I'll post my favourite live performances from U2 who to their credit generally have enough differences in their life performances to their studio albums to make it worth your while to listen to the, In some case (especially the Live At Red Rocks) I think are completely essential for any casual U2 fan.
U2 philosophy was basically taking The Who - Lifehouse project message of music as a vehicle for religious/transcendental feelings combined with 60's rock and roll can change the world attitude and these are probably reflected in live performance more than anything else due to the presence of the audience to share the experience with the band.
Sunday Bloody Sunday (Live At Red Rocks)
Probably the defining image of this live concert and the reason this concert is iconic is Bono doing the military march holding the white flag in a call to arms for peace. Probably the best live performance of this songs f you want to hear it in it's original arrangement. The song is faster, the guitar has more punch and bite, Bono gives a sstunning performance and this live performance represents the aggressive call to arms for peace contradiction of the original song better than the studio version.
11 O'Clock Tick Tock (Live At Red Rocks)
While Sunday Bloody Sunday was iconic for it's more visual elements. The U2 fan will point to this song for it's musical elements as the highlight of the concert as it's a brilliant reinvention live. The idea that Red Rocks is U2 equivalent of Live At Leeds by The Who is justified if you compare the weak studio version with the blistering performance here with The Edge at his very peak of his powers as guitarist. The entire song is basically The Edge bringing up the spirit of Tom Verlaine soling in Marquee moon and in my opinion surpassing it. The last 3 minutes is one of my favourite guitar solos of all time
A Sort Of Homecoming (Wide Awake In America EP)
There's a reason why the video cliip that is played on MTV of this song is the live performance and not the studio version because it's a superior version of the song IMO. I always felt the studio version sounds murky and stiff compared to the live. The intro with Bono just singing with Edge doing his appegios is a magic moment and the bass joining in and the drum kicks in with the crowd chanting is just amazing.
Bad (Live Aid 1985)
I always thought this version is a bit overrated (I feel the song is a precursor to All I Want Is You which IMO is the better song and there are better live version of Bad in the Wide Awake in America EP or Rattle and hum DVD) but I have to post it simply because it's a historically significant live performance and an essential part of their legacy. For most people this performance was their introduction to the band especially the american audience and turned them into superstars.
Sunday Bloody Sunday (Rattle And Hum DVD)
If you asked me what's my favourite U2 song. I would say my favourite studio song is Lemon. However if I include live performance, than this version of Sunday Bloody Sunday is the pinnacle of what U2 is about. The performance reflects the power the band has over the audience.
The stripped down beginning where it's just Bono and Edge makes it far more powerful when the band kicks in. The middle of the song where Bono goes on a political rant with such religious zeal over the Edge scratching the guitar makes it impossible not to be moved by it. when he sings No More to the audience, it's one of the most passionate performance of his career and I can't help but sing No more (along with the audience in the video clip) back at him.
Red Rocks has a visual representation of a call to arms for pacifism. This version the audience answer the call to arms which is why I think it's the best version of this song.
Where The Streets Have No Name (Ratlte and Hum DVD)
I always thought this song was a bit overrated. The reason was that everything is a let down after the majestic intro with the organ, Edge harmonics on the guitar and his killer riff. When Bono starts singing,
So how do you improve it live is by extending the intro live for 2 minute that just amplified how bloody good the intro is.
I still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (Rattle And Hum DVD)
To me this is the definitive version of the song. The only instrumental accompaniedment is just Edge guitar and this stripped down arrangement amplifies the strength of the song which is Bono voice and the guitar riff. The full band just distraction to those core elements in my view. Ok there's a choir singing and I would have preferred if it was just Edge and Bono for the entire song but the first 30 seconds has more power than the entire studio version.
With Or Without You (Rattle And Hum DVD)
I like the extre verse he put at the end replacing hte "ooh" in the studio
"Yeah, we'll shine like stars in the summer night
We'll shine like stars in the winter light"
It creates a more epic ending to the song.
Lemon/With Or Without You (ZooTV Live In Sydney)
My favourite studio song of U2 is Lemon. Well, the live version is even better than the studio version. The reason is that when played live, BOno adds vocal harmonies to THe Edge "Midnight Is Where the Day Begins" that vastly improves the song and makes it even more melodic. See how Bono echoes The Edge singing "Midnight" and then eventually singing that line along with The Edge at a higher pitch. Everytime I listen to the studio version of Lemon, I always singalong the live harmonies that was missing from the studio version. There's also an interesting transition to With Or Without You
Love Is Blindness (Live In Sydney)
The Edge creates an extended epic guitar solo at the end of the song that creates the epic ending that the song deserves.
I Will Follow (Popmart Live In Mexico city)
An interesting version of I will Follow due to the spacy effects on The Edge guitar that gives it a sci-fi feel as opposed to the whole post-punk feel of the original.
Gone (Popmart Live In Mexico City)
The definitive version of Gone and far superior to the studio version due to the more guitar heavy that was toned down in the studio version (for example the guitar is removed in the chorus of the song)
Sunday BLoody Sunday (Popmart Live In Mexico City)
For people who dislike Bono and find in overbearing, they may find the stripped down version with Edge singing the song more to their liking .An interesting reinvention of the song
Discoteque (PopMart Live In Mexico City)
Just for the whole bizarreness of U2 walking out of the lemon shaped disco ball
Electrical Storm (Live In Milan 360 Tour)
Probably my favourite late career U2 song (post 00's) and Bono gives an excellent vocla performance here
Ordinary Love (Live At Tonight Show)
It's my belief that U2 doing stripped down acoustic songs should be the direction they should be heading and this video is an example of that (far superior to the studio version). As I believe that U2 at their current state can't write paritcularly interesting arrangement as The Edge is really just settling for by the numbers recycling of riffs and so by stripping down the arrangement and focusing things on Bono vocals (who to his credit, is sitll quite powerful despite his age) is the best way for them to focus on their strength.
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