by BRYAN RAYBURN
This tour was in support of the band’s second studio album, October, which was released on October 12, 1981, and consisted of five legs (3 Europe, 2 North America) and 102 shows between August 16, 1981, and August 7, 1982. The fourth leg ran from February through April and was made up of 32 shows and was the longest stretch of the tour.
On the weekend of February 27 and 28 the band would perform two powerful performances in Colorado; Saturday night at the historical Rainbow Music Hall in Denver, and Sunday at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins. These two shows were preceded by two other stops in Denver at the Rainbow (March 28 and May 11, 1981) where Barry Fey is quoted in his 2011 book, Backstage Past, “This fuckin’ group is going to be the biggest group in the world. They’re unbelievable.”
During this visit, Fey recalls having his associate at the time, Chuck Morris, take the boys sightseeing up at Red Rocks, which planted the idea of the band someday playing there. “I took them up to Red Rocks so they could see it,” Morris said. “I told them they were going to play there someday. But their second record wasn’t doing that well, even though it got great reviews, and they weren’t so sure. But I was. I drove them to the top. We walked down to the stage, and they were, like, ‘Oh my God, this is the greatest place we’ve ever seen’.”
Tickets for the Lincoln Center show were $4.20, a standard ticket price at the time, and now hard to say without laughing hysterically. This wouldn’t even cover the sales tax on a ticket in this day and age, especially a U2 show.
The SKAtterbrains out of Boulder were the opening act. The band’s Facebook page tells a story of their guitarist, Dave Gunders, having a confrontation with U2’s road manager, Dennis Sheehan. [R.I.P. 5/27/2015] “When the SKAtterbrains started to sound check on U2’s state-of-the-art equipment, for some reason Dave decided to take issue with the fact that the massive six foot tall side monitors were not turned on. A heated exchange between Dave and Sheehan ensued where eventually Sheehan put his finger into Dave’s chest and exclaimed “Do you have any idea who this band is? They are going to be bigger than the Rolling Stones!” Sheehan then suggested when we finish our set we should go out and watch the show and then we would ‘understand’. When in the middle of their first song Bono went to edge of the stage, assumed the pose of Jesus on the cross, fell back into the hands of the crowd and was passed around, we ‘understood’.”
The theatre was about half capacity, but the energy in the room was described as “electrifying!” During one of the songs, Bono was panning the crowd with a spotlight and asking everyone to “Call up your local radio station and request U2 non-stop until they play us.” The band played for about two hours, and by the end of the encore, about three-fourths of the audience had already left. After a few minutes, the lights went back out and they returned to the stage and performed a moving rendition of Neil Young’s “Southern Man” for their final number. As a side note, U2 only performed this cover 11 times as an encore in their entire 40 year career, making this show one for the ages. This show also marks one of the very first performances of the song “A Celebration”.
One concertgoer was quoted as saying, “Anyone who was fortunate enough to see this show became a life-long fan.” The next time U2 would return to Colorado, was for the legendary filming of Under A Blood Red Sky at Red Rocks Amphitheater on June 5, 1983, which consequently established the band’s larger-than-life stature. Rolling Stone went on to call the performance “one of the top 50 moments that changed the history of Rock and Roll.”