Friday, March 27, 2009

Under a Blood Red Sky

People who weren't won over by U2's February, 1983, studio release, War, only had to see the band perform live to become a fan. U2 was quickly earning the reputation as a blistering live act, and Bono was turning into one of the most charismatic front men in pop music. Although War was selling relatively well, the band wanted to prove its reputation as a formidable live act by releasing a live album and video. On June 5, 1983, they filmed and recorded a concert at Red Rocks, an outdoor amphitheatre just west of Denver, Colorado.

Seventeen tracks from the show were recorded, while only 12 of those tracks were released on the original video entitled Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky, the title being taken from a lyric in the song "New Years Day."

Instead of making a professionally directed video, footage from this concert was used for the video for "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and was put into heavy rotation on MTV. My 10-year-old brain thought that this video was the coolest thing I had ever seen. The pillars of fire coming up from the amphitheatre, the background covered in drizzly mist, smoke/stream coming off of the stage, all looked especially amazing in the aerial shots. In the close-up shots of Bono and The Edge you can see their breath in the 35F/2C degree weather. Then Bono marches out military-style with his giant white flag, placing it in the audience and telling them "hold it up, let it fly," leading them in a chant of "no more!" and finally then kneeling down at the end of the song, panting and sweating, totally spent, the consummate rock warrior victorious in battle. Wow. "The man" won't let me embed the video, but you can watch it on YouTube.

Buy: Live at Red Rocks [DVD, Remastered] (2008)
The original video was released on VHS in November 1983. The video was remastered onto DVD in 2008 with all 17 original tracks plus director Gavin Taylor's commentary.

The accompanying album, Live Under a Blood Red Sky, would be U2's first live album of eight (to date), although their second live album, Hasta la Vista Baby!, was not released until 2000, some 17 years later. While Live Under a Blood Red Sky would appear to be the companion album to Live at Red Rocks, it actually only contains two tracks from the Red Rocks set. It appears that the record company, Island Records, intentionally mislead consumers by putting similar cover art, and giving it a nearly identical name, as the video release. The eight tracks are edited together with audience applause from a mixture of shows from Red Rocks, Boston, and St. Goarshausen, (West) Germany, all part of the 1983 War tour.

Its not to say that the music from this album is not fantastic. It is a wonderful snapshot of a hungry, up-and-coming band, ready to make it big, huge. The song "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" was previously unreleased in North America. It is the fourth single U2 recorded, and pre-dates the Boy album by a few months. It was produced by Martin Hannett, who helped develop Joy Division, and was only released as a seven inch single in Ireland and the UK. The track '"40"' is the final track from the War album, and closed every show on the War tour. Bono wrote this track very rapidly, and based the lyrics on Psalm 40. The Edge and Adam Clayton would exchange their bass and guitar for live versions of this song, including the one posted here. The "Sunday Bloody Sunday" version on this album is from the St. Goarshausen gig, but damn, it would be nice to have the Red Rocks version on CD.

11 O'Clock Tick Tock (Live From Boston).mp3
"40" (Live From St. Goarshausen).mp3
Buy: Live Under a Blood Red Sky (1983, reissued 2008)

Or, buy both the DVD and CD together!

Buy: Under a Blood Red Sky - Deluxe Edition CD/DVD (2008)

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