We Will Follow
November 14, 1981 – U2, David Johansen, Robert Ellis Orrall Band at The Orpheum Theater, Boston, MA.
March 16, 1982 – U2, Robert Ellis Orrall Band at UMass Amherst - Bowker Auditorium, Amherst, MA.
The Orpheum Theater
I was twenty one years old and I was about to play the Orpheum Theater in Boston, Massachusetts. The date was November 11, 1981 and Robert Ellis Orrall and band was the selected opener for former New York Dolls front man, David Johansen and the headliner, U2. This was the beginnings of U2’s “October” LP tour and things for them were heating up so very fast. I don’t believe anyone at the time were aware of how U2’s popularity was going to explode within the next year. No need to tell you what eventually happened to U2. HUGE!
The concert was hosted by radio pioneers and radio mega giants, 104 FM WBCN Boston. ‘BCN, as we called her, had hosted smaller shows when U2 first appeared even having them in studio several times for interviews and jams. Super DJ Carter Alan from WBCN was and is the biggest U2 fan on the globe and made sure the radio station supported them whenever they could. (Psssst! Carter has written some GREAT books about U2).
We were all so excited that big day. I remember that we were treated really nicely from all of the folks at the Orpheum and also all the crews and artists that day. I had never been to the Orpheum so for me to have my Artist/All access pass and my blue Sonor kit in tow to say was UNREAL would be such an understatement. We went on and did our set and to be honest it went by like a flash of light. That is what usually happens when you are an opening act playing in a venue like The Orpheum. I was just excited to be there. Odds are the tempos were a bit brisk! It matters not. We did it! We played the Orpheum!
David Johansen's set was interesting. Real trashy cool. A bit campy/comical as well. He had his solo band with him. NOT the New York Dolls. Really good band but for this 21 year old rookie it was almost comical seeing these successful rockers up close and in a natural setting prior to the show. Johansen weighed about what my left leg weighed and to be honest he looked as if he were drawn by a cartoonist. In no way am I being mean here. There is just no way someone who looked like that could be anything other than a rock star. If you were at a deli counter about to order some mortadella and Johansen walked up as your deli guy, there would be a chance you would opt out for some pre-sliced/packaged olive loaf. David and his band rocked the place. The crowd loved them. I loved them as well.
It is important to remember that the music world had just been set on it's ear by a new, fantastic medium called MTV on August 1, 1981. This was just over two months prior to this show. Music Television. Totally addicting, cool. U2's video for their song "Gloria" became an MTV favorite and exposed the world to this very unique sounding band from Ireland. I was indeed a HUGE fan. What a sound.
The backstage areas at the theater were old, dingy, and cramped. The small dressing rooms were on different floors connected by a very used, and by now, run down staircase. The guys from U2 were extremly nice but indeed were on a mission. You could feel the success in the air. I spoke with Bono for a few minutes on the stairs prior to them going on. WBCN were doing a LIVE remote from the show. I had some headphones and a portable radio that I was listening in on. Bono asked to listen using my headphones. You bet. It would have made a great photo. Me holding my radio as Bono listened in with my headphones three minutes before he and the band were about to hit the stage. They went on and were indeed amazing.
A few months after the Orpheum show, U2 continued their US tour supporting the release of "October". They were to appear at UMass Amherst - Bowker Auditorium. We were estatic to be welcomed back as the opener for this show. We all knew that this band were about to see their final days in these types of venues. It really was exciting. They deserved it.
Again, U2 were amazing. During sound check I spoke with U2's drummer, Larry, and he shared a bit of what has been happening with them since the Orpheum show. He knew what was coming in the future. I love to reflect on success stories like these with U2 because in fact just being an amazing group with exciting, new sounds and songs doesn't guarantee success. It's a phenomenon when something becomes this popular. I'm glad we got to see and share a bit of their humble beginnings.
Drum Tracking On Your Music
"Be sure to follow the "Tracking" link if you would like to have me record drums and percussion on your music." ~ David