Two of things that make U2 such as special band is their passion and energy. While these traits are present on their studio albums, they come to the front in their live performances. Under A Blood Red Sky perfectly captures all their raw emotions and energy. The album opens with the soaring "Gloria" from their October album and then seiges into "11 O'Clock Tick Tock". Next is a scorching version of their first hit "I Will Follow". "Party Girl" is a great lost U2 song. It was originally issued as a b-side and available on imports only. It starts off with just the Edge strumming his guitar and builds up to a powerful crescendo. Bono states on the record that "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is not a rebel song, but it is definately an anthem. Bono has always had a bit of a preacher in him and as he urges the crowd to chant "no more", the album takes on the feel of an old time revival. After whipping things up to a fever-pitch, "The Electric Co." and "New Year's Day" follow and they mellow things out. The hymn-like "40" is the final track and the album ends on a poignant note with just the crowd singing the chorus. For those of you who may only be familar with the U2 of the 90's and their mammoth Pop Mart and Zooropa concerts, this album is a fine sampler of their earlier efforts. While the approach is simplier in nature, it produces just as big of a sound.
This is a five star album for a variety of reasons:
A. The song selection. This is a release from a supremely confident band, trusting that their audience will enjoy the songs they enjoy playing and not just the obvious favorites. Party Girl? 11 O'clock Tick Tock? Rock on!
B. If you are of a certain age, UABRS is inextricably linked to the Red Rocks concert video that was incessantly played on MTV for months and months (and months) back when MTV was not only concerned with music but on a mission to break high quality, envelope-pushing new music in America
C. It is a snapshot of one of Rock's great bands peaking for the first time
All that said, Under A Blood Red Sky cries out for the Deluxe Edition treatment. This short (under 40 minutes) album was sold as an EP upon it's 1983 release and if memory serves was priced accordingly. It seems like this sold for under $6.00 on vinyl. In my humble opinion, Island should blow the dust off the masters re-release it:
A. Remastered in SACD format
B. Fleshed out with all or most of the songs played on the dates originally recorded for the album (I saw this tour at the old Paramount Theater in Portland, OR in 1983 and I remember they were still playing some of the great tunes from Boy, An Cat Dubh particularly sticks in my memory)
C. With a second-disc DVD containing the whole Red Rocks concert
D. Why not add some MTV interview footage from the time?
E. A liner note essay from Paul McGuinness telling the story of the first American transformation: From obscure Irish New Wave up and comers to America's Alterna-Rock heroes with the release of War and the Red Rocks video
UABRS compares favorably to the Who's Live At Leeds. The Who release was an explosive live document also, marred only by it's brevity. The Deluxe Edition remedied that and proved a revelation. Come on Island, get on the stick!
on October 6, 2008
We've waited years for it and here it is. Finally. I have every U2 concert DVD you can have (even the Super Bowl performance and SNL) yet this is the one DVD that was a no-brainer.
For those of you around back then, it's nostalgic. This concert is what turned me on to U2. For some reason, MTV was showing it in 83 and when I saw it I said "Who ARE these guys?" From that point on, I was hooked. All because of this.
For others of you not old enough, this is a chance to see U2 at their absolute peak when they were the Band That Mattered, before they started playing around with irony beginning with Achtung Baby. Not that they don't matter now, but as other reviewers have pointed out, this is THE definitive version of "Sunday Bloody Sunday," just as Live Aid was the definitive version of "Bad."
The songs are almost universally great and well-played (save for a sloppy trainwreck of "Two Hearts") and you get to see the original order of the set; if you owned this back in the day, it made it seem like "Surrender" was the opening song.
The visuals are stunning because of the weather. The crowd is nuts. And this was the concert that launched U2 into the big time.
AS FOR PICTURE QUALITY: as the director clearly states in the commentary, this was shot on VIDEO. It's been treated to look like film for this reissue, but it was video. And when you point a video camera at a light, it "burns" the tube, creating streaks across the screen which are all over this. That was the POINT. The director threw out all the "rules" for filming and did not care about the streaking/flaring. This is NOT a flaw in the remaster it ALWAYS looked like this. If you want a perfect picture go buy Live in Boston or Rattle & Hum.
Who cares about the red streaks when you have a concert this powerful? Finally it is here and it was worth the wait. Enjoy!
The attached CD is a fine version of the EP but really I'd rather watch this than listen to it. Plus, not all the songs on the EP were pulled from the Red Rocks show (only "Party Girl" and "Gloria"). Still worth having.
on March 28, 2004
I bought this album on vinyl back 'in the day'. Subsequently, I bought it on cassette, and finally on CD, so you might say that I like it a lot. The energy in these live versions really make the more careful studio versions seem less vital. The version of `Party Girl' here totally wipes out the B-Side studio version (which can be found on the two disc edition of `Best of 1980-1990').
