With U2 touring the Joshua Tree album this year, I thought I’d share a memory of the original tour. The phone rang at the music store I was working at in San Francisco and the manager picked it up. He said into the receiver, “Yup. Uh-huh, uh-huh. Sure.” He then called across the intercom for everyone to meet up at the counter.
Once we were all assembled, he said, “U2 is setting up for an unannounced concert in Justin Herman Plaza. We’re closing the store and heading down there.” There were very few customers in the store, so we sold them what they needed and exited the store, locking it in the middle of the retail day. Gutsy stuff, store manager. Anyone who works in retail knows what kind of stones it takes to close the store in the middle of a weekday afternoon.
We all went to the square and indeed, U2 was setting up. By that I mean their roadies weren’t setting up, the band was. The Edge was dragging a vocal monitor across the stage and plugging it in. Adam Clayton was hoisting his bass head onto his cab. The band got started and played a wild set of Beatles songs, Bob Dylan songs, and a few signature U2 numbers. The Kodak moment was when Bono climbed onto the gigantic stone art installation in Justin Herman Plaza and spray painted the words “Rock and Roll, stop the traffic” onto the sculpture.
The then mayor Diane Feinstein flipped out and harshly criticized U2 in The San Francisco Chronicle the next day for defacing the sculpture. We all went to the Joshua Tree concert at the Oakland Coliseum a few days later, which had given Bono time to fly the artist, Armand Vaillancourt, whose sculpture he had vandalized, down from Canada to the concert. Bono supplied him with a large bucket of white paint and a massive roller brush on a long handle. There was a glorious banner displaying the Joshua Tree logo graphic in white against a black background, and Bono invited him to deface it, a request he obliged. It was a great show.