I’m Chris Ray. I portray Bono in our U2 tribute band UZoo—something I would probably not be doing had I not seen Zoo TV.
I turned 16 in 1992. My grasp of society, culture and musical taste was certainly in its infancy.
The exposure I was given as a child to modern music had been limited at best, being strictly isolated to southern gospel and the occasional country song from the 1980’s.
Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, or anything loud was completely out of the question. Even the occasional Pop song would get the ban-hammer for having questionable lyric content. I vividly remember being told I couldn’t listen to Eddie Money’s “Take me home tonight,” since it was obviously all about promiscuous sex. I really liked that song!
Needless to say, by 1992 I was an open vessel; a musical blank slate if you will.
I knew about U2. Who hadn’t heard the Joshua Tree singles? But I wasn’t particularly “connected” to them. At least not anymore connected than I was to what was playing on Texas radio at the time.
A friend of mine, whose parents were a bit more relaxed, called me spur of the moment and said “Hey Chris, I have tickets to the U2 Zoo TV concert tomorrow night and the person I was going with can’t make it. Do you want to go?” At that point I was just excited to get out of the house and do anything, let alone go to a concert. I had no idea how defining the next 48 hours would be …
U2 was on the third leg of the Zoo TV tour, so things had gotten pretty big at that point. Long gone were the comparatively minuscule arena stages. This was the stadium tour and it was massive!
I remember walking through the lobby area of the now demolished Texas Stadium and catching glimpses of the floor in the distance … and “cars hanging over the stage?!?!”
Before the opening act (Public Enemy) went on, there was this crazy announcer guy running around on stage shouting to the crowd and tossing out Achtung “Baby” condoms.
I caught one—I’ll stop there! A drunk couple seated next to us handed me my first beers that night. And then there was the joint that was passed to me … several times. My adolescence came full circle and was summed up in one amazing evening.
A Classic Moment
Unfortunately, 21 years later my memories of that U2 Zoo TV show are vague. I remember liking the fact that Bono cursed a lot and that he was all over the place. And that stage … it was so big! I also remember seeing The Fly skulking around and thinking for the first time “I want to do THAT!”
I wish I could see that concert again. It was the most important show of my life—a classic moment.
After that I was a U2 nut, getting my hands on every bit of merchandise possible; all the singles, all the albums. My U2 craze became the bane of my closest friends in the years to come. They were “all in” on Nirvana, Soundgarden and the whole grunge scene. But not me. I was listening to U2 and all the 80’s music that I had wanted to hear to as a kid, but had been forbidden to listen to.
As a child, my family encouraged me to be a musician—to use my “God-given” talents as a singer. But I had no interest in singing Christian music, certainly not The Old Time Gospel Hour.
But U2 and Zoo TV changed all of that. I started writing songs and found my way into my first band less than a year later.
Zoo TV changed my life and it would define it for decades to come.