On a muggy May evening in 1981, a group of musicians pulled up to the curb across from the Fox Theatre and started lugging their instruments into a nightclub where the Georgian Terrace parking deck now stands. Until 1979, the venue had been known as Alex Cooley’s Electric Ballroom, and hosted Fleetwood Mac, Patti Smith, and Bruce Springsteen, among others. Its replacement, the Agora Ballroom, was a cavernous room where the four young men from the north side of Dublin—singer Paul “Bono” Hewson; bassist Adam Clayton; guitarist David “The Edge” Evans; and drummer Larry Mullen Jr., none older than 21—introduced Atlanta to their debut album, Boy, a collection of post-punk anthems that contrasted sharply with the New Wave dance beats, soft rock, and soul ballads crowding the Top 40 at the time.
Seven months later, the band was back for a second show. In a 1981 interview with Bono for Muzik! magazine, Atlanta journalist Tony Paris wrote about the frontman’s desire to be heard on mainstream radio and for fans to leave room for his lyrics—about defiance, God, the death of his mother—to “sink in.” British photographer Adrian Boot, who toured with the band that autumn, captured images of U2 members mugging along West Peachtree Street in front of the former Sans Souci club, a jukebox dealership, and an old-school filling station. The next night, the band shook the Agora rafters with the single “I Will Follow” twice during its 60-minute set. Today, listening to a YouTube bootleg of that concert from 37 years ago reveals just how little U2’s core sound and spiritual evocations have changed in almost four decades.