I was asked by the folks at RedEnvelope to participate in their #redMusic – Musical Honoree project. Inspired by “Kurt Cobain Day” on February 20th in Aberdeen, Washington, RedEnvelope is asking who your musical inspiration is and how they’ve shaped your life. Who would I dedicate and honor for a day? Why Larry Mullen Jr of course, the drummer and founder of U2. Because of Larry Mullen, there is U2 and because of U2 my life is magnificent.
For the past 27 years, U2’s music has inspired me. Their words elevate me when I am down, are a celebration when I am happy and teach me to dream out loud. U2 has truly shaped my life. Because of U2, I have made lifelong friends from the GA lines of their shows. Because of U2, I have traveled across the United States seeing all the sights on the way to their 75 concerts I have been to and spent a summer in their hometown of Dublin studying at Trinity College. Because of U2, I discovered my passion for writing. I started this blog as a way to document my three-month road trip on the last leg of the 360 Tour driving to every U2 concert in the US. This blog led to my U2 memoir I am writing, and hope to have published this year, about all of my U2 travels over the past 20+ years. As my Twitter followers tripled during the tour, I used that experience on social media to acquire my current job as Social Media Manager. I also write another blog called DeenasDays for all things not U2, and from that my sports articles have been picked up by some sports sites.
U2 has completely changed my life, but U2 wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for Larry Mullen Jr. Larry started U2 with a note on the school bulletin board and for a few minutes the band was known as The Larry Mullen Band. And it was because of Larry Mullen that I discovered U2. It was March 1987. I was a freshman in high school. A classmate of mine was flipping through one of those teen music magazines and stopped at a picture of U2. She said they were the ones who sang that new song “With or Without You.” I had heard it and liked it and sort of remembered their song “Pride” that was out a few years before. I noticed one of the four guys in the picture was very good looking. To an almost 15 year-old, it is very important for band you like to have a cute boy to crush on. It is because of that picture of Larry that I became a U2 fan and my musical journey began changing my life in ways I could have never imagined.
It is no secret that I love Larry Mullen Jr. I have been fortunate enough to have had a few personal encounters with him over the years on various U2 tours. The first time I saw Larry in person (not on stage) was at Giants Stadium on August 12, 1992 before the opening of the ZooTv Outside Broadcast Tour. A bunch of us fans were waiting outside the stadium in the afternoon before the show, and Larry drove by us on his motorcycle. He did not stop, but he did wave. I got a picture and then ran away screaming – he just has that affect on me. That night in concert Larry came to the front of the stage and sang “Dirty Old Town” as only he can. I was so excited that my friend Jonathan tried to hold me back, so I hit him to get him off of me and he fell off his chair. During Popmart, the only time I saw Larry outside of the shows was in Philadelphia on June 8, 1997 walking from the bus into the stadium. I do have a HitMan shirt though – like the one he wore in concert.
On the Elevation tour, I had three fantastic encounters with Larry. But before any of those, a Larry Mullen Band shirt was thrown onto the stage in Philadelphia on June 11, 2001. Larry placed it on his drum kit where it stayed for the rest of the show. I found out later that Paola had thrown this shirt on stage. It was her birthday, she is a huge Larry fan and had made the shirt for him. Because I took pictures of this and posted them online, Paola, Jenny, Tasha and I became friends. Paola made us all Larry Mullen Band shirts, which I wear to every U2 show. On June 21, 2001 in New Jersey at the end of the show, Larry walked to the front of the stage, leaned over, looked into my eyes and handed me his drumstick. I cried. I clutched that drum stick as I walked out of the arena. It is now in a glass case on my U2 shelf.
On October 19, 2001 in my hometown of Baltimore, I finally met Larry Mullen Jr. This was the first time U2 had played Baltimore, so when they arrived for sound check Larry, Bono, Edge and Adam walked out to meet us fans waiting outside the arena. When Larry walked over to me I said, “I don’t have anything for you to sign, so can I have a hug?” Larry looked at me a little strangely, then smiled and said yes. After Larry hugged me, I thanked him, turned around and cried like a baby. I was so overcome with emotion. I had been waiting to meet Larry for 14 years!
