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Doc Dave’s Blog

AT ONE

24-08-2009

Bono

Photo: David Nicholl

As Doc Dave told you the other day , the reward for signing up members to Bono’s anti-poverty initiative was a free ticket to U2’s show in Cardiff. But even our blogging campaigner wasn’t expecting to hog centre stage.

27 years may have been a long time to wait to see Ireland’s biggest musical export , who in many ways have been the musical thread of my life, but U2’s final gig as part of their European tour was astounding. Quite simply I have never been to any other rock concert that came even close to U2’s performance.

The band were not exaggerating when describing the production design for their ‘360 tour’ as “groundbreaking” but when I went to see them on Saturday in Cardiff, I didn’t actually know for sure if I was going to get to see them as I didn’t have a ticket, I was there to work - boy, was I in for a big whopper of a surprise!

I had gone as a volunteer for anti-poverty action group ONE which Bono had helped set up in the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.

I spent the afternoon with almost 30 ONE volunteers gently badgering U2 fans to sign up to ONE by giving me their e-mail address. It was hard work but great fun as a way of meeting fans from all across Europe - Portugal, Hungary, Malta and even my own hospital - and then sweet talk them into joining an international lobby group to keep the pressure on the politicians over their promises in relation to the Millenium Development Goals, HIV and malaria. I learnt a lot about the psychology of campaigning - don’t talk about poverty in a pub, it never works!

But what about the gig, would I get to see anything- this was the BIG question. It was only in the middle of the afternoon that I discovered that not only would we see the gig in the front row, but would be going on stage with the band for one of the songs.

I was completely blown away- we were taken down to the central arena by the tour manager. We were stood right in front of the band…but also under the band, in fact we were surrounded by the band, because of the spider like structure of the stage- which sprawled across the arena like an alien from “War of the Worlds”.

Further, there were ladders and ramps which stretched over our heads which Bono, Edge and the band would run across. The band really were in the audience in a way in which no other concert can compare.

The emotional highlight for me, was when it was our turn to go on stage. U2 had dedicated the song on “Walk On” to highlight the plight of Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Around 100 activists, myself included, lined up in the same entrance tunnel that the players enter Millenium Stadium for rugby internationals.

The atmosphere in the tunnel was exceptional with the noise with 40,000+ fans in the stadium and the band. Then one of the volunteers at the front of my line got stage fright, and I ended up being put in as his replacement and hence would be going centre stage. We walked on in line, activists from ONE, Amnesty and Greenpeace with masks of Aung San Suu Kyi over our faces.

I turned to face the thousands of the fans in the audience - it was an emotional moment as I thought Bono was behind me - we were 2 Irish activists done good, but only one of us can sing, thank God! At the end of the song, I walked off stage to the first few bars of “Where the streets have no name”.

Quite simply it just doesn’t get any better than this. It is perhaps no surprise that I have a sore shoulder today from my attempts at air guitar- better stick to the day job and let the Edge stick to his.

If you want to sign up to the ONE campaign, go here, as I said to the U2 fans in the queues at the gig, “we aren’t after your money, we just want your e-mail address and we won’t badger you about anything else”.

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