Jake O'Kane: I might have been at Belsonic and seen U2 five times, including on my honeymoon... but I'm not a concert sort of guy

As the night progressed, I realised concerts are for the young, as both myself and the aged couple in front wilted, clinging on to a handrail to keep ourselves vertical

U2 perform at Belfast's SSE Arena – yes, I was there; yes, it was a brilliant concert; yes, I saw them at Croke Park last year; yes, I'll be at their gig in October; and no, I don't like them Picture: Niall Carson/PA
Jake O'Kane

STOP the press; I was at a concert last weekend! As usual, I’d had my arm gently twisted by my wife to accompany her to see Liam Gallagher at Belsonic.

It was an all right night – you couldn’t fault the organisation or facilities, and the rain stayed off which was a blessing, but something was missing. Liam without Noel is like Ant without Dec, or Edwin Poots without stupidity – they just belong together.

I was in no way annoyed by the steady stream of people wanting ‘selfies’, though I’m sure if any of the photos made it to the internet then anyone who knows me would have had a hearty chuckle at my beardy head at Belsonic.

At the concert, I positioned myself behind a married couple of not dissimilar age to myself, in a vain attempt to look a little less out of place. As the night progressed, I realised concerts are for the young, as both myself and the aged couple in front wilted, clinging on to a handrail to keep ourselves vertical.

It’s not that I don’t like music, it’s just I’m not a concert sort of guy. In fact, but for my wife, I’d be able to count the number of concerts I’ve attended on two hands. Unfortunately for me, I married a woman with an obsessive love of U2 – you’ve no idea. Her love of the midget tax dodger goes way back to the days before anyone outside Ireland had heard of them.

To explain how different we are in our appreciation of Bono & co, she’s the sort of fan who, as a teenager in the days before the internet, queued all night in the wind and rain to buy concert tickets. Whereas I remember being in Dublin with friends in 1979 when one in our company suggested we continue our liquid refreshments in Dandelion Market, where a great new band called U2 were playing. I looked at the lunatic like he’d just proposed we switch from vodka to water, pulled my stool closer to the bar and dug in for a serious night’s drinking.

Not that I’m saying U2 aren’t a great band; even I can appreciate Bono possesses a once-in-a-generation voice that defined the music scene of the 1980s and 90s. It’s just I’ve now seen them five times!

Would you believe I was even conned into seeing them while on my honeymoon? I thought my new wife and I had decided on Florida because she wanted a guaranteed suntan and I’d always wanted to visit Hemingway’s home in Key West. How naïve was I?

I couldn’t understand why on our journey to Key West, we took a detour for a night in Tampa, not exactly a tourist destination. Then my little darling, innocence written all over her face, told me she’d just discovered that U2 just happened to be in town that night, and would you believe it, she’d even managed to get two tickets. What’s most annoying was I fell for it – the truth only came out many years later.

I can hardly remember one song from that show as our seats were right behind a row of Italian men with slicked back hair and enough white powder up their noses to fuel a trip to the moon. To say they were excited in no way explains the raw energy on display. To be honest, The Priests could have been performing and they wouldn’t have known the difference.

Like extras from some Mafia movie, obscenities punctuated rough horse-play, and every time one of them reached under their expensive black jackets, I expected a large handgun to appear. My wife, of course, noticed none of this drama as she was in raptures watching her idols. Just my luck, I thought: I’ve survived the Troubles to end up getting shot in America watching a band I don’t even like.

And yes, I was in the audience the last time they played Belfast, and yes, it was a brilliant concert. And yes, I was in the audience in Croke Park last year, when a friend spotted me, by utter coincidence in a photo of the crowd from a post by a Chinese U2 fan.

And yes, I’ll be in the audience when they play here again in October. I could write the script for the night; she’ll love it and I’ll be complaining. Then she’ll point out that Bono, who’s a few months younger than me, is enjoying himself; to which I’ll reply that if he was paying me £360, instead of the other way round, then I’d be dancing round the stage too.

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