Less than two weeks later, I attended my favorite U2 concert ever – Larry’s 40th birthday in Providence, RI, October 31, 2001. This is what I wrote about that night:
This was the best show ever! There will never be another one like it! I woke up outside around 8am – pretty good sleeping outside in 30 degrees for 5 hours. I went up to the warm hotel room until about 10am, then had some breakfast. I stayed in the GA line all day without leaving, except to take a shower around 3:30. I got everyone in the GA line to sign the big orange birthday card I made for Larry. I put my name and email address on the back just in case. The band didn’t arrive until after we were inside. Me, Tasha and Paola wore our Larry Mullen Band shirts. We got our spots at the rail up front and center between Bono and Adam. I held up my birthday card for Larry as they walked on stage, but he didn’t notice it. There were many, many signs including one saying, ‘Bono let Larry sing.’ During Elevation, Bono sang, ‘ Celebration’ then said, ‘Happy Birthday.’ After Stuck in a Moment, Larry’s 40th birthday celebration began. We sang Happy Birthday to Larry. A birthday cake was brought out and Larry pretended to throw it out into the audience. Larry took the mic and came to the front to talk while Bono sat behind the drums. Larry said, ‘Bono couldn’t play drums. It took me 40 years to get up front. I’m glad I’m spending my birthday with 18,000 of my closest friends. I feel like I could borrow money from you.’ Then Bono asked for a bottle of champagne, which he shook up a la ZooTV and sprayed the audience. Edge took a swig, then Larry drank and continued to drink for the next few songs. After Kite, Larry got off the drums and made a B line for me. I got my card and shirt in hand so I could give it to him, but that’s not why he was there. He gave me the champagne bottle – with champagne still in it. I drank some and shared it with Paola and Tasha. Larry wanted to share his birthday with ME! He wanted ME to have a drink on his birthday. I was SO excited I didn’t even know they played Wild Honey. I thought it was Staring at the Sun. I didn’t really come around until Please. After Pride, Larry came back over to me so I could give him the birthday card and Elvis tee shirt. I said, ‘Thank you. Happy Birthday.’ He smiled and said, ‘Thank You.’ He looked into my eyes, just like he had in Jersey. Then Paola gave Larry her Larry scrapbook, which contains the picture of him hugging me. Later on, Bono noticed our shirts, shook his head and smiled. Before leaving the stage Larry took Michelle’s Elvis sunglasses with sideburns and put them on. I was so elated after the show – walking around hugging the champagne bottle. I told my story on video for this woman making a U2 GA documentary. I’m sure I made a fool of myself, but I was just VERY excited. What an amazing Larry night!
I did not have any encounters with Larry during the Vertigo tour, except when I would jump up and down screaming when he sang ‘RELEASE’ during “Love and Peace or Else.” I may have gotten a nod, the famous Larry no-nonsense nod. On the 360 Tour in 2009, Larry gave me a few waves, smiles and nods during the shows when he saw me in my Larry Mullen Band shirt jumping up and down screaming his name. Of course no one else was behind the stage waiting for him to walk down with his conga during “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight.”
I had a few great encounters with Larry on the last leg of the 360 Tour in 2011, including one I still can’t quite believe. Since I was driving to all 16 US shows, I thought it was a good opportunity to try to meet Larry. It turned into a bit of a quest. I arrived at each stadium by 3pm to wait for U2 to arrive. I wore my black Larry Mullen Band shirt and straw cowboy hat to every show. At the first show in Denver, Bono and Edge stopped and met with everyone but there were too many people around for me to get close. For the next show in Salt Lake City, I didn’t wait for U2 to arrive because I came across the GA line first and started talking with people, so I just got in line at 4pm.
I arrived to the stadium in Seattle just before 3:30pm. There were about 20-30 fans waiting who said that Larry already went in, so I was really upset. But they were wrong – can’t believe they didn’t even know what Larry looks like! A few minutes later U2 arrived, including Larry. Bono came back out riding on the back of a policeman’s motorcycle. He was talking with the fans, and I interrupted and shouted, “Is Larry ever coming out to meet the fans?” Bono replied, “He only likes you. I love you. You obviously like that kind of cold stare don’t you?” He continued to talk to others, I walked away, and then Bono shouted, “Where are the Larry Mullen Band people?” I responded, “Right here!” and then pushed my way toward him. Bono asked me, “Do you have a message I can deliver (to Larry)?” So I asked Bono to please ask Larry to come out and greet the fans in Oakland, which was the next show. Bono asked my name and then repeated it back to me. When he got in the golf cart to leave, it looked as if he wrote something down. At the end of the concert, I stood by the tunnel to watch U2 leave. Larry saw me, smiled, walked over, and shook my hand. So maybe Bono did say something to Larry.
