U2 brings its Joshua Tree tour to Buffalo's New Era Field Tuesday night. The show is a 30th anniversary tour of what's often called the group's greatest album. It's the first time in 12 years they've played in Western New York, but the band has been to Buffalo seven times before, partly in thanks to a Buffalo promoter who helped them launch their career in the U.S.
Bruce Moser owned his own promotion company, Could be Wild, in 1980. He got a call from U2's manager Paul McGuinness, who wanted the band to do some shows outside of Ireland with material from their first album, Boy.
"Paul called and said I want the band to get a feel for the U.S. before the album comes out. So we set up 10 dates between Cleveland and Boston," Moser explained.
That call started a long-term relationship between Moser and the band. Over the years, he would book shows, set up interviews, and take the band across the northeast. Promoters called the trip they would take bands on the "Thruway Chain". They would start in Cleveland, and bring the groups through Erie, Buffalo, across New York State, and into New England, ending in Boston. It's similar to the first trip Moser took U2 on.
"I used to sell live radio shows with them," Moser explained. "They'd have an hour live broadcast, and they didn't even have an hour of live material. So they'd end up repeating," he laughed.
"That's what we did," said Richard Sargent from the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame. "We would talk to radio stations, tv stations, if a manager called up and said my band is coming in for 9 days in your area what can we do? We'd book interviews. tv, radio, newspaper."
U2's first show in Buffalo was one they would never forget. They performed at Stage One December 8th, 1980.
"After the show the only video game at the time was pong, so my wife was playing pong with Bono, and some drunk guy pushed his way between them, and said hey man - did you hear John Lennon just got shot? And Bono turned around and goes "That's a sick joke!" and then they found out later that night it happened. So U2 has a lot of memories of Buffalo, but being in Buffalo the night John Lennon got shot - they definitely remember. Bono always talks about that on stage when he plays Buffalo," Moser recalled.
Over the years, U2 played at Stage One, Uncle Sam's, Shea's, Memorial Auditorium and HSBC arena. They also left a little something behind at Moser's old office on Elmwood Avenue in Allentown.
"U2 played at Uncle Sams, and they had a local band - Pauline and the Perils open for them. After the show they came to my office at Could be Wild to have a party. And the autographed the wall. And the wall's been painted a few times but it's always been painted around," he said.
Moser has seen the band play upwards of 150 times, and says every time he sees them he's impressed. He had this to say to anyone going to this year's show.
"It's the best show you'll ever see. They're an amazing live band," he said. "A lot of people say I don't want to go to a stadium. They make a stadium feel like a club. Their production is amazing. No matter where you are it's a good seat."
Moser talks about Christmas cards sent by U2:
Moser talks about taking the band members out to dinner in the 80s:
Hear Moser talk about his relationship with Bono, and how the singer helped when Moser had a heart attack: