It was the Summer of 1984 and I had just graduated from High School. Back then, a new channel called MTV used to broadcast videos 24 hours a day. One of the videos in heavy rotation was SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY from the Red Rocks video. I would never be the same. I had dismissed the song NEW YEARS DAY as some sort of new wave crapola, but this song got me. Bono had the mullet, and black pants and goofy boots on. Larry actually sprinted to his drumkit at the beginning of the show. Edge had hair and a flannel (long before our friends in Seattle). Adam had a shock of blonde hair. There was rain and fog and big fires burning. The crowd was small and wet, but drunk and loud. When Bono climbed up the rock with the flag and microphone and sang like Moses himself, well, what's a white kid from the suburbs like me supposed to do?
My first show was December 15,1984 in San Francisco when a general admission ticket cost 12 bucks. It may not have been a sellout. There appeared to be no official setlist. Songs were started and stopped willy nilly. Here's what they played (eat your heart out Elevation newbies): 11 O'clock Tick Tock, I Will Follow, Seconds, MLK, Unforgettable Fire, Wire, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Electric Co., A Sort of Homecoming, Bad, October, New Years Day, Pride, Party Girl, Gloria, and 40. People were pulled onstage to sing along. Someone holding a sign in Gaelic was swept up to the front by the crowd. It was inspiring and life affirming and I knew where much of my disposable income would be going for the next 18 years. My fanness went full circle when 17 years later I also got to hear A Sort Of Homecoming as my friend played guitar with the band. The guy running this site (he's in the picture with me), the guitar-playing friend, much of the @U2 staff, and countless others have been met while all of us celebrated the best band in the world. It's something that non-fans don't really understand. If you don't feel something when the screen goes red and the first chord to WTSHNName begins, and you still don't feel anything when the lights explode onto the crowd and the chubby girl in the last row is dancing like Bono can see her, then you will never really get it.
I've been to 30 shows since 1984. I remember the sign language interpreter who came onstage in San Diego to sign PRIDE, I remember a guy stage-diving in Los Angeles as Bono called for medical personnel, I remember the vibe inside the Amnesty show, I remember all but quitting school during a two-week period of the Joshua Tree tour, I remember being in Philadelphia and going to the first show on the first day of RATTLE AND HUM and singing ALL I WANT IS YOU along with the other superfans as the credits rolled, I remember visiting the site of Dr. King's murder 12 hours after the band did, I remember dragging first-timers to the JT, ZooTV, PopMart, and Elevation tours, I remember the disastrous opening night of PopMart in Vegas when the internet was new and e-relationships were made real, I remember driving by myself in a car for 14 hours to a city I'd never been with only the promise of a ticket waiting for me in the rain of Oregon, I remember the response to my 20,000 word tome on that show, I remember waiting at hotels and backstage for autographs, I remember 'meeting' Bono outside the Marriot Marquis, I remember not needing an autograph from him as the music was enough. But mostly, I remember and cherish the other fans I've met at shows and at pre-concert parties and on the internet and on the phone and in cities both strange and familiar. Many of these friendships have moved way beyond simply U2-based. But these are people I never would have met without our band. My life is better because of U2.
Now I use my incredible knowledge and inside connections with the band for the forces of good in my Answer Guy column. I pledge to treat every question with the level of respect it deserves. I promise that my answer or advise will be worth exactly what you paid to get it. I promise I will never admit to not knowing something about U2, no matter how specific or introspective. This is my solemn vow. I am Answer Guy. Half Genius. Half Smart Ass.