By Joseph McLaughlin
Photos by Bill Denison and Joseph McLaughlin
The biggest rock band on the planet gave a musical master class on March 6 that no one at Fordham will ever forget.
With television cameras beaming images of Edwards Parade to a national audience, U2 performed six songs—four from their new album—on ABC’s Good Morning America.
“This is, hands down, the best thing to ever happen to me at Fordham,” said Kristen Kennedy, a sophomore in Fordham College at Rose Hill. “One of the songs on their new CD is called ‘Magnificent,’ and that’s what they were.”
The show, which aired from 7 to 9 a.m., broadcast several segments from a temporary stage outside Keating Hall. The University’s main lawn was packed with Fordham students, faculty and staff, who supplied a cheering section 5,000 strong in anticipation of U2’s appearance at 8 a.m.
For a band that is accustomed to selling out arenas and stadiums around the world, its performance at Fordham’s Rose Hill campus in the Bronx achieved an intimacy that few concertgoers ever experience.
Speaking before the telecast began, Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, focused the energy of the audience.
“Are they at Columbia?” Father McShane yelled to the sea of humanity stretched out before him, which roared the answer back at the stage.
“Are they at Georgetown?” he continued. “Are they at Notre Dame?”
Father McShane detailed the band’s accomplishments, including 140 million albums sold, 22 Grammy awards and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.
“This morning, Fordham is introduced to four and a half million households,” he said. “This morning, Fordham rightly gets on the map thanks to you and U2.”
When the band emerged from Keating Hall, Edwards Parade switched into overdrive, with the crowd singing and shouting along with frontman Bono, guitarist the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen, Jr.
“We joined a band to get out of going to college,” Bono said jokingly, after the last chords of “Get on Your Boots,” the opening number, washed over the visibly elated audience. “Maybe if it looked like this, and felt like this, things could have been different.”
The day began early at Rose Hill. Students, faculty and staff were treated to a breakfast in the McGinley Student Center beginning at 5 a.m., but by that time, several hundred students were already lined up outside Edwards Parade in anticipation of its opening a half hour later.
First in line was Lauren Jobson, a junior at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, who arrived at 1:45 a.m. to secure the coveted spot. Jobson explained that U2’s music has been an integral part of her life, noting that she took her first steps while the band’s cover of “Helter Skelter” played in the background.
“Their music is timeless,” she said. “For my whole life, it’s been played constantly on car radios, tapes, CDs … many memories.”
U2’s first set of the broadcast included three songs from No Line on the Horizon, the band’s 12th studio album, which was released the previous Tuesday. Their Fordham performance capped a week of appearances in New York City, including five nights as the musical guest on Late Night with David Letterman.
“This song was written for and about the Fordham University campus,” Bono said during their first set. “Particularly Friday nights at Fordham. It’s called ‘I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight.’”
He looked to the sky and quickly added, “With respect, Father.”
An interview followed later in the broadcast, with the Edge thanking the still-screaming fans.
“It’s great to be here in the Bronx among our peers,” he said. “We may not be the same age, but we’re the same age group.”
When Good Morning America signed off, there was still more music to play at Fordham. After closing the broadcast with “Beautiful Day,” U2 treated the fans to two additional songs.
“This is exactly where we come from,” Bono said. “Not from the Bronx, but we started our band when we were 17 and 18. This is our home.”
After U2 re-entered Keating Hall, where a cadre of reporters from Rolling Stone, MTV and other media outlets were waiting to interview them, Father McShane used the moment to explain why the performance was a perfect fit for Fordham.
“U2 transcends rock stardom,” he said. “U2’s stars, each one of them, is deeply committed to social justice, service to the poor and advocacy. They’re living proof that you can take great joy in life from giving back to others.”