40 Years since U2’s Live At Red Rocks; Under A Blood Red Sky video and album.
U2 releases at the time are so seismic that I have a memory of stopping up Castle Lane, bringing it out of the Caroline Music bag and showing it someone. I have no idea who.
Never mind my stop in central Belfast, let me try to locate U2 in November 1983. So many younger fans ask when the band made it. For sure it was a slow burn and Joshua Tree was when they went mega BUT they were doing okay in 1983.
To have a live video and record release, done at the iconic Red Rocks. Live Aid was over 20 months away but U2 already had the following before Bono jumped into the crowd at Wembley. Maybe it was our pre Joshua Tree zeal for the band and the great gift of hindsight but March 1987 was only a confirmation of what we all already recognised would be.
Back to me in Castle Lane. I think the energy of the Red Rocks’ performances, whether listened to or even more watched over and over again on video, gave us the catalogued evidence of U2’s energetic and charismatic sound. Watching Bono with his big black boots and that huge flag marching across the stage with such conviction made more impression on my University student self than just a musical one.
I have often spoken of how The Beatles led me to Jesus, asking the questions that only Jesus could ultimately answer. U2 arrived to carry me along as I worked through those answers.
The Christian spirituality had not yet been veiled by their unease with American fundamentalism. Here were boys of my age expressing the early raw vitality of discovering Jesus and starting out to work through those answers.
Many years later I would be asked on live radio what my walk on song was. You know like boxers going into the ring have their anthem, what would I like playing as I entered the Church to preach. There was no dead air after the question. My immediate response was Gloria by U2. The Gloria I was thinking about was this live one for sure. Like the one I had actually experienced at my first U2 concert in Belfast’s Maysfield Hall just seven months before Red Rocks.
The other thing for Stockman in 1983 is that my faith is beginning to look out. U2 too were more objective on War than the subjectivity of October. The inner soul was beginning to meet the outer world.
As U2 looked out and unrolled their musical canvas that would take on Japan and America on their next record, Unforgettable Fire, this was a moment when their music was firing my Kingdom come imagination. The fuel for personal and social transformation was flooding through my system by the urgency of these performances.