Every month we put a U2 fan in the spotlights, the fan of the month November of 2021 is user tbirdgnv. Read along for the interview we had with this U2 fan.
"I knew about U2 from seeing the video for Mysterious Ways on television and I found Achtung Baby. To me, this sound WAS rock and roll. So that’s the album I needed."
Tell us something about yourself, who are you and what do you do for a living?
I am an instructional assistant professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. Basically, I teach graduate students about urban and regional planning which is policy related to how cities grow and change. My specialty is land use law which is how the United States and local laws govern how people use land.
I am married and have a son, Rowan, who is two years old. His favorite songs are You’re The Best Thing About Me (Kyogo Remix) and Sweetest Thing.
Bow did you become a fan of U2, tell us how it happened?
In 1992, when I was 12 years old, my Uncle Jim visited from out of town for the Christmas holidays. He took me to a record store at our local mall and told me I could pick out an album. I knew about U2 from seeing the video for Mysterious Ways on television and I found Achtung Baby. To me, this sound WAS rock and roll. So that’s the album I needed.
That was basically it. From there, I got copies of Rattle and Hum, War, and Under a Blood Sky. I was hooked. Every album I found I liked as much as the last—as different as they were! Especially those live recordings I heard as a teenager—Rattle and Hum and Under a Blood Sky—had so much emotion. Listening to them I found a way to connect to my feelings I couldn’t in any other way. I heard defiance, longing, anger, and joy. The relationship was personal and U2 still feels like something that belongs to me today.
Your favorite album is The Unforgettable Fire, what attracts you so much in this album? Has it always been your favorite?
Unforgettable Fire hasn’t always been my favorite U2 album. And which one is my favorite changes time to time. The album that held that place for the longest time was a bootleg I bought in high school of one of the 1993 Dublin shows. It had everything—the new stuff, the old stuff, and a guitar solo on Bullet the Blue Sky that gave me goose bumps.
I think the reason I say Unforgettable Fire is my favorite is because it marked such a change in style from the rock and roll sound of the first three albums. Unforgettable Fire sounds magical and transcendent. Promenade probably represents this aspect of the album most. And it still transports me when I listen to it today.
A consensus seems to exist that Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby are the definitive U2 albums. But Unforgettable Fire laid the foundation for U2 having a sound no other band can have. And it’s the most special album to me for that reason.
Your first shows were the Popmart shows in Florida, what were those experiences like?
I was 17 years old and waited in line at a Ticketmaster outlet to get good seats. Friends and I drove two hours to the shows. I had never seen anything like it and today I remember it as a marker on the way to adulthood.
Our seats were on the floor and plastic chairs covered the field. We spend the whole show standing on our chairs to get a better view and screaming our voices raw. I didn’t learn for years that the Jacksonville show I attended was undersold. I didn’t notice Bono mentioning it during the show. And, to me, the whole thing was a rocket ship blast from Mofo to One.
You saw U2 in big stadiums and smaller arenas, what do you prefer and why?
I don’t know that I see a clear difference between the stadium shows and the arena shows. I saw Elevation shows from inside the heart and Vertigo shows from inside the ellipse. But, ironically, the most intimate-feeling show I’ve attended was Joshua Treat 2017. My wife and I were close to the B stage. The band playing those first songs with no video effects, in daylight, a few dozen feet from us felt like a private show.
I saw both Innocence/Experience tours from the floor too. And, honestly, left both thinking I would have seen more if I had been in the risers. The layout of the stage didn’t feel intimate, even when the band was close. And the screens were essential to the experience, but I couldn’t see them!
The only tour I have missed since I became a U2 fan was 360. A few reasons for that exist. Financially traveling to see the band then would have been difficult. I was going through some personal hardships that sapped my energy. And, honestly, when the band released Boots as the first single from No Line on the Horizon, I didn’t have a burning interest in seeing the show! (I hate to be that guy!) In the early 2010s I just wasn’t spending as much time listening to the band as I had been for almost 20 years before.
That changed when Songs of Innocence came out. I love that album so much. And I started listening to the 360 shows. The first time I heard Breathe live, I stopped and asked incredulously, “This song was on Horizon?” That’s how much greater it sounded as a live song than on the album.
Your last U2 shows to date were in Duluth, Georgia on the Experience and Innocence tour. How did U2 evolve over time to that show?
Just like me, they got a lot older
One thing I loved about the Experience and Innocence tour was the focus on new songs and on the band’s ability to leave behind crowd pleasers like Bad or Streets. I got to see Joshua Tree and Experience a year apart and those shows were completely different. I felt like the band was doing something special for the fans who have been with them so long.
If there would be only one U2 song you could hear the rest of your life, which one would it be?
This is hard! Maybe Van Diemen’s Land. It’s one of the few U2 songs I can sing along to reasonably well. Thank you The Edge!
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?
I have tried to convert all of my friends and family to U2 fandom! I have taken friends to shows, dragged folks to see U23D in the theater, and given away mix tapes. One person, my two-year-old son, says whenever I turn on the stereo “play some song by Bono.” And that makes me a proud dad.
How different is U2 compared to other artists that you like?
My favorite bands are from the 90s, and early 2000s. I love Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Ryan Adams, Tegan and Sara, Tom Petty, and Radiohead. What makes U2 different is they still make great new music I love. They still reinvent their style. And they still work hard on their craft. U2 fans are lucky our favorite band is still giving us something new.
What are your hobbies and interests away from U2, musical or otherwise?
I am interested cities and the new urbanism. I like to ride my bike and jog. I enjoy working in my yard and helping things grow.
Thomas with friends Michelle, Meklit, and Chad at the Jacksonville Popmart show.
Thomas with wife Sara at the Tampa Joshua Tree 2017 show.
Thanks for this interview tbirdgnv!
Note: Our crew members randomly pick fans of the month, you can't sign up for it.