U2 1983 War Tour at Chapel Hill, NC

1983 Interviews with U2 at Chapel Hill

U2 Stage Shot in 1983 at Chapel Hill NCU2 kicked off the US leg of their 1983 War Tour April 23 at Keenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. If I remember correctly, U2 were originally scheduled to open their 1983 American tour headlining at a 2500-seat venue in Norfolk, VA, April 24. When the opportunity opened to play a charity event in the neighboring state the day before, it made sense to join the lineup. I am fuzzy on the details of all this but that is buzz I remember surrounding U2's North Carolina gig in 1983.

This benefit show was called the Concert for Children with Todd Rundgren as the headliner. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were added to the bill along with The Producers.

Full essay plus audio interviews with Bono & The Edge  »

Songs U2 Played at Chapel Hill Show in 1983

Although U2 were in America to promote their new album War, the set list was made up primarily of songs from 1981's October and 1980's Boy.

View the set list and download songs  »

Bono "Singing In The Rain" at Chapel Hill

The event was a sparsely-attended afternoon show. The weather had been dreary all morning and turned into a full-fledged rain during U2's set.

What was worse than the rain was the way the stage was set up. It had been assembled in the middle of the field and there was chain-link fence erected several yards away to keep the crowd — or in this case lack thereof — far away from the stage. Considering how few tickets must have been sold in advance, I cannot see any logic for this.

There was a narrow little walkway extending from the stage that stopped about three yards from the fence. Knowing now how Bono likes to be close to his fans, this must have been very frustrating for him. I wonder if it felt like being in jail?

U2 opened with the song "Gloria" from their second album, October. Although the rain moved in by the band's third song, "A Day Without Me," Bono remained optimistic, stating in mid-song:

"There's somebody over here — he's telling me that it's raining. I don't believe it! The sun is out! It's shining!"

But even with his nicely-coifed mullet now limping, Bono stayed positive, energetic, and charismatic.

During "Sunday Bloody Sunday" Bono began waiving a series of three white flags that had been upside down in a flag stand next to Larry's drum kit. We're not talking little hand flags but big billowy flags atop a flagpole about twice Bono's height. He handed off two of them before the song ended and they were placed back in the flag stand, this time upright.

Bono waving a white flag in the rain during the first stop of the War Tour in the USA

About three minutes into the song, "Cry/The Electric Co.," Bono took the third flag and began climbing up the stage right scaffolding — barely more than a little metal ladder — while Adam, Larry, and Edge continue playing.

The crowd went nuts. After he got to the top of the ladder, Bono stepped onto the stage roof and stood the flag upright. I think he tried to prop it up there but perhaps with the rain it was too slippery. Then he started singing, to the tune of "Send in the Clowns":

"2, 3, 4... 2, 3, 4... Why must I hide from myself when I need a crowd? Bring on the crowd. I love this crowd."

At this point the only thing holding this scene together was the driving rhythm of Larry's drumming, which sounded a lot like a heart thumping — frantically.

Meanwhile, our buddy up on the stage roof took the opportunity to create a uniquely personal moment with the audience by breaking into the famous song from the Gene Kelly Movie Singing In The Rain (or if you're like me you associate it more with A Clockwork Orange):

"I'm singing in the rain. Singing in the rain." Then he said:

"Will you sing in the rain?"

"After me!"

And the audience joined in for as much of the verse as could be remembered.

Bono in 1983 on top of the outdoor stage at Chapel Hill. Where's the white flag?

Bono eventually made his way back down the ladder and onto the stage, where he finished the song, then told us:

"Sometimes it's important to show you and myself that even if there's 15 yards between us that we still wanna break through." The band then played "I Fall Down" from October. Good thing they weren't playing that one when Bono was on top of the stage!

Before launching into "11 O'Clock Tick Tock," Bono said:

"It pleases us very much to open our U.S. Tour in this place. And we'd like to thank you very much for making it rain and making it feel at home for us."

This was a gracious statement considering it surely would have pleased them more to open the tour in a dry spot where the fans could actually get to the stage.

Yet despite the rain, despite the ridiculous stage setup, U2 succeeded in creating a bond with the fans. Anybody who was at the show surely will tell you this performance by U2 was an unreal experience.

U2 War Tour 25th Anniversary in 2008

- 2006