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"I want my work to be both trashy and precious at the same time."

-- Bono

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U2 Sneaks Into Fordham, and So Do Fans

New York Times, March 06, 2009
By: Corey Kilgannon


"Biggest band in the world is playing the Bronx, a block from my apartment, and I can't get in," said Chris McCluskey, a truck driver who lives near Fordham University, where the band U2 played on Friday morning.

The concert was notable for its scale (small) and location (on a modest grassy quad) on the college's Rose Hill campus on Fordham Road in the Bronx, an area better known as the home of the Bronx Zoo than a site for major concerts.

By roughly 8 a.m. the band and the crowd could already be heard, and Mr. McCluskey's pace quickened as he hurried around the campus perimeter, trying to find a vantage point from which to get a look.

"How can they hide a concert in there, where you can't see it from outside?" he said, walking around the entire campus. "I would have been better off going up to my roof to watch."

On Fordham Road, among the residents headed to subway and bus stops, five women -- who looked generally disoriented -- searched for the next campus entrance. They had already been turned away at several spots, they said.

The women said they were hairdressers from Grand Rapids, Mich., and had come to New York City on vacation because they heard U2 was playing at a college in the city, to be televised on Good Morning America.

"We heard it was a free concert -- we didn't know you needed ID to get in," said one of them, Liz Jones, 28. "We've tried begging, pleading, jumping the fence. We can't get in."

They approached Officer Richard Black, who was posted on Fordham Road.

"Please, can you get us in?" Ms. Jones said.

"Look where they put me," Officer Black said. "Do you think I could get you in? I can't even get myself in."

The women tried a different entrance and told the security guards there: "We don't have any weapons. You can strip-search us."

The guards declined and the women tried the next entrance. They heard a roar go up from inside the campus and one of them, Felicia Duron, 24, grabbed the fence and groaned. Finally, at another gate, they once again asked to be let in.

"Where ya's from?" the security guard asked, looking them over.

"Michigan," they intoned, in unison.

He paused, looked at them and said: "O.K., I'm going to turn my head now. I didn't see anything."

They whooped and ran in, and headed toward the grassy quad in front of Keating Hall, where the band was playing for several thousand students, faculty members, alumni and campus employees.

By crowd size, the concert resembled a small-town summer evening pops concert. One could walk easily within a stone's throw of Bono and still have room to dance or run a 50-yard dash.

Nicole Brown, 27, a Fordham employee, ate a bagel while watching the band just outside the building where she works in the academic records department.

"I could have watched it out my window, but I'd rather come out to see it," she said.

As the band began its hit song "Beautiful Day," Paul Spatola, 32, of Rye Brook, N.Y., began dancing wildly.

"Yesterday I got a call from my nephew, and he said, 'I'm going to see U2,'" he said. "I said, 'Congratulations, that's fantastic, where are they going to play?' 'They're playing at Fordham tomorrow.' I said, 'You got to be kidding me.' I said: 'How are we going? How am I getting in?' I tagged along with him."

The concert was free, but Fordham officials warned the public ahead of the time that admission was limited to students and faculty members with current Fordham identification. Still, there was no lack of people around the perimeter who had come hoping to infiltrate the campus. Few were that lucky, with a heavy police presence and a tall, spiked fence ringing almost the entire campus.

On Craigslist, there were numerous postings by people looking to sell and buy Fordham ID cards. Typical was this entry: "U2 concert at Fordham Friday, I will sell you my ID to get in!!! - $300."

After the band played a rousing two short sets of music, Fordham's president, the Rev. Joseph M. McShane, took the stage and addressed the cheering students.

"You may wonder why U2 chose us," he said. "They chose us because we're in New York, because we are Fordham, because of the warmth of the campus." He drew a parallel between the campus principles of Fordham and those of U2's members: "social justice, service of the poor and advocacy."

Father McShane said he was pleased to see so many students show up for the concert so early -- students began lining up at 3 a.m. -- and joked that the university would add extra-early classes to the curriculum.

"So ladies and gentleman, there will be class," he said, "but you've had the experience of a lifetime."

© New York Times, 2009.

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