Happy Birthday Larry Mullen Jr! 16 years ago today we celebrated your 40th birthday at my 40th U2 show, my favorite concert ever – the Elevation Tour Providence2 October 31, 2001. Thanks for the drink!
Immediately following the first concert in Providence on October 30th, Paola and I got in the GA line for Larry’s 40th Birthday concert the next day. I was number seven in line. Tasha had driven up and met us after the show. We got some food, then Tasha slept in the hotel while Paola and I slept outside in the GA line. Even though it was 30 degrees on that cold sidewalk in Providence in late October, we actually got about five hours of sleep.
We woke up at 8am the morning of October 31st. We went up to our warm hotel room for a couple hours and had some breakfast. We stayed in the GA line all day without leaving, except to take a shower around 3:30pm. I made a huge orange (my favorite color) Birthday Card for Larry and had everyone in the GA line sign it. I put my name and email address on the back just in case. I was optimistic back then, and maybe a little delusional. I had also brought an Elvis motorcycle shirt to give to Larry as a birthday present.
Tasha, Paola and I wore our “Larry Mullen Band” shirts standing up front at the rail between Bono and Adam. I held up the birthday card for Larry as U2 walked on stage, but I don’t think Larry saw it. There were many signs that night including one saying, “Bono let Larry sing,” but that did not happen. During “Elevation,” Bono sang, “Celebration” then said, “Happy Birthday.” After “Stuck in a Moment,” Larry’s 40th birthday celebration began.
Bono led the audience in a chorus of “Happy Birthday” to Larry. Then a birthday cake was brought out, and Larry pretended to throw it out into the audience. Bono said, “Larry likes chocolate cake.” Larry took the microphone and came to the front of the stage to talk while Bono sat behind the drums. Larry said, “Bono can’t play the drums” then continued with “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.” 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. Larry gave me his champagne bottle, with champagne still in it! I drank some and shared it with Paola, Tasha and Michelle, then just hugged the bottle until the security guard offered to put it down behind the barricade until the show ended. I didn’t want to let it out of my hands, but sensible thoughts prevailed. I couldn’t believe it! 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 U2 changed the set list and played “Wild Honey.” I thought it was “Staring at the Sun” as in the past shows. 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 shirt. I said, “Thank you. Happy Birthday.” He smiled and said, “Thank You.” It wasn’t much of a conversation, but it was very meaningful as Larry looked into my eyes just as he had in Jersey when he gave me his drum stick a few months prior. Paola gave Larry her Larry scrapbook, which contained the picture of Larry hugging me in Baltimore a couple weeks earlier. Later on, Bono noticed our “Larry Mullen Band” shirts, shook his head and smiled. I am pretty sure we were the first to have “Larry Mullen Band” shirts. It wasn’t until the Vertigo tour that U2 wore “Larry Mullen Band” shirts on stage, and now many fans wear them. Before leaving the stage Larry took Michelle’s Elvis sunglasses with sideburns and put them on. I was so elated after the show, just walking around hugging Larry’s champagne bottle.
The set list for the Larry’s 40th Birthday show in Providence on October 31, 2001 was as follows: Elevation, Beautiful Day, Until the End of the World, New Year’s Day, I Will Follow, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Stuck in a Moment, Happy Birthday Larry, Party Girl, Slow Dancing, Kite, Wild Honey, Please, Bad / 40, Where the Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Pride, Bullet the Blue Sky, What’s Going On, New York, One, When Will I See You Again, Walk On
This show was not only my favorite Elevation show, but my favorite U2 show ever. I doubt there will ever be another night like it. Granted it was Larry’s 40th Birthday, and I love Larry, but it was also fantastic for the rarities U2 played that night. “Slow Dancing” was played for the first time on the Elevation Tour, and only the 11th time ever. “Party Girl” and “Wild Honey” were played for the first time on that leg of Elevation, and I have only heard those songs a couple of times ever. There was a great energy in Providence that night. I still have that champagne bottle on my shelf, next to Larry’s drum stick he gave me in Jersey on Elevation and the 2 he gave me in Denver on ieTour. I find it interesting that my 40th U2 show was Larry’s 40th Birthday show. Coincidence or fate?
– taken from my book On the Road with U2 – my musical journey