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Boywas the opposite of machismo. I do think it's very unusual. -- Bono

The Memorable Moments Of Under A Blood Red Sky


Image credit: Brad Rose for @U2

In this first installment of a series evaluating U2's home video releases, Marylinn Maione and P.J. DeGenaro explore the most memorable moments of Under A Blood Red Sky.

Marylinn Maione:

“What’s a U2?” was the reaction of many people who found the band’s Songs of Innocence in their iTunes account in 2014, when Apple pushed out a free copy of the album to all users. When you are a fan, it’s hard to imagine not knowing who or what a “U2” is, let alone all the music they’ve put out over the years. 

Imagine, though, what it was like in 1983 when U2 was a young band, before The Joshua Tree, before Achtung Baby, before anyone knew U2 as the ground-breaking, record-setting band they eventually became. They had some success with the early singles “I Will Follow” and “Gloria,” from their first two albums Boy and October, respectively, and they had just released their third album, War, which gave the world “New Year’s Day” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” Radio was the main source of exposure, and MTV was starting to make an immediate impact on the industry in terms of getting music out to the masses instantaneously. U2 had videos for their singles, but how could they stand out in a crowded field of bands who had better resources or made-for-TV looks?

U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky was the band’s attempt to introduce itself to a larger audience in a place they felt most comfortable — live, on stage, in front of an eager crowd. It was an enormous risk: back then, bands didn’t tour their new albums like they do now, and U2 financed the entire enterprise with what limited money they had available. They could have lost everything. Instead, the video was a dramatic record of what the band could do in the worst possible conditions. The torrential rain, fog, and cold could not hold them down, and as we know, U2 went on to conquer stages all over the world for another 30+ years and counting.  Here are a few moments where we saw for the first time why this band is so special.

Sunday Bloody Sunday


Early on, U2 understood that the visual aspects of a concert were as important as the music. Without a lot of resources for special lighting effects, it was smart to use a venue that would became a character in their story. I love this moment because you get the full scale of this magical place, with the mountains in the background and the immense pillars of fire making it look like a scene right out of a movie. Despite the competition from the view, the audience is engaged by the band, as evidenced by the dancers in the last rows at the bottom of the frame.




I’ve been to lots of concerts where the musicians don’t even look at each other, let alone share a laugh on stage. New audiences were introduced to a band who looked like they thoroughly enjoyed each other. I love this moment because it shows how these young men are not just a band, but a band of brothers. That sense of playfulness has been key in their creativity and helps explain their longevity.



Who is this kid? World, meet the band’s resident cover-boy, drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. I love this moment because he looks 11 years old, and he’s making that face we’ve all become accustomed to seeing. He has no time for you, camera man! Can’t you see how hard he’s working?


I Will Follow


Here’s another moment where the band members are clearly enjoying themselves. I will never tire of seeing these two sharing a mic. Also, this close-up of a guitar god-in-training making iconic noises with THAT guitar is as good as it gets.



This moment cracks me up. Look at the joy on Bono’s face when the opening licks of “I Will Follow” pulls him back to center stage. Whether or not he’s overreacting for the sake of the camera, here is a man who has found his calling, to the great fortune of all his past and future fans. It’s what keeps him, and us, coming back for more.


The Electric Co.


Even then, Bono’s stage shenanigans were impressive. He was notorious for vanishing, only to reappear on something super high and dangerous, while the rest of the band were left to vamp whatever song they were in the middle of until he returned to the stage. The shaky camera work, the hovering helicopter, and the searchlights make it one of the most dramatic moments of the entire show. You might also recognize this as the cover image for the CD and DVD releases.




In his commentary on the 2008 remastered release of the video, director Gavin Taylor said he insisted that the stage be bumped out for this concert after seeing Bono interact with the crowd on the English show Gavin and his crew worked on, The Tube. Here, Bono is seen inventing a dreaded team-building exercise that only rock stars should attempt. I love this moment because he is pure confidence and doesn’t hesitate in the least while surrendering to gravity. 


11 O'Clock Tick Tock


What has become ubiquitous at U2 concerts is Bono pulling a girl out of the audience to snog or dance with. Here, they are doing some kind of Irish square dance, which I think is hilarious. This girl is clearly confused as to what’s going on. I have a theory that U2’s shows are so tightly scripted because it gives Bono very little chance to show off his “dancing.” It’s okay, B, we can’t all be good at everything.


P.J. DeGenaro:

In 1983, I was 17. I’d been told by my brothers that '60s and '70s rock was the pinnacle of pop culture, and I suppose I believed them. I was aware of punk and new wave, but not ready to commit my soul or my hairstyle to them. Then, on one blah suburban afternoon, a U2 song marched into my local radio station’s AOR playlist. It really did march! The drums sounded like an entire army. The guitars sounded like alley cats fleeing from the advancing troops. And why was the singer dragging the word ‘tonight’ out for fourteen syllables? Then I found out. They were Irish. Bogs, bombs, famine. War. I was intrigued, but not quite ready to change the course of my life — until I saw the Red Rocks videos on MTV.