As some reviewers have noted, part of the track 'Electric Co' is missing a bit during an interlude in the song where Bono starts singing part of 'America' from West Side Story and 'Send in the Clowns' from A Little Night Music. Of course, our Draconian copyright laws being what they are, these brief references had to be cut to avoid a lawsuit, I suppose. The cut is reflected on the tape and the CD. What I don't understand is why U2 can't just go ahead and clear the rights for the use of these snippets, so future CD editions can include what was taken out.
(Copyright-related Note: Years later, U2's label, Island Records sued the group Negativland after it incorporated 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' into a joke sound collage that they released as a single that they called `U2'. That's now available, though, as a bootleg entitled 'These Guys Are From England...' which is quite hilarious, though some may find it offensive.)
For those who think that it's a rip-off that this album is so short, keep in mind that it's a lower-priced E.P., not a full-length album. Also, remember that Rattle & Hum, U2's other foray into the live genre, was a double album, making this seem all the more lacking in material. Moreover, U2 wasn't quite what they are now (a huge supergroup) back then, so this E.P. was more of a marketing taster to give people an idea of how great U2 is live. A big live album wouldn't have been justified at the time. Some still don't think Rattle & Hum was such a good idea.
By the way, this E.P. was recorded using material from their concerts in Boston and West Germany as well as Denver, so these songs are not quite the same live versions that exist on the longer 'Live from Red Rocks' video.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I will follow," an animated Bono cries out at the start of the amazingly energetic "I Will Follow" on "Under a Blood Red Sky." Judging by the cheers of the crowd that follow this proclamation, it sounds like the sentiment is mutual. The liveliness of audience and band on "Under a Blood Red Sky" is hard to resist. From the opening moments heard on the rollicking "Gloria," when Bono yells "Two, three four!" you get the sense that U2 was truly hitting its early 1980s stride -- and that bigger things would be coming down the horizon.
Bono and U2 are an excellent live band. When I saw them back in 1992 on the Achtung Baby tour, I was amazed how closely the band's live sound so evenly matched what was on its studio albums. And like any great live band, U2's stage act probably exceeds its studio records. "Under a Blood Red Sky" flows along nicely at a brisk pace, and though it's only eight songs long, the band chose a nice blend of sing-along stadium rockers mixed with mid-tempo and obscure tracks that would likely please any U2 fan. Musically, U2 is on fire at Red Rocks: Bono's booming wail is heartfelt and resonates beautifully among the canyons and crowd; The Edge's guitar pierces the night air like a sword; Larry Mullen Jr.'s drums are, as usual, dependable and buoyant; and Adam Clayton's bass gives the whole thing a semblance of gravity.
The album seems to hit a climax halfway through on the blistering and well-known "Sunday Bloody Sunday," but really it's the lesser-known tunes like "11 O'Clock Tick Tock," the quirky "Party Girl" and the rocker "The Electric Co." that give this album further musical depth and personality. Thankfully, the CD is not a steady stream of U2's best-known radio hits.
The sublime closing song, "40," is almost hymnal, and the enthusiastic way the crowd replaces Bono as lead singer at the tail end of the record aptly displays how music can, at times, transform into a communal and spiritual experience.
on November 19, 1999
I am a fan of U2 and this recording shows them at a pivotal point of their career but I cannot get myself to buy the CD version because a crucial part of Electric Co. is missing. I don't know if this is a global phenomenon or not or this is for copyright West Side Story reasons but can't believe they would cut that part out when it exists on the record. Borrowed this CD from a friend just to listen to that part of the song. If you can get the vinyl version or maybe tape version (not sure if they cut it out from the tape) buy that instead. Other U2 fans know what I'm talking about.
on January 14, 2015
Waited a LONG time for this DVD to be released. Have been watching a 25 YEAR-OLD VHS that has been dieing a slow death. U2 hasn't been at the top of my favorites list since Joshua Tree. THIS concert is from WAY back in the beginning when I only heard them on college radio. This captures a group of younger men who performed with a simple, honest passion and energy. I wouldn't see them now if someone gave me tickets, but I would give almost anything to have seen them back then. This concert is one for the ages!
Some reviewers have complained about the video quality, but keep in mind that this was recorded in the days of VHS. There are some anomalies such as light trails when the camera moves across a spotlight, and it's slightly grainy if you're right on top of the screen. (Keep in mind that it was rainy/foggy during the show.) That being said, it's VERY watchable, especially if you like concert videos. The editing flows well, and the audio is pretty good.
