' Tour, USA: U2 Plays Chapel Hill, North Carolina, April 23, 1983

A wise saying has it that we make our luck. If it's good luck at least, this is sometimes demonstrably true. Back in 1983 when I was just a "lad," my sister Linda wanted to see Todd Rundgren and we both shared an excited curiosity about U2. I'd just bought the War record album in March and here they were now, a last minute addition to "The Carolina Concert for Children," a benefit for UNICEF. Tickets were easily available. I knew people at both WXYC 89.3 FM and WUNC 91.5 FM and secured complimentary tickets; I must have also made a donation to receive an extra ticket with a face value of $11 -- that went unused because, for no apparent reason except general indifference, Kenan Stadium at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill did not sell out. And, it being a rainy and thunderous day, only a smattering of people (i.e. less than a thousand in a stadium that holds more than 60,000) stayed for the whole event, which before all was said and done included The Producers, a New Wave pop band from Atlanta; Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five -- riding high on the critical success of their perennially powerful 1982 song, "The Message" but soon thereafter to break up; U2, on their first North American show of the War Tour; and the nominal headliner, Todd Rundgren.

U2 performed majestic renditions of "New Year's Day" and "Sunday, Bloody Sunday." They soared from the get-go with "Gloria" and ended with a rousing "I Will Follow." Other songs in between included "I Threw a Brick Through a Window," "I Fall Down" and haunting versions of "October" and "Tomorrow." Just about halfway through their set, it was raining steadily and there was thunder and lightning, but the show went on with an impromptu segue from "Electric Company" to "Singing in the Rain" with Bono as crazy man, having scrambled up the stage and high into the scaffolding, chancing a lightning strike. He scrabbled onto the piping and then, after "Singing in the Rain," finally made his way down again. The sort of thing Jim Morrison or Iggy Pop might do, I thought at the time -- and still do. Holy moly. I almost felt sorry for Todd Rundgren to have to follow that act. His was pretty low-key by comparison, but we stayed through the end.

For me, this intimate concert in Chapel Hill was the acme for U2, their zenith. They were fresh and wild, exciting and risk-taking. I saw them once again, at a much larger and more crowded show in Atlanta, but how could they possibly have ever surpassed the magic of this one?

Today's Rune: Movement.    

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I really liked War. The later U2 albums often had one or two good songs on them but wasn't as good as WAR.