Patrick Smith has seen U2 around 100 times.

That might sound a little obsessive - and for non-believers, possibly a little peculiar - but he started early.

Smith, the sales and marketing manager and events specialist at Mt Smart Stadium, where U2 play tonight and tomorrow, first saw the band play at Manchester Polytechnic in April or May 1980. He's been a devout fan ever since.

"I was 15 years old. I went with a friend of mine who was a couple of years older. which is how I managed to get in, and there were about 80 people," he says.

That was during the Boy tour when they were playing songs like I Will Follow, An Cat Dubh, and Electric Co.

"It was basically the first album and I remember Bono wearing a fur coat ... I don't know if it was real or not," he laughs.

Smith says the music scene at the time was dominated by the new romantic "bouffant" brigade of bands like Ultravox and Visage, so groups such as U2, Echo and the Bunnymen, Magazine and Simple Minds were the antidote to "that venom".

"The guitar was out of vogue but then you were getting some good bands coming through. I got to know U2 quite well in the first couple of years. I saw them at Aston University in Birmingham, where I played soccer with them," he says, still sounding chuffed at the memory.

So how do you go about seeing your favourite band that many times? As well as that first tour he went to most of the band's British concerts on the October and War tours of '82 and '83 respectively, he saw every date of The Joshua Tree tour in Britain, and many shows throughout the 90s and 2000s.

"They're a band I grew up with and I'm still massively into it as a 45-year-old. They've just given me a lot of happy and amazing times throughout my life.

"They just reinvent themselves, really. Sometimes not as well as you'd like. But the live shows, and the production values, are incredible," he says.

In contrast, Mike Vaney, the founder and administrator of U2FANZ.com, a website for U2 fans from New Zealand and Australia, got into the band a little later on in their career.

He first saw them in November 1989 at Wellington's Athletic Park on the Lovetown tour, following the release of Rattle & Hum.

"I only decided to go because all my mates were going and it seemed like a good idea at the time," he says.

Then, with the release of Achtung Baby in 1991 ("the album that's widely regarded among hardcore U2 fans as their best work to date," he says) and the accompanying Zoo TV Tour, he was hooked.

It has to be said Vaney is not an all-adoring fan and believes since Achtung Baby U2 have failed to deliver a fully satisfying album.

"I think they'll continue to make great music for many years to come but it seems to be getting more and more difficult for them to tie together a dozen or so truly amazing tracks to make another great album like Achtung Baby. But I honestly believe their best work is still in front of them."

-TimeOut