The CD is NOT from this concert. It is just a reissue of the old "Under a Blood Red Sky" CD.
on October 4, 2004
"Specially Priced Mini-LP" was how this collection was described way back when old-timers like myself first grabbed it on vinyl in late 1983. The appellation still fits, I suppose, as UNDER A BLOOD RED SKY is, at just over thirty-five minutes, too long for an EP but still a bit brief for a proper live album. In any case, this was, I recall, an exciting time to be a U2 fan. The band had just taken off in America on the strength of its third album, WAR, various singles from which were in regular rotation on FM radio and the then-embryonic format of MTV. Meanwhile, classic rock bands were breaking up left and right; punk was dead as a legitimate cultural phenomenon; heavy metal had happened; the new wave was fast exhausting its extremely limited bag of tricks; and of course, Michael Jackson ruled the universe. For a genre in jeapordy, the need was desperate; U2 filled it then, as it's continued to do for much of the two decades since.
UNDER A BLOOD RED SKY captures the band at the height of its WAR tour, drawing together eight songs (Why not more?) from a trio of shows in Germany, Denver and Boston. Each of U2's first three albums is represented, and while the song selection may not be all that surprising it certainly highlights the energy and earnestness that made stars of this young quartet. "Gloria," the opening track from OCTOBER, starts things off here as well in an effective rendition which clearly got the crowd on its feet. From BOY, "I Will Follow" and "The Elecric Co." are both present, the latter distinguished by the inclusion of its rousing in-concert preface, "Cry." Not surprisingly, WAR is the most thoroughly covered of the LPs, with "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "New Year's Day" and "40" taking up most of the second half. "40" makes a particularly strong closer, as the audience continues chanting the "How long to sing this song?" refrain even after the band, one by one, has left the stage. Other than that, the tunes aren't greatly expanded upon, as U2 has never exactly been a jamming band - indeed, the entire last verse of "New Year's Day" is omitted, Bono and Company choosing for some reason to perform the single edit of the song (although, perhaps by way of compensation, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is slightly extended). Of particular interest is the inclusion of two non-LP numbers: "Eleven o'Clock, Tick Tock," an excellent and infectiously danceable A-side from the BOY era which, like far too many early U2 singles, has never been reissued on CD; and "Party Girl," a bizarre B-side from 1982 originally done as a whiny acoustic track (available on the out-of-print THE B-SIDES, 1980-1990).
I should mention that there is a curious bit of editing on the CD version of this album, as Bono's improvised vocal (to the tune of "Send In the Clowns") over the slow middle section of "The Electric Co.," which I clearly remember from the vinyl version, has been excised. A licensing problem? Or did rock's most notoriously verbose frontman sing something he later wished he hadn't? It will, I suppose, just have to remain a mystery....
UNDER A BLOOD RED SKY gave most of us our first taste of live U2, and in retrospect it serves as a nice summing-up of the band's early years. When next they appeared, in the fall of 1984, it would be with a markedly different sound, new producers and a far less youthful worldview. But that's another story.
on September 30, 2008
First, oh well, it's not the unedited show: "Two Hearts Beats as One" is sans "Let's Twist Again" and the "Send in the Clowns" snip has been cut from "The Electric Co." That said, I really don't care. The show rocks. Not sure the CD has any real value, beyond being a remaster, but the DVD of the full concert is astonishingly crisp, given the production value. This was U2 making it big before they made it big, and an important moment for fans who've been following U2 since the early days. The director's commentary is strangely quaint -- it appears he hasn't seen the full-length video since he edited it many years ago, but that makes his commentary fresh and lively.
What should be said is that the show transcends U2 in many ways. Here's a small act with a big sound trying to persuade the world. On that level alone it has merit.
on March 21, 2001
U2 is one of the few rock bands that can make a great studio recording and turn it into a memorable stage performance. And nowhere is that ability more fully realized than on this CD.
"Under a Blood Red Sky" captures some of the group's better moments during their 1983 concert tour in the States and in Germany. The album starts off with a rousing good version of "Gloria" and ends with the powerful "40."
In addition to all the great songs on this CD, one that is definitely worth any U2 fan's attention is "11 o'clock Tick Tock." I don't believe there ever was a studio version of this song and I'm not sure why it wasn't included on any of U2's previous albums. In any case, this is one of U2's finer concert performances and that, in of itself, would justify adding this CD to your collection.
If you want to fully appreciate the energy and excitement of this concert tour then you will definitely want to buy a copy of this video. Believe me, you won't be disappointed.