Today about 60,000 St. Louisans swear they were there for that concert on April 7, 1981. Here is our original review of the show.
Boys will be boys. At Washington University's Graham Chapel on Tuesday night, 20-year-old lead singer Bono of the Irish rock group U-2 danced barefoot and in knee britches for a slowly enthusiastic crowd of 600.
"If you're here to suss us out, I hope your examination is satisfactory," Bono said after U-2 had played four songs to familiarize the audience with their distinctive, hypnotic hymns to adolescent angst.
Bono does not have a rock singer's voice, but for performing material from U-2's debut album, called "Boy," Bono's wistful, echoing vocals were ideal.
Echoing was less than ideal for U-2's rhythm section, and drummer Larry Mullin and bassist Adam Clayton suffered with Graham Chapel's inhospitable rafters. Only on a few songs, like "An Cat Dubh" early in the set, did Mullin's relentlessly explosive drumming emerge.
"An Cat Dubh," which ended the quartet of songs before Bono introduced the boys from Dublin, also featured the mesmerizing lead guitar of an unassuming 19-year-old, wearing black pants and a white shirt buttoned to the throat, who is known simply as The Edge. The Edge's guitar style skillfully describes the themes of many U-2 songs: the panic and desperation of a child confronted by adulthood.
After Bono finally introduced the band and The Edge launched "Into the Heart," the crowd, which had been curious but wary, pushed closer to the stage. By the time the band prayed "Stories for Boys," many people were dancing, none more than the boyish Bono.
He danced and clowned throughout the set, at one point comically trying to light a cigarette, despairing, and then fanning the cigarette lighter as if it were a pistol. He threw water on the sweating crowd and then pulled a young woman onstage to dance.
Bono's vocals may have a dubious future - boys do grow up but he already is an adept entertainer. He had completely won the audience by the last song before the encores, "Out of Control," possibly the best song in the set of twelve.
The show ended with two encores, both enthusiastically demanded by a crowd chanting "U-2." The band played one of their Irish singles, "A Day Without Me," then repeated two songs from the opening four. "11 O'Clock," was musingly received, then the crowd somehow managed to push closer to the stage and yet kept dancing as U-2 started to play their irresistible 'dance hit, "I Will Follow."
The second time they heard it the St. Louisans knew what to expect from the Irish boys.