"Secular" Concert Hitchiker #1: U2, JFK Stadium, 9/25/87

After attending my fair share of Christian rock concerts, as a Christian Rock Groupie, through my grade school and high school years, I then went to a Christian liberal arts college where I promptly backslid to “secular” concerts.

My first “secular” concert was in the fall of 1987, I believe, with the band U2 at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia on its Joshua Tree tour. A freshman in college, I hitched a ride with a group I really didn’t even know, but since I was into U2, I must be cool (I wasn’t).*

From the beginning, I knew this was no Christian concert! At the entrances to the parking lots, scalpers were selling off tickets for hundreds of dollars and bootleg t-shirts, instead of the goodhearted Christian pastors giving away free tickets to the concert. No good hearts here.

Then inside the stadium were…

Holy F***! **

100,000 PEOPLE unlike the couple hundred people, if they were lucky, that showed up for Christian rock bands at a high school auditorium or church. ***

And it was a party before the concert even began. No small groups of teens reading their Bibles quietly or praying in a corner (at least, that’s what they said they were doing).

During the pre-show, The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles played on the speakers, as the crowd on the ground writhed and screamed and tossed beach balls in the air.

As day became night, a haze settled over the crowd. Hmmm. What was this? Oh, people are smoking, I see. Wait, that doesn’t smell like the cigarette smoke that comes from my grandfather’s Camels. Hmmmm. I wonder what that is.

The opening song was the first song from the album, “Where The Streets Have No Name,” with people holding lighters (not cell phones) over their heads before one note was even played.

From there, it was all a blur, because it was one of the most electrifying experiences I had ever attended to that point in my life and definitely since then. I just remember the sound of the Edge’s guitar cutting through the night fall air and almost knocking us out of the stadium as we sat on the top row.

For the encore, Bruce Springsteen, The Boss, came out on stage to join Bono for a rendition of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” I’m sad to say at the age of 18, I didn’t know who Springsteen was; I probably didn’t even know who King was. The only King I knew was Elvis or Jesus, and yes, in that order. When people were shouting “Bruuuuuce,” at first, I thought they were booing which I thought was just rude.

* This was a trend that continued throughout my college career as I hitchhiked from concert to concert with people I really didn’t know, as I will recount over the next few weeks in a Flashback Friday Series called “Secular” Concert Hitchhiker that begins today.

** That’s “Fork” if my mother and father are reading this.

*** Actually, according to numbers I’ve found online, the concert had 86,145 people there, but for a country rube such as myself, it sure seemed like 100,000 people, but found at least one fan, who like me, thought 100,000 were there that late September night.

This also was part IV of a four-part Spring Concert Series here during Flashback Fridays throughout the month of April, in which I regaled you with stories of being Pianoboy and Bandboy in my youth (variations of Tenacious D’s “Wonderboy”). Then I regaled you with the story of being a Christian Rock Groupie, about which I also had written some previously in God Gave Rock and Roll to You, Holy Rollin’, and Confessions of a Christian Metalhead.

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