Let’s do the timewarp again. After the recent ‘deluxe edition’ re-issues of U2’s first three albums comes the rapid revisiting of this snapshot of a band on the verge of becoming very large indeed. Released as a stop gap album between ‘War’ and ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ and with the visual element never before seen on DVD, U2’s Red Rocks show has passed into the realms of legend as their coming of age, especially in the US. Listening and watching to it now, after a staggering twenty five years, what’s striking is just how ramshackle the band still were at this time, all bad hair (Bono, Adam), big old glasses (Adam) and tartan body warmers (a hatless Edge). Only Larry carries himself with any degree of cool. It’s not like it was a particularly huge show either – the venue holding fifteen odd thousand and the band playing in front of one small ‘War’ album cover backdrop. Musically, too, they are a world away from the slick stadium band of later years.
The effect is actually quite refreshing – a mix of punkish enthusiasm, blind belief and the odd bum note. The Edge is a tour de force throughout, a musician discovering his sound rather than trying to find a way of keeping it fresh. His clipped riffs, together with Clayton’s oddly funky bass, represent a band obviously in love with some of the eighties’ less mainstream influences, rendering Bono’s continued hailing of Joy Division as slightly more understandable.
It wouldn’t be U2 though, if there weren’t some hide behind the sofa moments. The brandishing of a giant white flag during an otherwise jaw dropping ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ hasn’t stood the test of time too well, nor have Bono’s hop, skip and prance stage moves. It’s these cracks that make ‘Under A Blood Red Sky’ so engaging though, like a set of embarrassing home videos. That and the fact that, in the form of ‘New Year’s Day’ and the rest, they were managing to harness their naive passion into something that would conquer the world. Imperfect but all the better for it.
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