More Webster Hall history: Riot at the Ritz

Fans incensed by PiL’s cheeky use of a video screen began attacking the stage

It may not have the historical cache of a Civil War draft riot, but Webster Hall has had its share of violence. The discontent of union workers? Anger over its salacious activities? NO. Just pissed off Public Image Limited fans in May 1981. You can read all about it here from a Rolling Stone article.

“PiL play behind a large screen, on which pre-taped video footage is projected. However, the audience doesn’t get the concept (or joke…) and smashes the venue apart after 25 minutes!”

A year earlier, young Irish rock band U2 had their American debut at Webster Hall, back in its days as the Ritz. Their second performance there, in March of 1981, was reviewed by the New York Times, and the original review — by Stephen Holden, no less — is worth a look if you’re a U2 fan. My favorite line:

Bono Hewson, U2’s lead singer, has a moderately strong voice that was partially drowned out at the Ritz. This was a shame, since the band’s material is of considerable interest.”

10 replies on “More Webster Hall history: Riot at the Ritz”


I’ve listened to your podcast (two shows, actually) for the first time, and I love it. It’s fun, lively, informative. Keept it up, guys!


oh, lord, so proud to say I was there, too! Under a table when the ashtrays and bottles began to fly but we were laughing and loving life under that table. Roadies shielded the band, which was about to be murdered, and fuck (can I say fuck here?) we didn’t care.
Music was the spark then and we punks were live wires. Different times. – Boxodreams

Wow, and then I was born four months later. Do any of you guys remember where you were five months before that? Neither does my mom. Yo B Boys thanks for all the help in my research! XX


I got hit over the head with a beer bottle that day…just bounced Over all, the chaos was a great experience. Johnny has an incredible talent for pissing people have to love that about him.

how many people were at this? it seems like all 1500 people have blogged! (no i wasn’t there but i remember it)

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