When U2 originally played their 1983 concert in the gorgeous setting of Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheatre, they hadn't quite conquered the world yet, but they were well on their way.
It was on that same tour in support of the band's third album War, that U2 would play before 300,000 people at Southern California's US Festival — their biggest audience to date at the time. Even if they weren't quite yet the megastars we know them as today, back then the band was still playing with the sort of fire and hunger that would serve them so well on their way to becoming one of the biggest bands in the world.
That same youthful energy is beautifully captured on the newly restored Live At Red Rocks. Part of Island Records ongoing U2 remastering project that began earlier this year with the band's first three albums, Boy, October, and War, the concert is now available on DVD for the very first time (it was originally released on VHS video). The video footage here has been beautifully restored and is topped off by a 5.1 audio remix. Five previously unavailable songs have also been added.
But the real treat here is seeing U2 once again as the hungry young band they once were — playing as though their lives depended on it. Bono in particular is a house of fire here, grinning a shit-eating ear to ear grin as the band takes the stage with a ripping version of "Out Of Control." Bono clearly knows how lucky he is to be here. You can see it in his eyes as he prowls and works every inch of the stage on classic U2 songs like "Gloria" and "I Will Follow."
It's a little hard to believe that this wide-eyed mulleted kid seen here is the same Bono who would later have private audiences with presidents and popes, although the politics do creep into the mix on War's "Sunday Bloody Sunday," which Bono intros by saying "this song is not a rebel song."
Likewise, it's a bit strange to think that U2 was once regarded as a punk rock band. Especially since The Edge's ringing guitar powers the band's sound on this DVD in a way that all but screams big arena rock. Still, the energy level approaches punk levels more often than not, and the rhythm section of bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen doesn't let up here for a second.
The bottom line is that as great a band as U2 remain, they've never really just all-out rocked the way they do here. Not in all the years since.
Live At Red Rocks is available both as a stand alone DVD, and in a deluxe package with the remastered CD of Under A Blood Red Sky, which includes performances from Red Rocks and other stops on the War tour. Both arrive in stores September 30.