20 September 1997
Reggio Emilia - Biggest audience ever.
Reggio Emilia - Biggest audience ever. 170,000 heaving Italians turn out for U2. "Not bad for a bunch of Paddies."
Reggio Emilia, Italy. The show in Rome turned out to be a great event, but compared today it was just a warm up. A totally accurate figure remains unconfirmed, but it seems certain that in excess of 170,000 people attended tonight's U2 concert in Reggio Emilia. This, according to our rock trivia experts, puts it in the record books as the highest ever attendance for a paying audience at a one-act concert - i.e. if you don't count festivals and free gigs, this was the largest one night stand in the history of rock. As Larry would say, "not bad for a bunch of Paddies".
Flying into Reggio that afternoon, Rob the pilot of the Air Lemon plane had obtained permission to fly over the concert site. This he did (circling three times!) at the astonishingly low altitude of 900 feet. The audience (already vast at 4pm) guessed it was the band's plane - not least on account of the lemon & shopping trolley logo painted on the tail fin - and there was much mutual rejoicing. The view from the cockpit was one to remember. This was a BIG venue.
By show time, the people were packed in so solidly it required a team of sherpas with pack-mules to get to the mixing desk booth out in the field. However, the crowd was extremely good natured despite its vast proportions, and we prepared to rock.
As night fell the scale of the event could only be judged by the sea of lighters held aloft (the singular benefit of playing in cultures where smoking is compulsory by law). It was the most beautiful sight... the endless sea of dancing flames. Quite a night... and the parking lot traffic was still thick by the time we left at 4am!!