Wednesday, January 21, 2009

June 5, 1983, Red Rocks, Colorado

One of the best concerts in U2 history immortalise in the DVD "Under a Red Blood Sky"
This was what it was said and remembered...

June 5, 1983, Red Rocks, Colorado. Pouring rain and shrouds of fog. Illuminated sandstone cliffs. Blazing torches framing the stage. Finally, a break from the downpour, and the striking, natural amphitheatre becomes animated with movement and music.

There's Bono with a two-tone mullet, waving a white flag; Larry, resembling an only slightly older version of the boy on the backdrop behind him of the War album cover; Adam, in a chest-baring shirt and wide stance, right leg keeping time with the beat; and Edge -- Edge with hair! -- in a sleeveless plaid shirt, switching back and forth from electric piano to guitar.

For most U2 fans these are images they've only ever seen on their television screens. An estimated quarter of a million people saw U2 during their War tour in 1983, but only a few thousand were lucky enough to witness the Red Rocks show firsthand.

Due to the bad weather, U2 scheduled an indoor performance in Boulder the following night for the estimated 9,000 Red Rocks ticket holders who did not want to be inconvenienced by the rain and freezing temperature. However, about one-third of them braved the elements and experienced one of U2's most legendary shows. As promoter Barry Fey said during his introduction of the band, "You're all a part of history!"

There's a sweet moment in the Under a Blood Red Sky video where Bono tells the crowd, "I won't forget this evening. Don't you forget this evening." The four following individuals haven't, and they share their memories of that night.

< >I remember setting up the studio equipment in a small room deep in the rocks and thinking, I would really like to watch the show instead of recording it. Then it started to rain, and it looked like it wasn't going to happen, and word was helicopters were involved, which implied a certain level of investment!

About 15 minutes before the gig, though, the rain stopped and left a wonderful mist, and it was decided it was safe to play. I was stuck in the bowels of the stage for about half the gig, recording, but once I thought everything was sounding OK, I couldn't resist going upstairs to see the boys going for it! What a sight; they had taken it to the next level...

G. Brown, writer:

As the popular music writer for The Denver Post, I had heard the Boy album in 1980 and immediately fallen in love with U2's music. When U2 came through Denver on their maiden American tours, twice performing at the Rainbow Music Hall, a 1,300-seat venue, I wrote several glowing reviews and features.

When my new Irish acquaintances returned to Colorado in 1983 to perform at Red Rocks, I was excited -- and almost criminally short sighted. It was the nascent stages of MTV and music video; I didn't grasp the significance of filming a performance, as no one had attempted such a project before. Despite my deathless prose in the pages of The Post, the band was still college-radio underdogs.

So when rain and low temperatures threatened to ruin the entire scenario on the day of the show, and after the promise was given of another show to be held the following night in Boulder at an indoor venue, I seriously considered taking the band up on that offer.

Needless to say, I'm glad I didn't.

Prior to the show, I remember Bono sitting in the production office backstage and going on the radio -- he called every rock station in town, KBPI, KAZY, KPKE, KTCL and KPPL -- to tell fans they were going to do the Red Rocks show and implore them to attend.

My most vivid memory of the now-legendary concert was when Bono immortalized his holy gladiator profile during "Sunday Bloody Sunday," unfurling and waving that huge white flag in the crowd against the glow of the torches high on the cliffs. A moment that changed rock music.

Greg Wigler, photographer,

I remember it was a cold, wet, miserable day, and many of us wondered if the concert would take place at all. I had heard some of U2's music on an FM station in Denver but had missed their two shows at the Rainbow Music Hall, which were 2 shows. I never imagined that this band would reach such stellar heights. Now it seems what it must have been like to see The Beatles play at the Cavern or in Hamburg.

We were supposed to have the first two songs to shoot our photos, but as soon as the band hit the stage the crowd stormed the front rail, and I was pinned there for the next 20 minutes or so. It was so bad that I had to have a security guard pull me out. I was afraid I was going to be injured because the front rail was only about thigh high, and I was slowly being pushed over it. Another photographer nearly broke his leg as he was pinned and then pushed over the rail.

It was the loudest concert I had ever been to, painfully so and I am a veteran of the late ‘60s pop festivals, which featured bands who were pretty loud, such as Blue Cheer. I'm not really sure if I enjoyed the concert or not, as I was wandering around and shooting.

I was able though to get some incredible shots from higher up of the stage and the helicopter, the bonfires and spotlights. I thought I was lost in a scene from Apocalypse Now. On my Web site, I have a nice panorama of the entire crowd scene before the show with the clouds covering the cliff tops.

At a restaurant after the show, several friends and I talked about the show. One of my friends thought that night was a religious experience.

Sue Carroll, lucky audience member:

I woke up to drizzle, cold and fog on that day. It did not bode well, and I kept my ear to the radio, fully expecting a cancellation of the show. The clouds were hanging so low over the mountains you could not see any mountains or foothills. We all thought it was pretty iffy, but there hadn't been an announcement that it was cancelled, and the five of us -- my sister, myself and three friends -- were up for an adventure.

As we were driving up to Red Rocks, an announcement came on the radio, which went something like this: "The band U2 wants to thank all of you for buying a ticket to their concert at Red Rocks with the Divinyls and the Alarm. As you know, U2 plans to film this concert and is going ahead tonight with those plans. We want you to come to the show, but understand that the conditions aren't great. So, for those of you that come to the show tonight, only U2 will play for the filming. You can all bring your ticket stub tomorrow night to the Coors Event Center in Boulder and see the entire concert with all three bands. For those with tickets that do not make it to the show tonight, bring your ticket tomorrow and the concert will be general admission. Again, U2 thanks you for your support." I become a fan right then.

When we got to the amphitheatre, it was very cold and humid, which is unusual for Denver (and Colorado). At Red Rocks, depending on where you park, you get a workout going uphill to get into the amphitheatre.

Once inside, one of the wildest things I saw were the fires burning on top of the rocks behind and to the side of the stage. I had never seen anything like that before. With the fire and the fog and the mist, it was really cold and magical. The natural effects were better than any special effects that money can buy.

At the time, the only U2 song I was familiar with was "I Will Follow," and that was the song I came to see. However, Bono got us singing along, and we all bonded there in the rain. After the concert was over and we were streaming out of the amphitheatre and down to our cars, I turned and looked back from the edge of the parking lot up toward the amphitheatre and saw those awesome fires still burning atop the Red Rocks. I was transfixed, and I stood there for a while soaking it in. The image really captured the essence of the evening. A couple of years later, I got the vinyl copy of Under a Blood Red Sky and was shocked and pleased to see that a very similar image was used on the back of the album.

My appreciation, love and loyalty to U2 began that night. All of nature, spirit, sky and weather at Red Rocks conspired to make a perfectly rainy and misty Irish tribute to welcome our musical guests from the Emerald Isle. All of the elements came together to make history.

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