Shakin' Street: Seeing U2 on the "War" tour, the Palladium, NYC, May 11 1983.

i threw a brick through a window

Shakin' Street: Seeing U2 on the "War" tour, the Palladium, NYC, May 11 1983.

Welcome to a new feature here at jukeboxgraduate: Shakin’ Street.

I have many boxes of ancient ticket stubs and I love pulling them out at random and showing them to friends and talking about what I remember from each show. Now I am going to do that here on a monthly basis.

I am going to do the research and fact-checking as I write these because if I have to go off and research them in advance this project will never see the light of day because I will get lost in a research rabbit hole, but this also means I may get some facts wrong. Corrections welcomed!

On May 11, 1983, U2 came to NYC on the War tour to play a gig at the Palladium. The Palladium was a wonderful old ancient theater on 14th Street and Irving Place that’s currently the home of NYU’s Palladium Dormitories.1 It was previously known as the Academy of Music, which was most famous to me as being the site of the New York Dolls’ St. Valentines’ Day Massacre shows (The ‘massacre’ is poetic license.). Everyone has played there. It held about 3500 seats and so it wasn’t cavernous and it wasn’t tiny, and it wasn’t sterile and concrete like Madison Square Garden. I’m sure it was a dump but it was our dump. 

14th Street back then was not at all what it is now. It was not only the dividing line between boring uptown and exciting edgy downtown, it was also discount shopping paradise. 14th Street was where you went to buy your Chuck Taylors. 14th Street was dollar stores before dollar stores. 14th Street was the home of Disco Donuts, on the corner of 3rd Avenue, which was famous because it had been in Taxi Driver.

I was at the show with a friend I had met over the summer working a temp job in Connecticut, and I think a friend of hers.2 But she was a big U2 fan and I believe she purchased the tickets for some reason. There was no doubt that I would be attending this performance, although at the time I was trying to … be more serious about college? Maybe not running around seeing concerts? Something like that.

I was attending Fordham University at Lincoln Center, but there were no dorms and you will be shocked to learn that a 17 year old did not do well living on her own with two other roommates in a random apartment.3 I had a small group of friends up at the Bronx campus (across the street from the Bronx Zoo) and we were all diehard, fierce music fans. There was some overlap in who we liked but I didn’t ever go to shows with them, which sucked because riding the D train to Fordham Road at 2 in the morning was not the smartest thing I have ever done, but you know, I survived and it made me super street smart.

ANYWAY, I know that there was a group going, but I was going with my friend from Connecticut and I also probably wanted to arrive earlier than 99.999% of people ever want to arrive4, and they also probably wanted to pre-game, which I didn’t do because it was expensive and I just always felt like I needed to keep my wits about me. (It was one thing to drink at one of the two campus bars off of Fordham Road near campus.)

I remember that it was clear and sunny and that we waited on line, by the time I got down to 14th Street there was a queue running east down 14th Street and we were about level with Irving Place. I know we had to be there a long time because I made an impulse buy of one those newsboy caps that was on sale at the store adjacent to where we were standing. I did it to keep the peace with the store owner who insisted the queue was taking away his business, but this being the 80s, he knew that no one who could do anything would care. The hat was straw and it was pink, and I think I had some idea about giving it to Bono and getting him to wear it, which is a thing he had been doing at other shows. I was a sophomore and did not have tons of money so this plan must have seemed highly reasonable for me to spend the cash.

Also worth mentioning is that I was either in an air cast or had some kind of lightweight cast on my left leg after sliding down a muddy back hill behind my dorm, trying to get to a shortcut into the building. I wasn’t on crutches at this point although I probably would not have bailed on this show even if I had still been on crutches. Despite being as far back as we were in the queue (which seemed like it went on forever and of course everyone in front of us was LETTING PEOPLE CUT, STOP LETTING PEOPLE CUT, FUCK YOU) we ended up at the stage, stage left closer to the speaker stacks but still at the stage. There was no rail. There was no barrier. There was, like, a step of some kind, and then… the stage. I remember the Palladium’s stage as being long but shallow, if that makes sense. It was probably just a normal sized stage.

