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“In Their Own Words” by Scott Benarde

South Florida Concert Memories


We reached out to dozens of South Florida music personalities and industry veterans for their favorite South Florida concert memory. Stay tuned each month for many exciting stories! Want to share yours? E-Mail us at info@SFLMusic.com

Scott Benarde (rhymes with Leonard) served as the pop music columnist for the Fort Lauderdale News & Sun Sentinel from 1982 to 1987 and reprised that role for the Palm Beach Post from 1987-1995. He also co-founded and co-directed Miami Rocks, Too!, a three-day showcase of South Florida music talent for national record labels from 1989-1992. He wrote Stars of David: Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Jewish Stories as well as their 8 one-hour radio shows made for XM Satellite Radio.


I had been the Fort Lauderdale News / Sun Sentinel pop music columnist for just under a year when U2 arrived in South Florida in June of 1983 on its tour to promote it third album, WAR. I had not heard of the band before that album’s release in February 1983. But I was riveted by the passion, rawness, and themes of the songs –“ New Year’s Day,” “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Two Hearts Beat As One,” “Surrender” — and had gladly accepted an invitation to do a phone interview with lead singer Bono in advance of the June 23 show at the 4,000-seat Sunrise Musical Theatre.

The phone conversation is mostly forgotten, but much of the concert vividly remains in my memory banks. As I recall, band members marched out waving huge white flags, signaling peace, favoring no country, and requesting audience members put away Irish flags some had been waving. The audience, acting as a collective rabid fan, cheered at the mere site of U2 coming on stage, and so long and loudly I thought I felt the building shake. I was stunned; Bono (all of 23) hadn’t sung one note. As I recall, his microphone wasn’t initially working, but the crowd still cheered wildly.

There was a unifying bond, a love, a trust between band and audience I had not seen or felt before, except perhaps at a Bruce Springsteen concert. The trust was rewarded when Bono moved to the very edge of the stage, turned his back to the crowd, fell into the mass of fans, and allowed them to pass him to the rear of the theater as if on a human conveyer belt all while flat on his back and still singing. I have seen Springsteen wade into crowds, climb up on stacks of amps, and slide across the stage. I have seen Billy Joel do acrobatic handstands from his piano. I’ve seen Nils Lofgren do flips from a mini-trampoline, but I had never seen a singer trust a crowd (“Ssurrender” himself to it?) to pass him from stage to back-of-house like that – or seen an audience so excited at the silent invitation to do so and so determined to make it work. It remains a singular concert memory almost 40 years later.

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