The ’80s Pin Project: U2-The Unforgettable Fire

For an explanation of the 1980s Pin Project, go here.

I get it, sorta. A significant number of music fans do not love U2, and kind of I get why. Bono is a pompous ass, they say (the bastard, talking all “humanitarian issues and social justice” and asking people to get all thinky-like), and the music doesn’t “go” anywhere. It’s exhausting trying to make one’s way through their meaningful yet jangly lyrics, they say. Now they’re all just a bunch of fat-cat rockers in mansions, so playing the “angry young man” anthems that made their careers is a bit facetious at best. They are the Disney of rock. They are The System. They say.

Yeah, yeah. As much as, at this point, Bruce Springsteen is still a blue collar working man. Don’t get me wrong; from everything I’ve heard, Bruce Springsteen is as salt-of-the-earth as they come, and he’s not forgotten his working-class roots. But he’s rich as balls. “Baby, this town rips the bones from your back” doesn’t really apply to him any longer, unless that’s some odd payment option that’s been made available for him so he can fund his daughter’s show-jumping equestrian habit. And yet, no one seems to point sold-out fingers at The Boss. And I digress.

So. The Unforgettable Fire.

I probably wore this thing everywhere.

I probably wore this thing everywhere.

The Unforgettable Fire was their pre-juggernaut-of-spectacle, their big-but-not-quite-ginormous full-length album, the one right before they launched into the upper stratosphere with The Joshua Tree. (Musical timeline sticklers: I know there was an EP in between these two albums, but that didn’t launch their careers noticeably higher, it just maintained their Fire momentum until they hit Joshua.) This is the album that gave us the song “Pride (In The Name of Love)”, and who doesn’t want to pump a righteous fist at that tune? The tour that supported The Unforgettable Fire was the tour that saw them moving into 15,000 seat arenas instead of 5,000 seat mid-size venues. It was also the first U2 tour I had the opportunity to see.

AND IT WAS FANTASTIC. I’m pretty sure I never sat down, and that includes from the moment Lone Justice came out to open the show. My friend Bryan still reminisces in almost reverential tones about the glory of that double-bill. And about my rage at the people sitting near us who complained that the opening band sucked. There was no violence from me, mind you. Only hatred. Moving on.

The place: The Brendan Byrne Arena (a/k/a the Continental Arena and now, the defunct Izod Center), located in the sports complex in the swamps of East Rutherford, New Jersey. The date: April 14, 1985. How do I know the date?

I found the set list.

04/14/1985 Brendan Byrne Arena – East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA
Gloria, I Threw A Brick Through A Window, A Day Without Me / Dear Prudence (snippet), MLK, The Unforgettable Fire, Two Hearts Beat As One, Seconds, Sunday Bloody Sunday, The Cry, The Electric Co., A Sort Of Homecoming, Bad, October, New Year’s Day, Pride (In The Name Of Love),
encores: 11 O’Clock Tick Tock, I Will Follow, 40

For the record, that tiny snippet of “Dear Prudence” nearly drove me insane. This concert nearly drove me insane. I had bruises up and down my legs from dancing so wildly I kept banging into the back of the seat in front of me–happily, an unoccupied seat, as its owner was up and dancing too. I was hoarse for two days.

Fast forward to five or six years ago. George and I went to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (with which I had an enormous number of issues, but that’s an entirely different post) and–surprise, surprise!–one of the exhibits they featured was a film of U2, performing in 3D.  I was ready to see it alone because George is no U2 fan, and it was only 85 minutes long. Surely, I thought, he’d be more interested in eyeballing Les Paul’s guitars, or Iggy Pop‘s duct tape shorts, in that time, but no! I was wrong, and he joined me for the U2 movie. When we left, George was smiling, nodding his head. “OK,” he said. “I see it, I understand their phenomenon more now. I’m not willing to say I’m a fan, but I understand.”

Is there anything more I can ask for from him? I think not. Through the years, I have remained a U2 fan. I didn’t care that they dropped Songs of Innocence into my iTunes account. Yay, free music! I don’t care if Bono has lunch with the Pope. Yay, positive use of his incredibly public platform! I don’t care if they all have big houses now; isn’t that why people become rock stars, anyway? At the end of the day, I just want to dance, and if you can keep in your seat to “I Will Follow” then we need to have a talk.

That being said…the video of Edge walking off the edge of their stage still cracks me up.

If only someone could come up with some highly visible marking system that would delineate the edge of the stage in the dimly-lit concert arena…if only…

As an added bonus, here’s a video of Lone Justice singing “I Found Love”. Because U2 gets enough attention already, dammit. Sing it, Ms. McKee!

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2 responses to The ’80s Pin Project: U2-The Unforgettable Fire

  1. It took me a long time for me to like U2. Now that I’m older, I appreciate their music more than in my teens. Their lyrics are awesome, their music is awesome and the memories I have of them playing in the car stereo while I walked to school is awesome as well.

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  2. What do you think about the band U2?

    I still love U2. I became a fan of them in the ’80s, and I think that much of their music holds up. They went through a little bit of a piddling phase in the late ’90s/early ’00s, but their more recent work…to be honest, sounds to me pretty much t…

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