At some point well after everyone was packed into the orchestra, the powers that be then decided they needed crowd control I guess, so they sent out 3 or 4 security guards who then had to wedge themselves into a crowd that wasn’t all that happy about moving back. The security guard in our area made me get up from sitting down on the step, which I was doing because of my ankle in the cast, which everyone around me thought was rad, that I cared enough about the band to get there and wait and then run for the front. The security guard was less impressed and suggested that I go find a seat. The show was GA but GA at the Palladium was still with seats on the floor. You will not be surprised to learn that I did not take his suggestion. I had my camera with me, my Olympus that I had just recently earned enough money to buy and take to shows, back when you could just waltz into any venue with a minimum of subterfuge and shoot as much as you wanted to.

This NYC date was the only date on a tour that included two shows in Boston and two shows in Philadelphia. It felt like a personal affront. What the actual hell, why did NEW YORK, the center of the ACTUAL UNIVERSE, not rate a second show?  We would get the answer to this shortly.  We passed the time waiting for the show the way you did back then: where do you live, where do you go to school, what other bands do you like, where do you buy records, what other concerts are you going to. There was a brisk conversation in my general vicinity about how U2 were born-again Christians and this meant that any women who entertained notions of having a dalliance with some nice Irish boys were SOL. “Except for the bass player,” a woman insisted. This was not information of any use to me but like anything else back then, I soaked it up like a sponge and filed it for later use.5

Dream Syndicate opened. I loved Dream Syndicate like nobody’s business back then, they were my Velvet Underground (and this in a time where we had several worthy contenders to that throne to choose from). While this was great for me, there is one universal truth that has never changed: as much as you love an opening band, if you really love the headliner it is torture. Even when the Clash opened for the Who, I felt like I couldn’t really enjoy the Clash as much as I fucking loved and adored the Clash because I was waiting for THE WHO. It was sensory overload.

But then there was smoke and lights and Bono has that Boy of London shirt, the sleeveless black collared one with studs along the yoke, Adam is wearing a TURTLENECK, the Edge is on the other side of the stage but that guitar made you pay attention. I had seen them before a handful of times but it was obvious almost instantly after they walked onstage that they weren’t just this little scrappy band from Ireland any more. It was riveting, it felt like you were glued to the spot you were in because it was utterly stunning, every note sounded perfect and the songs seemed larger. They had always talked about wanting to be a huge band, and at that moment I realized I would never see them anywhere this small ever again. It was loud and frantic and there were some definite nerves but it manifested itself in a performance that solidified their ascendency. They weren’t being hyped because they were the next big thing. They were being hyped because they were fucking amazing.

I remember being delighted by “Surrender,” which was my favorite song on the record, it rated a handwritten quote on my dorm room door:

Oh, the city's afire

A passionate flame

It knows me by name

It was out of context, but it was also a warning; it was both.

We were next to the speaker stacks, so it was like thunder. There were red lights and blue and green lights and plenty of fog machines, and Bono ran and jumped and climbed on the speakers and grabbed the flags from near Larry’s drum kit and climbed on the speakers again with the flag. (This was before “this is not a rebel song” became a standing joke amongst the faithful.) It was one of those concerts where once it started it felt like time stood still and it is one big giant blob of heat and guitar and colored lights and emotion, like a giant wave that just keeps washing over you again and again. While I sometimes regret that I don’t have a mind like a steel trap for the details of those days, there is part of me that wishes I could experience concerts like that again, pure feeling and emotion. I didn’t have the words for it yet; in many ways, I still don’t.

When they came back out for the encore, Bono told us (after yelling at everyone to shut up for a minute) that he used to worry about coming to play in New York, because of the industry people, that he was always a little scared -- “I wasn't sure that the people of the City of New York really knew about us.” The entire Palladium screamed in response. “I'll never be afraid of this city again. Thank you for tonight.” And then they exploded into a version of “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” I am likely to never ever forget. At least that’s how I remember it.

