With U2 in town, I was thinking about the first time I saw the band. It was The Unforgettable Fire tour in late 1984, at D.C.'s Constitution Hall. Now, I know lots of folks who gloat about seeing superstars early in their careers, at small venues, before the masses got on board. In fact, I think I know about 300 people who claim to have seen Nirvana at the 9:30 Club, although that venue (the old location) had a capacity of just 200. But that U2 show, in a hall that held about 4,000, disappointed me.
Some of the songs were a bit ragged—which is endearing at some concerts, but not at a U2 show—and "Pride (In the Name of Love)" was absolutely dreadful. Early on, the guitar and drums are supposed to lock in and propel the tune all the way to the finish, but, on this night, they never synced up. Maybe a monitor cut out, but it was an unfortunate way to end the set—although a rousing, four-song encore helped compensate.
The other thing that kept the show from being great was that the venue—and I can't believe I'm about to write this—was too small. That's right, too small. It felt like it could barely contain the band, especially Bono, for whom no gesture was too large. Even early on, it seemed U2 was destined to thrive in arenas and stadiums, and they've proved exactly that on subsequent tours.
And I'm sure they'll prove it again tonight.