30 Years Ago: U2’s ‘Under A Blood Red Sky’ Red Rocks Show Takes Place
30 years ago, on the night of June 5, 1983, a half-capacity crowd risked inclement weather to congregate at scenic Red Rocks Amphitheatre, situated outside Denver, Colorado, and witness, unbeknownst to them, one of the critical events in the inexorable rise to stardom undertaken by Irish rockers U2. The event was later immortalized on the seminal live album, ‘Under a Blood Red Sky.’
Once said mini-album was released, some six months after the show, what could have been just any other night on U2’s first headlining tour of America, gradually became etched in the ears, hearts and minds of multitudes of rock fans – just like the rays of the setting sun creased the rocky mountain scenery surrounding the venue so dramatically, as revealed by the accompanying concert film that soon followed.
What most people don’t realize, or, understandably, even remember three decades on, is that U2 had yet to break big in America at the time, and were in the midst of their very first headlining tour of the country (supporting their third studio LP, ‘War’) when they decided to record the Red Rocks performance for various promotional purposes and, yes, posterity.
As mentioned earlier, poor weather dissuaded almost half of the sell-out crowd from venturing out that evening and almost forced the cancellation of the entire show, but U2 merely used this adversity to motivate themselves into delivering a true, star-making performance collecting the “greatest hits” from those first, at times hit-and-miss, albums into an irresistible package for late-arriving fans to ingest.
In some cases, those modest hits were elevated to bona fide rock anthems by the band’s fiery, road-tested performance and singer Bono’s calculated stage antics and impassioned delivery – namely the hymnal ‘Gloria,’ the irrepressible ‘I Will Follow,’ the elegiac ‘New Years Day,’ and even the politically charged ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday.’
Of course, the great irony of it all is that only two of ‘Under a Blood Red Sky’s’ eight songs were actually recorded at that Red Rocks show; the remainder having been culled from a subsequent German date, except for a single tune captured in Boston, a few weeks prior to the Denver gig.
But none of this mattered: the aforementioned concert film, released in May 1984, would eventually imprint the images of Red Rocks itself in fans’ memory banks (along with Bono’s rooster-topped mullet and The Edge’s already receding hairline) and both magnify and establish ‘Under a Blood Red Sky’s’ iconic standing within U2’s formidable history.