Carolina Concert for Children Brings Grandmaster Flash and U2 to Chapel Hill in 1983


Crowd in rain gear watching concert.
Crowd in rain gear watching concert. Yackety Yack, 1983.

On a rainy day in April 1983, music legends U2 and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five performed in Kenan Stadium as part of The Carolina Concert for Children. Despite the stellar lineup, the university ended up losing money due to poor attendance which was blamed on rainy weather and other factors (alcohol was banned in the stadium).

The Spring Concert was something that the student body petitioned to have in 1983 (Daily Tar Heel, 20 April 1983). The Carolina Concert for Children’s goal was to be different from previous concerts like Chapel Thrill and Jubilee. The student-organized event was a benefit concert for Special Olympics, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and UNICEF (Daily Tar Heel, 21 March 1983).

Two members of the group, The Producers, playing their guitars on stage
The Producers. Yackety Yack, 1983.

The Producers and Todd Rundgren also performed at the concert. Rundgren, who, like U2 and Grandmaster Flash, would later be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was at the height of his popularity and was the headline act. He was also paid significantly more than the other artists. Rundgren was contracted to receive $25,000 and a percentage of all gross ticket sales over $125,000 (Daily Tar Heel, 29 March 1983).

U2 was offered $7,500 but negotiated for $10,000 since the concert “fell on the opening of their tour.” Grandmaster Flash and the Producers each received $5,000. The three charities were due to receive profits from the sale of T-shirts and concessions.

Members of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five on stage
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Yackety Yack, 1983.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five opened the concert. The Daily Tar Heel described them as a funk group from New York City “made popular by a type of music called ‘rap’” (Daily Tar Heel, 25 April 1983). The band interacted with the crowd while wearing elaborate costumes including a white leather cowboy outfit and a police uniform. The Producers went next, a new “progressive pop” band from Atlanta best known for their songs, “What’s He Got” and “She Sheila.”

Bono from U2 on stage.
Bono. Yackety Yack, 1983.

U2, touring to promote their album War, was beginning their third tour in the U.S. with the Chapel Hill concert.  Addressing the weather, the Irish band’s lead singer, Bono, told the crowd, “We’d like to thank you for making it rain today so it would be more like home for us.” Their set included “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” as Bono leapt on and off stage (Daily Tar Heel, 27 April 1983).  U2’s experience can’t have been wholly negative – ten years later (and significantly more popular), the band tried to book Kenan Stadium but their request was denied because the date conflicted with a Carolina football game (Daily Tar Heel, 8 September 1992).

According to the Daily Tar Heel, the concert ended up losing “$30,000 to $40,000,” that number was later shown to be closer to $60,000.  However,  on a positive note, there were less issues with alcohol from previous concerts.


Joel Broadway. No back-up band Rundgren slated solo. March 29, 1983. The Daily Tar Heel. 

Tom Conlon, “Ran erodes concert profits.” April 25, 1983. The Daily Tar Heel. 

Jennifer Cresimore. “One Fine Chapel Hill Party.” April 20, 1983. The Daily Tar Heel.

Linda Messner. “Start Planning Now” April 27, 1983 . The Daily Tar Heel.

Lisa Pullen, “’Chapel Thrill’ may get Facelift, chairmen says” November 8, 1982. The Daily Tar Heel. 

Mark Stinneford. “Committee announces plan for reserved seating at the concert.” March 21, 1983. Daily Tar Heel. 

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