An old friend had commented on meeting Depeche Mode at the Greenbelt Music Festival, in 1981, when they attended as fans. He also commented on the unscheduled appearance of U2 at the festival, as follows (e-mail correspondence reproduced with permission):
This was also the festival where U2 played their six songs that changed the world – unannounced, scared out of their minds, but feeling God was telling them to play. How were the organizers going to say no?
But the set was special. No sound check. Opened with “11 O’Clock Tick Tock“, which had been a minor hit in the UK. The crowd knew it. Bono looked out at the 25,000 people and said “we didn’t think you would know who we were.”. Five songs later, they left the stage.
A close friend was second row center. She said you could feel the Holy Spirit’s presence coming off the stage and into the crowd.
I watched from about 150 yards back. When the set ended I channeled Jon Landau’s quote about Springsteen: I have seen the future of rock and roll and its name is U2. Three years later, Rolling Stone would name them “band of the 80s”.
Modern Christian worship music was born that night. If you examine their music closely, you will discover that U2 are essentially a worship band. They share their music with the world, but it is really directed to an audience of One.
Many years later:
Back to 1981:
Postscript, September 10, 2013: The friend commented further, as follows:
U2 at Greenbelt, October 30, 1981, used borrowed equipment. They didn’t know they would be allowed to play, and didn’t bring their gear with them. The six songs played were:
11 O’Clock Tick Tock
I Will Follow
An Cat Dubh (The Black Cat)
Into the Heart
With A Shout/Jerusalem