"I really believe that tonight we're going to make history": Before the giant lemons and irony, U2 put on one hell of a live show

Bono predicts a big future for U2 on Under A Blood Red Sky

U2: Under A Blood Red Sky cover art
(Image: © Island Records)

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He might be the messiah, but even Bono can’t control the weather. Not that the U2 frontman is overly concerned. “If the sun was shining we’d look just like any other band,” he muses backstage, as the rain lashes the poor sods huddled under polythene sheets in the stands of Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre. And looking like any other band would never do. 

On this night U2 don’t look like any other band. Nor do they sound like any other band. Nor, for the record, do they clamber into a giant lemon, dress up as the Village People, put in a prank call to the US president, drag Salman Rushdie out of hiding or preach against apartheid. Such gimmicks would come soon enough, but on June 5, 1983, U2 were simply a damn good rock’n’roll band. 

Stripped of gadgets, U2 instead flood the Red Rocks stage with raw charisma. Apart from evergreen drummer Larry Mullen Jr, none of the band members are much to look at – bassist Adam Clayton is an overgrown Milky Bar kid, while The Edge looks like he should working on the waltzers – but there is an undeniable chemistry between the four that fizzes right from opening number Out Of Control

They look like a gang of kids high on E-numbers; still buzzing at the novelty of playing venues that don’t have a roof; enthusiastic as puppy dogs and technically flawless. It’s exciting to watch, helped by busy camerawork and crystalline sound. 

It also helps that the tunes are so good. This being four years before the ubiquitous Joshua Tree album, the songs come from the band’s comparatively overlooked first three albums – Boy, October and War – and thus fair-weather fans might be concerned by a tracklisting whose only household names are Sunday Bloody Sunday and New Year’s Day

But stick with it and you’ll find that U2 had aces up their sleeves even in these formative years: standouts like The Electric Co., Gloria and I Will Follow are punched out with a punky energy that makes some of U2’s ‘classic’ material seem tame by comparison. “I really believe that tonight we’re going to make history on some level,” Bono says in his opening voiceover. Don’t miss this chance to relive it.

This review of the 2008 remastered version of Under A Blood Red Sky originally appeared in Classic Rock 125, published in November 2008. 

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.