It was hard for me to choose important “moments” from U2 Live at Red Rocks. If you’re reading this, you probably know why. There is just so much.The striking natural setting, the perfectly awful weather, and the audience — drenched and huddled like children of the apocalypse. Also intriguing is the technical glitch that makes you feel you’re watching through a scrim of blood vessels. But I tried, and here’s what I’ve got. (Note: I stuck to the original film for this piece, even though the 2008 reissue opens with a bit more excitement.)


New Year’s Day


Not the first song in the show, but the first U2 song I truly loved. It still sounds refreshing after all the blues-based rock I grew up on, like a lemon sorbet after a heavy meal. Which is not to say it’s light, because it isn’t. The bass line demands attention and gets the crowd bouncing. The camera operator is wise to focus on Edge’s beautiful hands, bathed in blue light, as he adds an extra flourish to the piano melody. Even if you know nothing about Lech Walesa and the Solidarity movement, anyone can sing, “I will be with you again” and really mean it. One of U2’s strengths is crafting songs that touch people on many levels. 



Bono Fall Gif

Knowing U2 as I do now, I suspect "Surrender," along with "Red Light," might have been an attempt to sound contemporary in a vaguely 2-Tone Records kind of way. (You’re U2, why bother?) Nevertheless, Edge’s lap steel guitar is impressive. His other guitar hangs around his neck at the ready, and he’s in complete control. By contrast, we have our first instance of Bono falling into the crowd. He seems to know it’s going to happen. Is he in fact surrendering to them? He’s already thanked these orphans of the storm for braving the weather and has encouraged them to gather close to the stage. It’s obvious that they adore him. I hope they still do. 


Sunday Bloody Sunday

Bono SBS Gif

If we’re concerned with “moments,” "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is surely that — a song that always announces itself with authority. Larry, barely twenty, lays into those martial drums, while Bono insists to us that this is not a rebel song. (At the time, I only had the faintest idea what he meant.) But there he goes, marching through the twilight with the mist rising around him, like a figure from an allegory, carrying a flag of surrender, and whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Looking back, you may swoon or you may cringe, but you can’t deny U2’s power. For many older fans, this is the moment we first knew.


The Cry/The Electric Co.

Cry/Electric Co Gif

Here’s the moment that would give U2 the iconic cover image for Under a Blood Red Sky. Bono begins by singing, “somebody cried/‘cause somebody died.” This is his autobiography — everything you need to know — and he looks briefly vulnerable. What follows is a rousing barrage of sound and image. Steam pours from Adam’s mouth. Edge pounds the hell out of his strings while craning up to see where Bono has gone, for Bono has climbed the lighting rig with his white flag. He poses there, high above the stage and surrounded by wet electrical wires, while the film crew’s helicopter whirls around like a frantic bug. Edge has spoken about how much this scared him, and I’m convinced he looks angry for the rest of the film.

Please watch Edge playing this song. Watch and listen closely. His genius, universally acknowledged in the '80s and '90s, should not be dismissed in modern times just because “virtuosity” has become more important than daring, innovation, and soul. 


I Threw a Brick Through a Window

threw a brick gif

Despite the legend of  the sophomore curse, I think October is a great album. It’s a bit of a mess, but then so was I when I first heard it in 1985. I think it doesn’t quite believe in its own strength. "I Threw A Brick Through A Window" is a punk song. The disaffected young man throws a brick at his own reflection. He needs to get out of here. Larry bashes the drums like he means it. Bono shouts, “Anywhere is better than this! You get it!” Then he mimes throwing a brick. The crowd totally gets it. 



Gloria Gif

This song, right? It picks you up by the ankles and spins you around. It makes you feel like your blood has been replaced with fizzy soda. What other band could get a bunch of teenagers to sing along in Latin? The camera scans the audience and lands briefly on a bug-eyed girl staring up at the stage as if hypnotized, and I think she speaks for many of us unto this very day. Then there’s Adam. Note to camera crews of the past and future: when a beautiful fuzz-haired young man — who will grow up to be the loveliest, kindest and most cruelly underrated bass player on earth — is playing a solo? You keep the camera on him. 

11 O’Clock Tick Tock


That riff is the original U2 riff; the wellspring of every U2 riff to come. I’m not a musician so I can’t explain exactly why, but when you hear "11 O’Clock Tick Tock," you know it’s U2, and that it can be no one else. The song is youthful, deceptively simple, and very dear to me. “I hear the children crying, take me home.” “Home” is a theme that U2 will return to again and again for decades. The snippet of "Drowning Man" is a sweet treat. Finally, a lucky young woman gets lifted and spun around in Bono’s arms, and I’m sure I’m not the only person whose heart broke a tiny bit just then. But that’s okay. I hope she’s having a great life. Bonus: Adam grinning at Larry like a madman. 


I once annoyed a male high school friend by blathering about Bono’s cuteness. “Cute” was the best word I had back then. It had to stand in for a lot of other words, like brave, earnest, fey, lithe, awkward, open-hearted, generous, and brilliant. Anyway, last summer I got to see U2 a few times at close range, and each time, I thought, “Here he still is, the boy with the white flag on MTV.” I’m so grateful for him, Edge, Adam, and Larry. They have no idea what a great life they’ve given me.

(c) @U2, 2019