There used to be a moment in every U2 show back then when Bono would go looking for a camera, which I knew about because during previous tours when it was easy to get to a show and easy to get a ticket, I would go when I could and made other friends who did the same and we used to all talk on the phone about shows we went to that others didn’t. So after Bono pulled out a girl from the front and they danced around a bit (Bono telling us later that she wanted him to twist, and “an Irish band does not TWIST”), then he sat her on the monitor and started making a gesture with his hand like he was holding a camera, I knew what was up. I stepped up on that step between the stage and the floor and held up my camera. Bono saw it and came walking over, and I was fairly proud of myself for figuring it out and for getting Bono to come over to us.

Now, what usually happened in those cases is that Bono would take a photograph of the people around the person whose camera he borrowed. But in my case, he took the camera and walked back towards center stage. My CAMERA, that cost every cent of babysitting and my work-study job and holiday money. And there was nothing I could do except watch as he a photograph of the young lady, and then gave her the camera while he posed.

The photo of her came out perfectly.

The photo of Bono did… not.

Gratefully, thankfully, Bono walked back over to give me my precious camera back and to say thank you. And when I stepped up to get the camera back, I turned around and looked at the crowd behind me for the first time and I am not lying when I tell you that it was like the place was on fire. Every person was standing with their arms in the air, screaming and cheering, the orchestra, the balcony, the second balcony, all the way to the roof. I had no idea what was going on behind us, we were all so focused on what was happening onstage.

When the show was over, we went to the alley next to the theater because it was a place where if you went to the alley near the backstage door you might see someone or they might come talk to whoever was waiting or you might even get shown inside (this happened to me once with the Jam). But it was, unsurprisingly, a zoo, so we went to Kiev and had pierogies and then I walked across the Village to West 4th Street and took the D train back to Fordham Road.

The next day at dinner, I got my shitty cafeteria food and went over to the table to sit with my friends. At some point the conversation turned to the U2 show and at some point I said, “so last night, Bono used my cam--”

“We know.”

“We saw.

I honestly had no idea that anyone would recognize me or even saw it happen. I wanted to gush but that would have been uncool, so I just accepted that maybe for these five minutes I was a little bit cool and ate my food and went to the library to study. My ankle healed and doesn’t even hurt any more when it rains. I still get to the venue entirely too early to see U2.


So that was the end of this story, at least it was until I sat down last night to watch this video footage I found on U2gigs. I’ve had an audio boot for a long time but didn’t even know this existed, and it only got uploaded 7 years ago. Do not expect a lot; this was 1983, I don’t even know how these jabronis6 got the camera inside (they were huge back then, remember) and the sound is surprisingly good but they definitely have an extender on the lens, a casualty of bootleg video concert recording back in the day. Anyway, I was happy to see anything, when all of a sudden he is dancing with the girl with the bow in her hair and he starts making a gesture with his hands and OH MY GOD IT IS MY CAMERA. I used to use a Fender guitar strap as my camera strap, it was longer than normal ones so I could wear my camera at my hip and I didn’t look like a goddamned tourist on the street. And there is Bono, waving a camera with a zoom lens and a very long camera strap. 40 years ago.

[video was taken down but keeping the paragraph up in case it reappears]

  1. If you know me and you wonder if I give the building the finger every time I pass it the same way I did with the John Varvatos store that was in the old CBGB’s space, I did, at least mentally. I was on that block of 14th Street a lot more often than I walked down Bowery and basically, you know, fuck NYU.

  2. It was 40 years ago before you give me a hard time for not remembering in detail.

  3. On the one hand, what trust and independence: my parents just let me go look at places and decide where I was going to live. On the other hand? OMG WHAT THE HELL I WAS SEVENTEEN.

  4. Nothing has changed in the last 40 years, really.

  5. this right now is one of the few times I have actually used this information

  6. Listen to their accents and you will agree with this assessment.