Who can concentrate on sports with U2 landing a spaceship in Baltimore?

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For the 70,000 who will gather tomorrow night for a hot, steamy Baltimore sermon from Bono and U2 under the stars in the Charm City, the journey with the lads from Dublin began somewhere.

For me, it all began with a simple little video called “I Will Follow” from just another nameless, faceless MTV Euro band with punker haircuts. I’ve now witnessed all of this U2 growth and glory over the past 30 years and I haven’t missed a tour since The Unforgettable Fire, when I camped out with Richard Abrahams in the Towson Hecht’s parking lot to score tickets.

So while I’m planning a giant pool party at the Tiki Barge tomorrow that moves over to the Stalking Horse for some pre-show refreshments and Bud Lights, just know I’m not the average tourist U2 fan. This one’s kinda special for me — the most relevant band in the world is playing six blocks from my crib and I’m treating this like a national holiday. But I’ve got 27 years worth of blood on the bricks with Bono and the boys. And their music has helped create the soundtrack for the story of my life.

I could tell you about the night I picked The Fixx at the Towson Center over U2 at D.A.R. Constitution Hall. I even turned down an interview with The Edge and Bono during that fateful week in Dec. 1984.

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I could tell you about the night I saw Bono in a sling on the Joshua Tree tour at R.F.K. Stadium.

Or the night that three pals and I piled into a 1973 Vega and drove five hours to Hampton Coliseum to see them close out the eastern part of the Joshua Tree tour. The Bodeans opened this show and became my favorite band.

Or that I was at the Meadowlands the night that the band shot the “With or Without You” video, sitting seven rows from Bono. The only other event I ever saw at the legendary building was the Devils winning Game 7 over Anaheim in the 2003 Stanley Cup finals.

After their lousy decade of the 1990’s — who knows, maybe it was the ‘roids? — I chased them all over the place on their “Elevation” tour — including some notable nights in the midwest…

When they began their tour on the west coast, I went to the Shark Tank…

U2 even dragged me to Sao Paolo back in 2006 where Bono dazzled more than 160,000 people in Morumbi Stadium high on a Brazilian hilltop.

I’ve seen them more times in Philadephia and Washington than I care to note — the same as many of you.

And I was at the incredible First Mariner Arena show 10 years ago when we all were amazed they ever played our sleepy and tired little building. I have a fabulous bootleg from that show that I listen to all the time!

But this Baltimore stadium show – like all shows of this magnitude for our city – is special. Because the Civic Center was such a pariah in the 1980’s and 1990’s, we really never were on the radar of bands like U2. They’d always wind up playing the Capital Centre or R.F.K. Stadium – or even later the MCI Center or Fed Ex Field.

So hearing the music of U2 audibly rocking the building throughout downtown tomorrow as the sound fills the sky all around the Inner Harbor will be legendary.

I’m an old-schooler. And getting old has inspired me to do something I’ve never done much of – and that’s geezing about the old days and going through ticket stubs and memories. As many of you know, I had a previous life as a music critic at The Baltimore Sun and The News American from 1984 through 1992, so going to concerts was something I often did five times a week in the heydey of Hammerjacks and Merriweather Post Pavilion.

U2 was always a special band. They played a few little tours in clubs and theatres – most notably playing Richie Coliseum and D.A.R. in shows that certainly have that “I was there” factor — and they only did one real arena tour on The Unforgettable Fire before they graduated to stadiums. I remember seeing them from the club level of the Meadowlands Stadium at the Amnesty International show in June 1986 and it was fairly obvious that U2 was becoming our generation’s Rolling Stones.

And here we are 25 years later and they’re playing our little purple part of the world tomorrow night.

And while Bono might offend some folks with his politics of peace and his inability to walk away from injustice without speaking his mind, that’s exactly why I have so much respect for what he’s done over the past quarter of a century. He’s been a “rock star” – on and off the field and that’s a very admirable thing. Like Oprah and Madonna and some other notables, he’s tried to change the world and make it a better place – even in places like Buenos Aires, where U2 are Argentinian royalty when they play the River Plate.

Tomorrow night, Baltimore will be a better place because the city will be electric all day in anticipation of the biggest concert the city has ever hosted. If you can’t host a Super Bowl or a World Cup, then U2 is about as good as it gets.

No finer albums have ever been made than The Joshua Tree and The Unforgettable Fire and “All That You Can Leave Behind” appears to be their crowning achievement – coming back from a decade of awful noise in the 1990’s.

And I find it rich with irony that on Wednesday night, we’ll all be singing the battle cry that we all want to hear in that very stadium this fall: “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”

How long to sing this song?

TOMORROW: I’ll list my Top 25 U2 songs. Get your lists together!

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