Having grown up in the original MTV generation, I used to think European concert fans showed up American concert fans on every possible level. Who remembers being a kid, teen, or young adult of the 80s, watching the festivals at Castle Donnington or Wembley Stadium on MTV? (Raise your hand. Okay, put it down.)
Like me, maybe you watched those concerts in astonishment and said to your young self:
- “How are all those people bouncing in unison so perfectly?”
- “What does “Oy! Oy!” mean?
- “Is this what concerts are supposed to be like, and why aren’t they like that here?!”
Years later, when technology enabled me to watch U2 perform before crowds around the world at will, I said the same thing. The European crowds did fancy things like coordinate 70,000 people to form a massive Polish flag. Speaking of flags, there’s Glastonbury (see above photo – wow!). And then there’s Milan, where it looks ridiculously fun to see U2 hit the stage before sunset. Of course, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the hero’s welcome our guys get in their hometown of Dublin: exhibit A, Slane Castle 2001. (I know, you’re going to experience it in November. Good for you!).
Throughout the North American tour, I thought, “I bet those European fans are going to put us to shame. While we fell flat on chanting ‘Free yourself to be yourself,’ they will shine like stars in the summer night and Bono will reward them with that elusive coda every single time.” Well, I was wrong. The crowds in Torino, Amsterdam and Stockholm have been fine – but nothing spectacular. For that matter, one of them (ahem, Stockholm night one) couldn’t get their act together when it came to singing One. Really? So rest assured, American fans: We’re not so bad after all.