Every month we put a U2 fan in the spotlight. The fan of the month for September 2017 is user Anam. Read along for the interview we had with this U2 fan.
"My wife and I first met in 1994 through Propaganda's Grapevine, swapping tapes and going to gigs in the UK and Ireland, but we sealed the deal somewhere between the Hallenstadion and Earl's Court on the Elevation Tour"
Tell us something about yourself, who are you and what do you do for a living?
My name is Rob and I'm from Cork, although I've lived in the UK for a very long time. I was a teacher for over twenty years, but these days I'm a full-time dad to two beautiful little girls and husband to my beautiful wife.
How did you become a fan of U2, tell us how it happened?
U2 were huge in Ireland - especially Cork - from the outset, and so even when very young I was conscious of a lot of their songs from the radio and TV. My dad took me to see them at The Lark by the Lee in 1985, but I had no interest- noisy characters on the back of a lorry! How I wish for a time machine... It wasn't until my uncle bought me the cassette of The Joshua Tree for my birthday, the week it came out in 1987, that I was truly hooked. I loved the singles, but it was that strange, dark, desert landscape of Side 2 that really won me over. By the time I got to secondary school I think I had the entire back catalogue.
You have seen U2 shows since 1993, what has been your favourite tour and why?
It's hard to choose because each one had it's own context and character. Zoo TV was magical and my first proper U2 show, and Popmart was spectacular, but I'd have to go with the Elevation Tour. There was a looseness to those shows that contrasted with the tight, almost-cabaret style of Zoo TV and Popmart, with their fixed setlists and big messages. We saw them play People Get Ready in Switzerland, Out of Control in London and A Sort of Homecoming at Slane, songs I had dreamed of hearing, having listened to hundreds of 80s bootlegs.
Another reason was that it was while following that tour for a few weeks in the summer of 2001 that my wife and I got together. We first met in 1994 through Propaganda's Grapevine, swapping tapes and going to gigs in the UK and Ireland, but we sealed the deal somewhere between the Hallenstadion and Earl's Court on the Elevation Tour.
You have seen some classical shows like Cork 1993, Belfast 1997 and Slane 2001. Any particular memories from those shows you'd like to share?
The Cork show was special for me because I had jealously watched the '87 show in the Páic from the top of St Luke's, overlooking the river and the stadium, having not been allowed to go. Zoo TV was incredibly exciting to see, but equally the 'old' songs like Bad, Streets and New Year's Day worked flawlessly. I was on the barrier for most of tbe gig and the band were amazing. And of course it was only down the road so travel was cheap and digs were free!
Popmart Belfast was historic for a number of reasons. I used to spend a lot of time in Belfast in those days - before the Good Friday Agreement - and even though there were ceasefires in place, there was still a real tension in Northern Ireland at the time. So this was a huge, huge deal for the people there. It was like proof that a new 'normal' was coming. I imagine it was similar to how they felt at the gig in Sarajevo a few months later. The show was a triumph as the band kept their promise to 'kick asses not kiss them.' I remember a subtle dropping of the word 'Catholic' from Please and an aeroplane crossing Bono's searchlight during Bullet the Blue Sky. A great night and hard to believe it's twenty years ago.
I was at Slane #1, the one that didn't make the DVD! Coldplay supported, with Parachutes only just released. Red Hot Chilli Peppers did Under the Bridge- another highlight of the warm-up. U2 were on a different level though: confident, triumphant and riding a way of popularity in Ireland that we probably won't see again. Part Red Rocks and part Italia 90! And of course, we had Bad AND A Sort of Homecoming!
When you're forced to leave to a deserted island and you can take only one U2 album with you, which would it be?
Achtung Baby. No question. I think U2 have only two truly great albums, Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree. The others are all very good, but those two are way more than the sum of their parts and go beyond U2's fan base. 1991/1992 set the templates for my musical interests I think, and Achtung Baby was a massive part of that.
Does anyone in your family or one of your friends like U2? If so, did they introduce you to U2, or did you "convert" them?
My wife was a convert long before I met her, which is just as well. I'm not sure anyone else would tolerate the size of the U2 collection! We took our eldest daughter to Twickenham in July and she loved it. She plays Songs of Innocence almost every day and claims to have been raised by wolves. Most of my friends are tolerant and polite, but certainly not huge fans like we are - they probably think that we are a crazy family when it comes to U2.
How did you like the Joshua Tree 2017 tour, did U2 do justice to the status that the album has?
I loved the two shows we were at - London #1 and Dublin - each for different reasons. The Joshua Tree is a special album and deserved that level of recognition. That's not to say that I'm without reservations because I wouldn't like to see another 'nostalgia' tour, and there's an argument that every U2 album since Pop, with the possible exception of No Line on the Horizon, has nodded backwards. But I take the point that politically, there is a relevance to the Joshua Tree songs in 2017 in light the rise of Trump in particular, but also all the division and brokeness around the world. 'We need new dreams tonight' as a lyric has rung more truly in my lifetime. The poetry and visuals of the show enhanced that kind of relevance for me. I'm not sure there would be any corresponding set of circumstances that would make #AchtungBaby30 justifiable, but who knows.
What are your expectations for Songs of Experience?
Assuming it is ever released, I have high hopes for it; I always do for U2 albums. I'm happy to follow the band on their twists and turns and trust that this is the way their ideas go. Some of them I'm really into, like The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby, and some less so like How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb or No Line on the Horizon. It's always an adventure though and there's always the chance that it'll be the fabled 'Third Classic.' And if not, we'll still be out on tour again next year regardless. Early word from industry insiders is that it's a good record.
How different is U2 compared to other artists that you like?
My wife and I have a kind of 'stable' of bands we never miss: The Killers, Bell X1, Coldplay and Pearl Jam. You can see the influence of U2 on those groups, whether that's in their sound, their positive attitude, their activism or the way they aim for that same kind of euphoria in their live shows. R.E.M. was my great second love and I still miss them, their gigs and their fans. I love a lot of different bands and styles, but the common factor always seems to be anthemic, meaningful rock music.
What are your hobbies and interests away from U2, musical or otherwise?
I read a lot, listen to a lot of music, write a bit and watch far too much TV. I'm a 'three-chord-trick' guitarist. Since retiring as a big-and-awkward amateur footballer, I do the local Parkrun every Saturday and love running generally. I'm doing two marathons in 2018. I'm a vegetarian and a teetotaller - neither particularly Irish habits I'm told - but a huge fan of chocolate-based confectionery! I'm a member of Amnesty International and a keen Munster Rugby/ Cork City FC fan. Beyond that, my biggest interest is looking after the family and trying to decide what I'll be next.
Rob with family at Twickenham last July
Thanks for this interview Anam!
Note: Our crew members choose the fan of the month, you can't sign up for it.