Thursday, November 7, 2013

U2 - Under A Blood Red Sky

Today (November 7th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Under a Blood Red Sky, the first live concert album from the Irish rock band U2. The multi-platinum album climbed to number 48 in Ireland, number 39 in Belgium, number 28 on the US Billboard Album chart, number 22 in Sweden, number 20 in Germany, and number 2 in Australia and the UK.

The eight tracks were drawn from three 1983 concert recordings: Boston from May 6th, Red Rocks in Colorado from June 5th, and Sankt Goarshausen in Germany from August 20th.

Side one begins with “Gloria”, from 1981’s October. The Red Rocks crowd really gets into chanting along on the bridge.

“11 O’Clock Tick Tock”, from the 1979 EP “Three”, is the sole track from the Boston show. I like how producer Jimmy Iovine edited the crowd cheering to make a seamless transition from the first track. One of my favorite parts is when the guitars simulate the on-the-hour chiming of a large clock tower.

“I Will Follow”, also from 1980’s Boy, peaked at number 81 on the US Billboard Hot 100 as a single. The energy on this performance is through the roof, taking this bouncing rhythm song to even greater heights.

“Party Girl”, a 1982 single B-side, is one of those tracks that I was not very familiar with until this album.

Side two starts with “Sunday Bloody Sunday” from 1982’s War (click here for that review). I have always liked the live version of this one as it happens to be my favorite track from the record.

Also from Boy, “The Electric Co.” features reverberating guitars in abundance. The song is about the use of shock therapy as a treatment by psychiatrists. Many of the later pressings of the album feature an edited version of the song (cut down by twenty seconds) that removed Bono‘s singing of a snippet of “Send In the Clowns“.

“New Year’s Day”, from War, is up next. The Edge switches from guitar to piano on this one then back again.

On this recording of War’s “40”, the Edge took over the bass while Adam Clayton switched to guitar. I like how it ends with the crowd singing the chorus after the band has left the stage.

I remember when Under A Blood Red Sky came out during my freshman year of college. In fact, I am pretty sure it was one of my earliest exposures to U2 as the record was very popular around campus. I recall listening to it late one night with a girl I had met at a party earlier in the evening; she was a big fan.

For my review of 1987’s The Joshua Tree, click here.


mls said...

Great album overview, as always. This one is favorite U2 release, bar none. I've purchased three different copies of it. I first bought it on cassette and it was the soundtrack to my Christmas break in December 1983. It's been required listening every December since. I've held on to the tape only because it contains the brief "Send In The Clowns" section in "The Electric Co." The edited version just doesn't seem right, does it?

My take is here: The CD Project: Under A Blood Red Sky.

Martin Maenza said...

Agreed that the edited version does not seem right. Thanks so much for your comments, Mark.

HERC said...

Looks like Mark and I took a similar path with this album although I started with a vinyl copy, as all men should.

It perfectly encapsulated the band's output up to that time and I wore out my first vinyl copy; actually, it got scratched somehow. Bought another one, though. In 1985 or 1986 I picked up the U2 War Is Declared double album set that was originally broadcast on radio in July 1983. Sadly, it was one of the records I sold to pay medical bills in 1987. So glad when the CD/DVD package came out which had most of the songs.

Such a shame that money (which U2 has more of than just about any other band, I'd imagine) blocked the use of the Sondheim sample.

In the Summer of 1985, I was housesitting for family friends in the Foothills. The house itself sat on a hill so when you were in the pool, it looked like one of those infinity pools with a killer view of the city on the horizon. I hauled my boombox up there and played three albums over and over and over that week: Led Zep's In Through The Out Door, the Vision Quest soundtrack and U2's Wide Awake In America. I had seen the band for the first time live in March and the two live tracks that make up the A side of that EP transport me back to that show every. damn. time. Especially "Bad".