Thursday, June 6, 2013

U2's Greatest Live Performances

U2 were in New York City last week, apparently mixing their new album at Electric Lady Studios. Rumors suggest the goal is to have their 13th studio album out sometime between October and December 2013, with a tour to follow starting in the Spring. We'll see if this holds up, but it looks like some new music is on the horizon. Throughout their long career, they've been known for creating some real chill inducing performances that could even leave non-fans speechless. Here are some of their greatest live performances, though there are plenty more to choose from.

All I Want Is You/Where The Streets Have No Name, Slane Castle (2001) - The Slane Castle concert is one of U2's most highly regarded shows. They seem to be in such a loose mood at this show, possibly because it wasn't originally going to be released as a DVD. Streets, with its slow building intro, is enough to deliver goosebumps to even the most jaded person. If you're looking for a top quality performance of the song, Slane Castle is one of the better versions you can get.  
Wake Up Dead Man/Walk On, Boston (2001) - I love the combination here, as this slow performance of "Wake Up Dead Man" leads into a passionate and rousing rendition of the live staple "Walk On". "MLK/Walk On" from the U22 Live album of the U2360 Tour has a similar effect. "Walk On", written for Aung San Suu Kyi while she was under house arrest in Burma, always has a high level of passion when performed.

Beautiful Day/MLK/Where The Streets Have No Name, Super Bowl (2002) - A few months after 9/11, U2 were tasked with putting on the first Super Bowl Halftime following the tragedy. And they delivered on a grand scale. It started with the soaring & energetic "Beautiful Day". Once the somber "MLK" kicked in, the giant screen with the victims' names rose to the roof and created the greatest moment in Super Bowl Halftime history. This eventually leads to the building "Where The Streets Have No Name" that ends the set on a high note that left everyone feeling that things were going to be alright.

Surrender, New Year's Day, & Sunday Bloody Sunday, Red Rocks (1983) - While their Live Aid performance is what launched them to mainstream status, Red Rocks (Under a Blood Red Sky) is what made U2 known amongst music fans as one of the best live bands in the world. Red Rocks is a famous outdoor amphitheater in Colorado, and on this particular night the rain was coming down, while torches lit the amphitheater. The red lighting & smoke from the fire amidst the mist and rain created quite the stunning visual and a fitting backdrop to the powerful music coming from the stage. MTV (back when they played music) put many of the song performances into rotation, and the video became a best seller. The rest is history, as the show solidified their presence. You could really pick any song, though those three are my personal stand outs from the show.

Bad, Live Aid (1985) - After the success of "Red Rocks" on MTV & video, U2 found a new venue to showcase their live performance, this time at a music festival headlined by some of the biggest acts on the planet at Live Aid 1985. The band played a 14-minute version of "Bad", which took up most of their set forcing them to cut a song. Bono jumped into the crowd and danced with a girl, who was close to being crushed by fans who were pushing towards the stage. Bono saw it and made his way to her to save the day and create a memorable moment. He just can't help himself! The performance put them on the map in a mainstream way for the first time.

SFOR Soldiers Stood Watch
Sarajevo Concert, PopMart Tour (1997) - There aren't any specific performances that stood out at this show, considering Bono was suffering from vocal issues that hurt his performances, though The Edge and the crowd helped him along. The main reason this is such a big moment is the magnitude of the show itself, where they became the first act to put on a major concert in Bosnia following the ends of the brutal Bosnian War in 1995 & Siege of Sarajevo in 1996. The band lost a lot of money on the show due to extremely low ticket prices, since unemployment in the region was so high following the war. Trains ran into Sarajevo for the first time since before the start of the war on the day on the concert. They were also the first big act to perform at Madison Square Garden just a month after 9/11 when other acts were nervous about putting on shows with large gatherings. U2 has a knack for using music and performance to help heal and boost morale.

With or Without You, Live in Paris (1987) - "With or Without You" is their signature song, and pretty much any version during the late 1980s is a gem. The live version occasionally is longer and adds the line "We'll shine like stars in the summer night/We'll shine like stars in the winter light/One hope/One love" which is simple yet adds so much to an already perfect song.

The Fly, ZooTV Live from Sydney (1993) - "The Fly" launched U2 into the 90s when it was released as a lead single from Achtung Baby, showing their versatility. The live version is a highlight from the ZooTV DVD, as the band tears through the track and Bono sings into a mic that distorts his voice. The track was thankfully resurrected on the U2360 Tour in 2011.

Vertigo, Glastonbury Festival (2011) - "Vertigo" is one of their most energetic songs, and the live version adds a nice intro that builds up to the pulsating guitar courtesy of The Edge. The crowd at Glastonbury provided some nice background vocals for Bono, as the rain fell down which was reminiscent of Red Rocks. This Glastonbury version also has a nice little snippet of The Beatles' "She Loves You", which is always great to hear.

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