U2 - U2 Live: Under A Blood Red Sky

Published Monday 13th October 2008
U2 - U2 Live: Under A Blood Red Sky
U2 - U2 Live: Under A Blood Red Sky

RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Universal

Reviewed by John Cheek

Everyone remembers the first time they heard it. Whatever 'it' is, people remember when the music changed their lives. Whether it's Cliff first hearing Elvis, or a generation of rebellious teenagers catching the Sex Pistols on the notorious Today programme, there are moments when music turns your life around. Only in this instance, it didn't have the same affect. Not at first. It was late on the Friday evening; it was past my bed-time; I didn't watch the whole performance. As someone just into his teens in 1983, the Blood Red Sky concert film didn't rock my world. A late-night edition of Channel 4's The Tube was screening this blur of red, black and white and I was simply pleased that U2 had finally made it.I'd loved the "I Will Follow" single from 1980. It was to be eight years later, as a new Christian, that I was to finally watch its entirety. Now, 25 years on and when U2 are re-releasing their early stuff, we have the film and the live album it gave rise to, in all their untrammelled glory. Simply put, this is their best reissue this year. As the opening clarion chords of "Out Of Control" kick-in you notice the superior quality of the sound on this package compared to its vinyl and video predecessors. Looking like The Clash's Irish cousins, the 'War'-era U2 had more in common with The Alarm than with the Simple Minds they were so often compared to, then. Along with the American, military (not necessarily in that order) combat garb and massive mullets, it's the sheer optimism and positivity of those post-punk anthems. A lyrical tour-de-force of spiritual concerns and biting political commentary (Irish terrorism, potential nuclear holocaust, one-night stands). The audio quality of this digitally-enhanced release, on either format, is worth noting but gets upstaged by the tremendous photography which made the film so remarkable. An amphitheatre in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, the backdrop of red rocks gives the gig a gladiatorial, almost-historic context. Goodness knows how it seemed to local Coloradoans, who travelled for several miles (in the rain) to this apocalyptic-style setting to hear a new wave band not-so-much proclaim "No Future", but contrarily sing intelligently of faith, hope and love. As the crowds echo the words from Psalm 40 on the final song, the assertion of director Gavin Taylor rings true: "[The press] couldn't decide whether it was a rock concert or a religious gathering."

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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