Top Hat Ballroom, Dublin, Ireland

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It was U2’s biggest show yet, opening for The Stranglers when they played the Top Hat Ballroom in Dun Laoghaire to an audience of about 2500 people. Not all was great for U2 however, showing up they aren’t given any time to soundcheck, and The Stranglers have monopolized both dressing rooms causing U2 to have to get ready at the side of the stage. Adam Clayton in U2 by U2 shared, “I don’t think we got a soundcheck and they had taken all the dressing-rooms so we had to hang out backstage behind the speaker stacks… I think Bono just felt the hostility of the audience which was hardcore punk who didn’t have any tolerance for us.”

Tony Clayton-Lea who was at the gig told the Irish Times, “U2 support The Stranglers, and receive cold comfort (and quite a few gobs of spit) from a partisan punk rock audience. What I hear from the band doesn’t impact at all, but you can clearly see that Bono has little fear of confrontation.” The audience doesn’t want an opening act and spend much of U2’s set spitting on the band.

Before the show, Bono tried to convince lead singer JJ Burnel to wear one of U2’s badges, “Y’know, we supported The Stranglers once in the early days. I tried to persuade JJ to wear one of our badges: U2 CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE. He said ‘f**k off’, and rightly so. But I took it badly and we robbed their dressing room – totally cleaned it out.” The band made off with beer and wine from the dressing room while the band were performing.

It was Larry Mullen that got U2 the opening slot at the show. He visited promoter Pat Egan’s office and asked if he could open. Egan, short an opening act gave the young band the chance.

This concert is covered by Bill Graham in the book, Another Time Another Place: “The next test was when U2 supported The Stranglers before their biggest audience yet at the Top Hat Ballroom on September 9. With no dressing room of their own, they changed behind the stage. Without a sound check, the Edge’s guitar amp spluttered with static and when he broke a string, Bono had an uphill battle against the Stranglers fans who gobbed him & threw lighted cigarettes on stage. But he didn’t shrivel. The band only got £50 and the bonus of some bottles of wine that they liberated from the Stranglers dressing room, but it had been a necessary blooding before a hostile audience. Facing them down, they had definitely won some new friends.”

Although there were some rough patches that night, there were no long term bad feelings between the bands, and in 2015 Adam Clayton would occasionally wear a Stranglers T-Shirt on stage duirng the Innocence and Experience tour, including a tour stop in Montreal.

The Top Hat opened in 1953 and hosted concerts through to 1991, where Sonic Youth and Nirvana played the last major show at the venue. Bono speaks about the Nirvana concert at the venue in his “60 Songs that Saved My Life” letters, published for his 60th birthday.

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