remnants: U2's Zooropa at Wembley Stadium, August 20 & 21, 1993

I'm ready for what's next.

remnants: U2's Zooropa at Wembley Stadium, August 20 & 21, 1993
My Friday ticket stub got ruined because it rained on the way back to where I was staying. This was for the seat I was supposed to have before I got relocated & I didn’t get a ticket but some kind of handwritten chit with my new location written on it. Stunned this has survived.

I originally wrote this as part of a recap of Achtung Baby on its 20th anniversary back in 2011. I have edited it lightly for clarity and spelling etc.

In 1993, I was living overseas, and had been there for over five years already. I was living this odd no-man’s land of not being quite American but not being quite European either. In a way, Achtung Baby also occupies that emotional space, the band still being who they were, despite the previous few years of pursuing their Kerouac-ian On The Road fantasy through the USA. Joshua Tree was white lights and cowboy hats, Achtung Baby was strobe lights and leather pants. When the tour rolled out in the US, despite being thousands of miles away, the magic of MTV made you feel like you were there. We knew everything that was going on, we knew about the calls to the White House and the pizzas and the video confessional as well as if it was in our backyard. I wanted to see it live but I didn’t know how I was going to make it happen – until my sister’s wedding in August of 93 required my presence back on the East Coast. I could route myself home via London just in time for Zooropa at Wembley Stadium.

I will tell you that nothing, not a damn thing, not a MTV News report or a photo essay in Rolling Stone or in-depth Q Magazine coverage prepared me for the sheer size of things. Part of it probably had to do with the fact that I had been living in a country that would neatly fit inside the state of New Jersey, everything was going to be massive by comparison. For the first night, I had seats in the stands, about 1/3 back, halfway up. I looked at the mass of humanity on the pitch and wished I was there. I was by myself; despite the obsession my particular circle of friends had over this record, I don’t remember why I ended up traveling solo. It was an odd, disjointed time in my life, where I didn’t know what was going to happen next. Everyone around me streamed into the stadium in large, laughing groups, and I found my way to my seat by myself, feeling like a country bumpkin.

I was utterly not prepared for this. I was a girl who didn’t do stadium shows, who had sworn them off after surviving the Who and the Stones at the beginning of the 80s, who skipped her beloved Bruce Springsteen by the time Born In The USA got to the blimp nests because it wasn’t about watching the show, it was about spending some time in the same physical space as an artist and I wanted more from my music than that.

And then the lights went on, Edge hit the intro riff, Larry smashed the drums, and every single person at Wembley got to their feet. There was Bono, silhouetted against the blue, the Fly against the TV screen. There were the leg kicks, there he was, humping the microphone stand. The music reached out across the enormity and pulled me in like I was standing at the edge of the stage.

I knew what “Zoo Station” was going to be like because I had seen it so many times, it was almost familiar, the first number had been in countless tv broadcasts. I even knew small details, like that last song before the band came out was going to be “Television, the Drug of a Nation” by the Disposable Heroes of Hiphopiacy (just like I’d known that John Lennon’s version of “Stand By Me” was the last song before the band came out on Joshua Tree). But nothing was going to prepare me for being there, and even being so far away from the stage – I didn’t! Do! Stadium! Shows!- it was overwhelming, even from where I was. I was glad I wasn’t closer because it would have swallowed me whole if I had. I held my breath through “Zoo Station” and “The Fly” because I was in shock. I was physically, mentally, emotionally unprepared for the spectacle, the power of the music live, the energy generated in such a large space. For London greeting U2 at Wembley fucking Stadium.

And then the Trabants flew up into the lighting rig and the lights flashed on and “Even Better Than the Real Thing” roared out of the speakers and into the center of my chest and it was like I had just woken up, like I had been frozen and had thawed out, that moment in the Wizard of Oz where everything goes from black and white to color. It was so big, so bright, so all-encompassing. It’s going to seem stupid when I tell you that that was the moment that I realized that I was moving back to America, that I had been heading in the wrong direction, that I thought I was doing the right thing with my life but that I had been doing anything but. Even at the time I said something to myself about being so cliche as to having a catharsis at a stadium rock show but there was something about the loop being closed, the circuits being opened, seeing this record live. It was the size, it was the sound, it was the power, it was something shaking you upside down until you came back to your senses.

I laid awake in bed that night staring at the ceiling and not believing I was going to do it again the next night.

There was a problem with my tickets the second night. They were legit, but they had been given to someone else more important than me, so a security guard took me to the production office to find another place to sit. Apparently I was the only person who didn’t walk in there ready for a fight – to be fair, would you want to find out there was a problem with your U2 ticket? – but I was just so happy to be there, to be able to be part of the circus one more time that as long as I had a ticket, I would be okay, which is what I told them. That’s when they noticed the accent, and asked me if I’d come just to see the show, and I said yes, and before I knew it I found myself on the same side of the stadium (Adam’s side, stage left) and a much much lower row. This was still Wembley, so I was still miles away, but after the previous night, I knew it wasn’t going to matter.

I got to my seat and noticed the entire row behind me were wearing MacPhisto horns. No sooner did I sit down than I felt someone tapping me on the shoulder and proffering a set of horns.

Text within this block will maintain its original spacing when published“What’s this?” I said. “You have to get into the spirit of things,” he said. “Don’t worry, I’m in the spirit of things.” “You’re American!” I nodded. “I brought enough for everyone,” he said, “But you have to wear them.” I put them on my head immediately. “Now, that’s the spirit!” he said, standing up and waving at the people behind him who were not wearing devil horns. “Look, the girl from America put them on.”

This was the best possible section of people to be with for this show, people who stood up and danced and sang and shouted all night long. Tonight was participatory, yelling comments at Bono as though he could hear them, the ringleader imitating every single one of Bono’s moves onstage with gusto (especially the crotch-in-camera ones, to much hilarity). You haven’t quite lived until you’re imitating belly dancing moves during “Mysterious Ways” with a motley group of kids from the London suburbs, all wearing devil horns. Everyone knew all the lines because they had been watching and listening and paying attention for the past year or so: “You didn’t come here to watch TV, now have ya??” we yelled with Bono as though we had heard it every night of our life.

In a way, of course, we had.

When the show was over, I walked out of Wembley with my new friends, several of them insisting on getting me back to the tube station even though I kept telling them I knew where I was going just fine. I didn’t realize I was still wearing my MacPhisto horns until I got off at my stop and walked into the off license to buy a drink. The elderly shop clerk looked up at me, saw the horns, did a double-take and I caught my reflection in the window just as a big smile broke across his face.

He said, “So, who did Bono ring up tonight, then?”

I wish I knew what happened to those devil horns.


Friday night MacPhisto phoned the Archbishop of Canterbury and got everyone to sing “I Just Called To Say I Love You,” which was . Saturday night he rang Graham Taylor, who was the manager of the England national football team. The crowd sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” into his answerphone.

[Remarkably, someone created and maintains a website that has all of MacPhisto’s phone calls archived and it somehow still survives on the internet. It is wonderful.]

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The year is 1993. Kurt Cobain is still alive and Dave Grohl is still “the new guy” in Nirvana. Aerosmith have revived their career, Madonna could still be counted on to do something that upset everybody, you got dressed to go out listening to En Vogue, R.E.M. became global superstars, and U2 took an entire satellite television station on tour. I was liv…

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