Every month we put a U2 fan in the spotlights, the fan of the month May of 2023 is user NoelMc. Read along for the interview we had with this U2 fan.
"The concert itself was spectacular and we stood at the tip of the b-stage. I will always remember the opening riff of Zoo Station (I think it is the best show opener of any tour). The Achtung Baby openers are actually still vivid in my memory after almost 30 years – it was like a sensory overload."
Tell us something about yourself, who are you and what do you do for a living?
My name is Noel McDonnell and I live in Derry, which is in the North of Ireland, with my wife, two teenage kids and my dog. I work as an IT Programme Manager in the Civil Service
How did you become a fan of U2, tell us how it happened?
I was aware of U2 from an early age as my uncle was a big fan but I had no real notice in music until I heard With or Without You on the radio around 1987 and I just feel in love with this song. I went on a 6-week holiday to America that summer and U2 were all over the radio and they were Irish and being from Ireland myself, I felt some sort of connection and pride that they were taking over the States. So, it sort of just happened from there. When we returned home, I started to listen to the Joshua Tree, then I started to get the earlier albums (think I bought October next) and I have loved the band ever since.
You first saw U2 back in 1993 on the ZOO TV tour, tell us about your experience?
My first U2 concert (and also first ever concert) was the RDS performance that was broadcast worldwide. I actually only got the ticket about a month before when two tickets were returned to my local record store.
The concert itself was spectacular and we stood at the tip of the b-stage. I will always remember the opening riff of Zoo Station (I think it is the best show opener of any tour). The Achtung Baby openers are actually still vivid in my memory after almost 30 years – it was like a sensory overload.
A few amusing anecdotes from before the show. We parked in the RDS car park which was right beside the catering for the crew. We chatted to a local Garda who was removing some pieces from his police car engine (to prevent it from being stolen!) and chatted to some of the crew for quite a while about the show only to realise that they were actually the Stereo MCs (we only realised when they were on stage).
What has been your favourite tour since, and why?
This is difficult and is like being asking to pick your favourite child. I have seen every tour since ZOO TV and it would be probably easier to pick the tours I wasn’t as keen on.
I was actually disappointed with the Vertigo Tour as I felt it was a poor copy of the Elevation tour. I attended one of the Croke Park show but the the view and sound were really poor. The only other show I didn’t really enjoy was the Belfast Popmart show with a combination of poor sound and a very high stage which obstructed the view at the very front (we attended the show in Dublin a few days later and it was amazing). I also felt that the American leg and first few European shows of EI had a very poor set list. I attended shows in New York and it seemed quite similar to IE and felt a bit flat in places. However, I loved the Achtung Baby & Zooropa songs set changes introduced from Copenhagen onwards.
I think the ZOO TV tour (1992 and 1993) was when the band was at its most creative and the shows will never be surpassed. However, the Elevation, 360 and IE tours were also incredible and I am very fortunate to have been in attendance.
What does your U2 collection look like?
During the 1990s and early 00’s, I did collect a lot of merchandise. I spent an absolute fortune on bootleg concerts (in the days before U2start), bought multiple versions of albums and singles bought every magazine, book, t-shirts, etc. I just wish I could find the Fly shades I bought around 1993/94.
Did anyone in your family or friends like U2?
My uncle was a massive U2 fan up to around the War album and actually had all the original vinyl in mint condition before he gave them away (not to me). He met the band in 1982 when they played in Belfast and Larry gave him a set of his drumsticks. He gave them to me and they were my pride and joy until my father decided to use one to stir a tin of gloss paint!
I have taken my son to three concerts (IE & EI) and my wife to the first Slane concert in 2001. They aren’t really fans, but tolerate them because of me!
What do you think about Surrender the book and the album?
I love both. I thought the book was excellent. I bought the audio book and felt it was really excellent. The bit in the middle about debt relief was a bit of a slog but the rest was really brilliant and Bono told much than I would have expected
I also love the album and going by the forum I am probably in the minority. Any music from the band at this stage is very much welcomed and it should be no surprise they released a reinvented album. Edge has been taking about it for years. For me, IGWSHA, Lights of Home, SYCMIOYO, 40 and Two Hearts are better than the original and quite a lot of the others are on par, particularly the Little Things and 11’O’Clock. The only tracks I tend to skip are GOOYOW and Pride (not a big fan of either original version).
What are your hopes and expectations of a future new U2 album?
I feel that the band has two albums left in them, the “rock” album and SoA. This saddens me as I have been a massive fan since 1987 and all good things come to an end. The are in their 60’s and as much as I would love them to continue like Bruce and Paul McCartney, I can’t see it happening, especially with the uncertainty of Larry.
I am also torn by the Vegas shows. I was seriously tempted in travelling to Vegas but without Larry, it is just not the same. I totally get that the band agreed to play the shows in 2021, which I assume was before Larry required surgery but I cannot get as excited about the shows without him being there. It just doesn’t feel the same for me. Whilst, the venue looked absolutely incredible during the recent Apple Music interview with Zane Lowe, it will be strange with someone different on drums. I just hope I get to see one or two more shows with Larry behind the drums!
How different is U2 to others artists that you like?
To be honest, I listen to U2 every day and at the moment, SOS is on repeat. I also like the RHCP, Coldplay and Muse but they just don’t compare or connect in the same way U2 does. Each album and song have meant something differently to me at different times in my life and has helped me overcome some personal challenges. There is no-one else quite like U2.
What are your hobbies and interests away from U2, musical or otherwise?
I am a marathon runner and will be running the Belfast marathon this weekend, which will be my 10th to date (SoS was on repeat for my long practice runs of 2.5 to 3 hrs). I am hoping that my time this weekend gets me entry into the 2024 London marathon which I qualified previously for in 2018 and 2019.
I am also a massive Man United fan and have attended many games at Old Trafford over the years. We really have struggled since Sir Alex Ferguson retired but I think we are now on the right path with Ten Haag but it will still be some time before we are challenging for top honours again.
I have always found the Fan of the Month articles very interesting and I am honoured to have been selected. I hope I haven’t bored you all too much. Take care.
Note: Our crew members randomly pick fans of the month, you can't sign up for it.
"There are so many artists on this list that have taught me so much about art and a good few about life. Part of your art was how you were going to live your life, and a refusal to be undignified in the spotlight. I couldn’t follow you there but I at least sought meaning in my mistakes rather than just a playground… though now that I think about it… I did that too."
- Bono to Bruce Springsteen, 2020
did you know
Each show on the Popmart Tour utilised 3.7 megawatts of power - that's the same amount normally required to power approximately 1500 houses.