Three days later in Oakland, I arrived at the stadium by 3pm to make sure I didn’t miss Larry arriving because I was sure that Bono would deliver my message and I would finally talk with Larry. U2 arrived and Bono was in the first car as usual and stopped right in front of us. As soon as Bono got out of the car, I pointed at him and then at my Larry Mullen Band shirt and said, “Now Bono…” He put his hands in the air and said, “I tried.” He walked over to us, and I said, “So he’s not coming (referring to Larry)?” Bono said, “I tried.” While he was signing autographs, I told him that it’s ok because I’ll be at other shows. Bono asked me, “What is your name Deah?” I said, “Deena.” He said, “Yes, I remember.” He went on to talk to others. Before he got back into the car to go inside, Bono looked over to me and shouted, “I’ll try again.” I didn’t get to talk with Larry that day in Oakland, but I did get to hear Larry sing in concert that night!
For the next month, U2 did not stop on their way into any stadium in the US. But luckily in Nashville we were able to stand in the parking garage overlooking the area where U2 got out of the cars and went into their dressing rooms in the building next to the stadium. Larry waved to everyone as he walked by.
A few days later in Chicago, Edge stopped on his way into Soldier Field. I shook Edge’s hand – his guitar playing hand! I asked him if Larry was coming out. He said, “I can’t say for sure. I can’t speak for Larry.” I thanked Edge for coming out to greet us, but I think it was too late and I had already offended him. I don’t think Edge had a sense of humor about it like Bono did in Seattle. A week later, Bono came out to greet everyone before the show in Philadelphia, but people were crazy and swarming him so I couldn’t get close enough to see him let alone talk with him. In St Louis a few days later, there were only a few of us waiting for U2 to arrive, but no one stopped to greet us. Larry did wave as he drove by though. Inside the stadium, I stood at the stage to watch U2 walk to the stage (as I did every show), and Larry and Bono noticed me (as they did most shows) and smiled and waved. During the band introductions Bono said, “Larry is still upset that we changed our name to U2 from the Larry Mullen Band and there are some people here that agree with him” – and Larry busted out laughing. Everyone thinks Bono was referring to me, and maybe he was. A few days later Edge stopped on his way into the stadium in New Jersey stopped to greet the fans, but since I had already met him in Chicago I stood back and let others meet him – besides he didn’t seem too interested in delivering a message to Larry for me.
A week later at the final US show in Pittsburgh both Bono and Edge came out to greet the fans. I couldn’t get close enough to talk with them, but I did see Larry and Adam get out of their cars and walk inside. My friends Matt and Melissa talked with Bono and selflessly told him about me and how I’ve driven to every US show and would like to meet Larry. Brian, Bono’s security guy, told them to wait there and he would see what he could do. Brian came out later and told me Larry was in a meeting, but he told Larry about me and Bono told Larry about me. Maybe Bono and Larry knew he was talking about me, since I talked with Bono in Seattle and Oakland about meeting Larry and Larry sometimes waves to me as he walks to the stage – and Brian said he’s seen me at the shows. Brian took my phone number and said he would look for me inside. I waited on Edge’s side of the inner circle to wait for U2 to enter, as I always do. Brian came over and told me that he was still working on getting me to meet Larry. When U2 walked out of the tunnel (on Adam’s side) I noticed that Larry wasn’t first as usual. Adam and Edge were first and Larry and Bono were behind them, so I kind of thought something was up. But then somehow Larry moved up front.
As Larry walked up the ramp, he locked eyes with me and was smiling. He walked across the platform and then down to me and hugged me. He didn’t say a word, he just put his arms around me. I think I muttered a ‘thank you.’ Larry gave me the biggest, best hug ever and then went on stage. I burst into tears. Everyone around me congratulated me and hugged me, which made the moment even more special. I was so excited that I don’t really remember “Even Better Than the Real Thing” or “The Fly.” I don’t think I really came to until “Mysterious Ways” when Larry’s drum kit turned around and faced me behind the stage. I never thought Larry would walk over to me and hug me on his way to the stage before the show. That was my favorite moment of the U2 360 tour and a perfect ending to my Musical Journey! I keep replaying it over and over in my head. Larry walked toward me, smiling, jumping down to me, putting his arms around me without saying a word, and hugging me. It seemed like it lasted forever, but after watching videos, it was only a few seconds – but those were some magnificent few seconds!
Because of Larry Mullen Jr and U2, I have found what I am looking for.