Happy Birthday Bono! (60)

Un racconto musicale per celebrare i 60 anni di Bono. Il racconto si basa sul testo di “U2 at the Opera” (fabio amadei, 2015) mixando aneddoti e canzoni acustiche in stile busker.

Happy Birthday Achtung Baby!!

Happy Birthday Achtung Baby!!!! 25 years….

The album that changed definitely my life…..


“In January 1991, I finally won a hi-fi with CD player at a radio contest. From that moment on, I was finally authorized to look for CDs on the music stores’ shelves. I was able to find some bootlegs that improved my collection, until then only limited to the official albums copied on cassette.

I was very much intrigued by the live performances of the band, and I had never been to one of their concerts yet!

The occasion was about to come. Despite the rumours of various postponements and tapes stolen from the recording studio, in November 1991 a new album was released and, I hoped, a tour would have followed.

On 17th November 1991, locked in my room, I listened to all U2’s albums, rigorously in chronological order, from Boy to Rattle and Hum, as a ritualistic preparation for the following day. This same ritual would have happened for many more albums after that…

Achtung Baby was released on 18th November, announced by the shocking single The Fly. I never played hooky in school, but for the occasion I skipped my midmorning university class (my first semi-hooky) to listen to it right away. I bought two of them: one on CD, for me. The other one was an LP bought to impress a friend of mine who was away on a school trip on that day, and thus unable to buy it right away.

The album was fantastic, so intense, with songs that strike you, scratch, hurt. I even wrote down on my diary my comments and emotions song by song…

For hours on end I listened to it, I studied the music and lyrics. Despite the difficulty due to the difference with the previous works, I also tried to play it on my guitar.

Even today, Achtung Baby goes through you and leaves a mark. The urgency to listen to it is linked to specific emotions and frames of mind: sadness, anguish, joy, the need for focus, reflection…

Listening to that album was such an intense emotion that in the following days I decided to enrol myself as a member of Propaganda, the U2 official fan club, advertised on the CD booklet.

Not surprisingly, the ZOO Tv Tour, about to become so famous, was announced. According to the rumours, the set was something never seen before, with many mega-screens and machines hanging on the stage.

In 1992 such an elaborated and expensive set had a downside: it could only be staged in indoor sport arenas. In Italy the Forum in Assago (Milan) was chosen. Dates: 20th and 21st May. Total 25,000 seats: next to nothing! It was clear since the beginning that it would have been very difficult to find the tickets.

We were in the early 90s and the web wasn’t available yet. News spread a lot slower than today, and you had to make a big effort to get information through the available means: newspapers, music magazines, radios and tv. You could find tickets only through advance sales, usually in music stores. Buying didn’t just mean clicking a button after having inserted your credit card details, but queueing for hours, making phone calls, waiting, and having a personal and trust-based relationship with the music store manager.

A few days before the advance sale start date, I received a postcard from the fun club Propaganda. They gave their members the opportunity of booking two tickets for one concert of their choice within the European tour.

Unfortunately there was a deadline: the following day. The journey from one bank to another in order to issue an international cheque as instructed was an odyssey. But I was so determined to get them that I did it: I managed to book two tickets for the concert in Milan.

In the meantime though, in the grip of the typical fan’s paranoia, I decided to try the traditional way as well. I wanted to have the tickets physically in my hands: a booking number and a payment order weren’t enough. My cousin Adriano, my childhood friend/desk-mate Nicola and I found a list of all the advance sale stores in the region, using the means at our disposal: magazines, radios and tv. We were a very efficient team. As we didn’t get any reassurance from our trusted music store in Parma, we got on my legendary Fiat Panda, drove to Studio’s in Modena, and came out with another voucher…

Thank goodness all worked out fine and I even found myself with a spare ticket. My first U2’s concert, finally, seemed possible… and real…

But the problems weren’t over. The mayor of the little village of Assago thought there was an issue of public order: “the available tickets are 25,000 but there is a demand of at least ten times more. In sum: in order to prevent people without tickets from forcing the entrance, we will cancel the concerts!”.

There’s no need to describe my frame of mind after the news… I immediately started an agonising reading of the city of Milan section on all newspapers, looking for updates, waiting for the council to come to its senses.

I remember that on the day of the council’s final deliberation there was even a live coverage of the event on the radio. And luckily it was favourable…

The day of the concert, May 20th, at midday, Adriano, Nicola, my sister Cristina, Ilaria (the girl to whom I sold my spare ticket) and I left for Assago. When we reached the venue it was pouring and we noticed a big crowd walking in the opposite direction. Everyone was looking for shelter from the rain in the rooms especially made available by the venue management. We found out very soon that they were expecting “delays in the staging of the show due to technical reasons”. This didn’t alarm us, we entered the room and waited there until the rain stopped.

We waited, waited and waited until the sensed and feared disastrous news arrived: a very brave guy with a megaphone walked on the external stairs of the Forum and announced to the 13,000 fans waiting there, under the rain, that the concert was going to be delayed by two days, due to technical reasons. There was a strike on that day and the lorries transporting the stage didn’t manage to get there on time from Spain.

You can imagine our incredulity, anger, delusion…

We went back to Parma with our tails between our legs.

The day I had been waiting for six years slipped out of my hands in one second…

Two days after, we went back to Milan and this time there were no surprises. Finally I got my personal live-christening with U2, and it exceeded all expectations.

Now you’re probably expecting the description of the concert, my FIRST EVER U2’s concert. So long awaited, chased, and finally reached.

But you won’t get it…

Better: I will recount it, but not as it could be expected.

The concert was wonderful, an unprecedented emotive shock.

I remember that Sara, a friend of mine that will pop out again later in my story with U2 and in this book (1997), wrote to me: “…cover bands have the quality of making you sing and dance the songs of your idols without you being overwhelmed by the emotion of seeing them right in front of you…”.

This was exactly the case, and I froze. Seeing Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam live, after having listened to them and dreamt about them for over 6 years, was a shock. I couldn’t believe it…

I can still recall, as a dream of random images, Adam’s bass that echoed in my chest, Bono wearing brown earphones, the banners saying “I’m mayor of the town of Montebelluna” and “ The Edge for President”, that Bono shouted at the beginning of Streets, when all the lights went on.

The photos I took with my disposable camera were impossible to develop of course …

I remember there were a couple of changes from the usual playlist, made to reward us after the cancellation of the show two nights before.

Above all, I recall this: precisely during Ultraviolet (my favourite song of the album from the start. It included the line “… and I hear Opera in my head…”) Bono, towards the end of the song, with all the lights on, shouted:


It may sound as something small, but in that context, with the emotion we were feeling right at the end of the concert, of that concert, my first one, precisely during my favourite song, in that moment…

It gives me shivers every time I think about it…

Every time I listen to it…”

U2 #achtungbaby