U2 concert in Sarajevo 1997 - Sarajevo under the Music

U2 Concert poster 
        So my friends today is a nice day to start posting some interesting stuff about Sarajevo for you to see and read. Today is the anniversary of U2's concert in Sarajevo that was held at Koševo Stadium in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 23 September 1997, 15 years ago guys. Wow, who would think that much time has pased from that day. Visiting the city on their PopMart Tour, U2 became the first major artist to hold a concert in Sarajevo since the end of the bloody Bosnian War. I decided to post some stuff about that conncert and what it meant to people of Sarajevo and the region.

         Despite U2's obligation to the tour and their inability to perform in Sarajevo during the war, they vowed to play the city someday. The band contributed to Bosnian relief efforts to enhancepublic awareness around the issue, and Bono wrote with Bill Carter a song called Miss Sarajevo ( we'll come back to that in a different post) as a response to the surreal acts of defiance that had taken place during the siege of Sarajevo. I guess we are well known for the defiance and spite we have, and one of them surrely was the beauty pageant that was held in the city durring the aggression with all the girls carrying a banner that said, "Don't let them kill us".

U2 concert poster and destroyed
bulding in the background
        U2 first became invalved with Sarajevo in 1993 on they ZOO TV tour. They were aproached by aid worker Bill Carter about bringing attention to the Siege of Sarajevo, and the band did nightly satellite transsmissions with Bosnians during their show. After the war ended in 1995 the band made arangemants to visit Sarajevo and with the help of UN, ambassadors and peace-keeping troups they scheduled and played the concert in 1997.

Trams with U2 posters
         As late as July 1997, U2 were pressured to accept an offer of approximately $4 million to perform in Basel, Switzerland on the date scheduled for the Sarajevo show. At the time, rumours about the region's instability persisted. For the stage to reach Sarajevo, the road crew had to drive the equipment and stage through war-torn Bosnia. Although the trip was without incident, they had to pass through towns such as Mostar, which had been "obliterated" during the war. The only trouble in transporting the stage came when a border control agent prevented them from crossing the border for hours. The trucks reached Sarajevo two days prior to the concert, arriving to the cheers and applause of the city's residents; their arrival was the first concrete evidence that the band were keeping their promise to play there. McGuinness explained, "This is a city that's been disappointed so many times there were a lot of people who weren't prepared to believe the gig was going to take place until they saw the stage going up."Until then, tickets had sold very slowly, but within 24 hours of the trucks' arrival, another 8,000 tickets were sold. Despite this, a day before the concert, 15,000 tickets remained unsold. Three-hundred local residents were employed to help assemble the stage and promote the show. 
U2 posters and a solider

        Several hundred members of the international "Stabilisation Force" (SFOR) were tasked with upholding the Dayton Agreement for the concert. The band were overwhelmed by the sights they saw when arriving. During the war, Koševo Stadium was used as a morgue, and graveyards were present on either sides. Although the venue had escaped the worst of the shelling, the nearby Olympic Hall Zetra had been badly damaged during the war. Despite its condition, U2 used the building for their dressing rooms and offices. Following the concert, it was used to provide lodging for 3,000 fans.The band's hotel, a nearby Holiday Inn, had been shelled during the siege, and part of the building had been destroyed as a result. The walls in Mullen's room were punctured with mortar shrapnel, and sections of the floor were also missing. Prior to the show, Sacirbey took Mullen on a tour of the city, showing him the Sarajevo Roses embedded in the streets.

       "We worked quite hard to make sure tickets were available in Croatia and even from Republika Srpska we had about 1,000 people come down today which is great. We tried our best to make it as multi-ethnic as Sarajevo was, and will be again."

        On the day of the concert, trains ran into Sarajevo for the first time since the start of the war. Two lines were opened, one from Mostar to Sarajevo and the other from Maglaj to Sarajevo. Although the railways had been functional for the duration of the war, Muslim and Croat politicians could not decide who would operate them. As a result, the trains were only run on the date of the concert to bring fans to the city, and the day after to take them home again. An effort was made to include all of the country's ethnic groups at the concert. Approximately 500 fans crossed the ethnic boundary lines between Bosnia's Serb Republic and the Moslem-Croat Federation. People from several of the other Yugoslavian republics went to Sarajevo for the concert, with buses carrying fans from Zagreb, Croatia and Ljubljana, Slovenia. Security around the event was strict. SFOR soldiers searched for bombs with sniffer dogs, and the buildings around the stadium were lined with Irish troops and sharpshooters in case violence broke out.

Sarajevo under the music - Live

      The concert was held on 23 September 1997, and approximately 45,000 people attended. It was broadcast in Bosnia by local television networks, as well as globally by BBC. During the event, 10,000 soldiers stood on the left side of the stadium to ensure no conflicts broke out. At showtime, a decision was made to open the stadium gates to all, allowing approximately 10,000 more fans who could not afford the concert or who had not purchased tickets in time to attend. In addition to the local and foreign fans, 6,000 off-duty SFOR soldiers attended the event in uniform. Inela Nogic ( winner of the pageant that inspired miss Sarajevo) attended the concert and arrived in a limo with the band. Three opening acts played before U2, beginning with the Gazi Huzrev-Beg choir, an Islamic choir from a local high school. Their performance was followed by two local bands, Protest and Sikter, one of which was chosen personally by Sacirbey, and the other which was selected through a radio contest. 

Miss Sarajevo U2 live@Kosevo 1997.

         The band's set list was similar to that of most shows on the PopMart Tour, but with "Sunday Bloody Sunday" in place of The Edge's karaoke segment and the addition of "Miss Sarajevo" in the second encore. The night was a celebration of the end of the war, with Bono setting the tone by shouting out "Viva Sarajevo! Fuck the past, kiss the future!" at the beginning of "Even Better Than the Real Thing". Bono had struggled with his voice throughout the tour, and the morning of the concert he woke up "without a voice". There was no intent to cancel, and the show went ahead as planned.  

U2 Missing Sarajevo