What it’s like to tour with U2

Weddings Parties Anything frontman Mick Thomas wondered if a fight had broken out in the middle of their gig when the entire crowd turned away from the stage.

It wasn't a brawl but the arrival of the members of U2 who had arrived to check out the beloved Australian rockers at the Paddington RSL for the role of support act on their 1989 Lovetown tour.

U2's first tours of Australia in the 80s and 90s featured homegrown support acts who enjoyed an enviable opportunity to showcase their talents in front of the Irish rock stars' vast audience.

For the 1984 Unforgettable Fire, they tapped Matt Finish while Kim Salmon and the Surrealists opened on the Zoomerang stadium tour in 1993 with Sidewinder booked to warm up the crowd on the PopMart shows in 1998.

Mick Thomas from Weddings, Parties, Anything recalls playing pool was big on the Lovetown tour. Picture: Stuart Milligan
Mick Thomas from Weddings, Parties, Anything recalls playing pool was big on the Lovetown tour. Picture: Stuart Milligan

The three U2 tours of Australia on this side of the millennium have featured international artists - Kanye West for 2006's Vertigo, Jay-Z for 2010's 360° tour and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Bird for the Joshua tree tour now making its way around the country.

Ahead of U2's concert at Melbourne's Marvel Stadium on Friday, Thomas recalled the Pogues had recommended them for the coveted opening slot in Sydney with BB King playing another set before the headliners.

But as the Aussie rockers already had their own national tour booked, they told U2 they would only cancel their gigs and sign on if they could do the entire run of 20 dates.

BB King also opened for U2 on the Lovetown tour. Picture: News Corp Australia
BB King also opened for U2 on the Lovetown tour. Picture: News Corp Australia

And so U2 turned up to the Weddings Parties Anything club gig to check them out.

"It's all sort of surreal now," the respected songwriter said.

"We though there was a fight in the crowd but it was people turning around to look at them."

Thomas recalls one of the backstage features of the Lovetown tour was a pool table.

Playing pool was the No. 1 "sport" for Australian rock bands on tour throughout the 80s and 90s and the Weddings band members were matchfit at the game.

Thomas said there were a couple of sharks in the band and then drummer Marcus Schintler won a game without The Edge pocketing a ball, invoking the great pub tradition which demands the loser drops his pants and go for a walk around the table.

Bono pictured during the U2 The Joshua tree Tour, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. Picture: AAP
Bono pictured during the U2 The Joshua tree Tour, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. Picture: AAP

"He was a good sport about it and walked around the table in their backstage area," Thomas said.

"But the big session was on the last night at the wrap party at a Sydney club that had everyone from BB King to David Bowie partying. It was heady stuff."

That party is legendary in Australian music industry circles because of what didn't happen.

While the Edge and others jammed with other musicians in the room, everyone tried to coax Bowie away from the pool table and onto the stage as they ran through some of his songs.

He was in town recording with Tin Machine but resisted the urge because he was on a warning from the local Musician's Union after briefly getting up on stage at another local gig earlier that week.

His visa was strictly restricted to recording activities and did not permit him to perform live while in the country.

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Noel Gallagher: Why I don't jam with U2 and Bono

 

Kim Salmon and the Surrealists toured with U2 for PopMart. Picture: Kylie Else
Kim Salmon and the Surrealists toured with U2 for PopMart. Picture: Kylie Else

Kim Salmon, who was tapped for the Zoomerang - the Australian version of the Zoo TV world tour, had been recommended alongside The Cruel Sea by Mick Harvey who was then part of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

The Cruel Sea was busy and Kim Salmon already had a national tour booked so again insisted if they were to join U2's tour, it would have to be for the whole run.

He said the exposure the support slot offered to a respected but hardly mainstream Australia act was invaluable.

And while their encounters with Bono and the band were limited, he does recall "accidentally" tripping the U2 frontman over in the catering area one night.

"It wasn't an intentional thing! There was a bottleneck in the catering queue and I noticed someone fell over and realise "Oy my god, it's Bono'," Salmon said with a chuckle.

"He apologised to me! That gave us an opportunity to take a photograph together. He was always very pleasant and self-effacing."

U2 perform at the Marvel Stadium on Friday before heading to the Adelaide Oval on November 19, Sydney Cricket Ground on November 22 and 23 and Perth's Optus Stadium on November 27.



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