It was (roughly) ten years ago today.
Tickets to see U2 at the Baltimore Arena (now of course known as 1st Mariner Arena) went on sale on a Saturday morning. I was spending the weekend on the water in Annapolis with friends, so I had no internet access and no ability to get to a Ticketmaster outlet like the one at Hecht’s in White Marsh Mall.
I was stuck with having to take my chances in calling 410-481-SEAT (does that number even exist anymore) at 10am and hoping to get through and purchase tickets.
I was of course unable to do so. After getting busy signal after busy signal, I was finally able to get through to a rep who informed me that only minutes after going on-sale, the first ever Charm City appearance (according to U2Gigs.com) for the boys from Dublin was sold out.
In 2001, there was no MySpace or Facebook or Twitter to take to in order to attempt to find tickets. Craigslist still didn’t have a Baltimore page and tickets on eBay were far too expensive for a young man only months removed from his graduation from Perry Hall High School.
The attacks of 9/11 were still fresh on the morning of October 19, 2001. As a freshman at UMBC, I had yet to learn the art of not scheduling classes on Fridays. When I woke up, my roommate Matt Saenz (who played soccer for the great Pete Caringi with the Retrievers) asked me if I was headed downtown for the show. It was that moment that I decided I couldn’t miss.
I made one phone call that morning-it was to my friend Barry Aparicio, who was still a senior at PHHS. I said to him simply “the best band in the world is coming to our back yard. Are we really going to miss this?”
It cost us $100 apiece to get floor tickets outside the arena that night, but the memory was worth significantly more.
My memories of that night were significantly more valuable than $100. I’ll always remember the emotions of that night being heightened in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Despite being from Ireland, the band was particularly patriotic to America-with Bono wearing a jacket that when turned inside out displayed the American flag.
Later in the show the singer was handed an American flag by a concert-goer and draped himself in it, appearing to be in tears in the moment.
A fan brought a sign to the show with the chord progression written on it for Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” That fan was pulled from the crowd and handed a guitar to join Bono and The Edge for the song.
The night closed with the names of 9/11 victims displayed throughout the arena during an inspiring performance of “Walk On”, an anthem of encouragement after the attacks.
It was one of the most special nights I’ve ever experienced in Baltimore.
A decade later, my expectations for Wednesday night’s U2 show at M&T Bank Stadium are through the roof.
The excitement in Baltimore has been palpable for months. Social networking and human networking alike has been electric in conversation about the show, with Baltimoreans trying to buy/sell/trade/upgrade tickets, track down Bono in Federal Hill or somewhere else in town, make plans before or after the show (we’ll be at Tiki Barge and Stalking Horse ourselves) and discuss their love of one of the greatest bands in music history in general.
We’ve had big events in Baltimore in the last ten years. There was the Ravens/Colts AFC Divisional round playoff game in 2007 (we try to forget about the outcome of that), the AC Milan/Chelsea friendly in 2009 and an appearance from Bruce Springsteen at 1st Mariner Arena later in the same year.
With the exception of 2009, Preakness has continued to bring roughly 100,000 or more patrons to Pimlico every May. The Virgin Mobile Fest brought similarly large crowds to the same venue before scaling down and moving to Merriweather Post Pavilion. The inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix is expected to bring massive crowds downtown this Labor Day weekend.
But this is special.
This is U2.
Is really doesn’t get any bigger than this on one summer night in Baltimore.
We certainly haven’t gotten this feeling from anything the Orioles have done in the last ten years. (Like Ian Eagle said, “It’s not a low blow, it’s just a fact.)
I’ve seen U2 twice since that 2001 show, but those shows were in Washington and Philadelphia. They were good shows, but they didn’t include the “special” feeling that comes with a major night in Baltimore.
This is the definition of a “major night”, and I’m just as excited as I was ten years ago.