U2 – Detroit Rock City (The Godfatherecords G.R. 991/992)

Gr991Detroit Rock City (The Godfatherecords G.R. 991/992)

Grand Circus Theater, Detroit, MI, USA – May 20, 1983

Disc 1 (67:14) Out Of Control, Twilight, An Cat Dubh, Into The Heart, Surrender, Two Hearts Beat As One, Seconds, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Electric Co., I Fall Down, October, I Threw A Brick Through A Window, A Day Without Me, New Years Day, Gloria, Party Girl

Disc 2 (77:55) 11 O’clock Tick Tock, I Will Follow, 40. Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, MI, USA – December 4, 1981: Gloria, Another Time Another Place, I Threw A Brick Through A Window, An Cat Dubh, Into The Heart, With A Shout, Rejoice, The Cry / The Electric Co., I Fall Down, October, I Will Follow, Twilight, Out Of Control, Fire, 11 O’clock Tick Tock, The Ocean

This new release from Godfathers showcases two early U2 recordings both from the city of Detroit, Michigan, hence the title of this release. The city of Detroit has a rich musical history, from Rock and Roll to Motown and Jazz to punk, the passionate audiences are some of the most revered in America. Having seen a great number of concerts in various venues around the city for the past thirty years, I am always interested when bootlegs feature shows from the area.

The audience recording is very good to excellent, there is no real audience interference close to the taper and he managed to get a recording full of ambience, one that captures the excitement of the concert. All instruments are well balanced, if anything it is a little bass heavy at times, the vocals are well in the mix and the concert is a joy to listen too.  The recording does begin a bit muffled as the concert starts but in less than a minute the taper has his equipment adjusted and from here on out the recording maintains a consistent quality. The band has released their third record, War, just three months and has already amassed a rich back catalog to cull their set from. They open with two songs from their debut album, Boy, Out Of Control is an apt title for an open and get the energy level up, Bono gives props to The Edge that garners screams from the audience. Twilight is a bit somber after the opener, the moodiness continues with An Cat Dubh, Adam Clayton’s bass is very clear in the mix and one can enjoy his playing during this song. Just as the tensions builds within the song they slow it down by following the album sequence with Into The Heart, the audience quietly clap and seem intent on listening.

Bono tells the audience they do not get a chance to play in a building as beautiful as Grand Circus Theater, he introduces Surrender and tells the audience to tear down the walls, of course he is not inciting vandalism but walls of interpersonal nature, funny nonetheless. Two Hearts Beat As One has the band quoting the Chubby Checker classic Lets Twist Again and they explore more humanitarian themes with Seconds and its them of nuclear annihilation. The albums standout track Sunday Bloody Sunday gets a huge ovation, Bono leads the audience in a defiance chant of “No More…No More”. During The Electric Co Bono interjects Bring in the Clowns changing clown to crowd, his main mission in these early shows was to connect with his audience, a craft that did not take long to master, from climbing scaffolding and various props to his game changing interaction with a fan at Live Aid quickly made him one of the best. October slows things down and the calm mood sticks around for I Threw A Brick and even A Day Without Me but this is rectified with New Years Day, The Edge’s keyboard is striking in its simplistic beauty and they turn in a great version of the song. Gloria keeps the momentum up as Bono thanks the audience and tells them good night, the song ends the main set on a high note.

The encores start out with Party Girl, the crowd’s energy has returned, the clap and cheer reminiscent of the version found on Under A Blood Red Sky. There is a quick fade at the songs conclusion to move us to the second disc, and the second encore of 11 O’clock Tick Tock picks up the excitement and takes it to the next level, Bono again tells the audience “Detroit…thank you very much” but they are not stopping yet and launch into the high energy of I Will Follow that seems to levitate the place. The concert comes to a fitting conclusion with 40, Bono says “stay back” at the beginning making me wonder if some over excited fans are trying to get onstage, interesting version as the song winds down Larry Mullen pounds his drum defiantly before the lights come on and music is played over the PA.

The rest of the Cd comes from a recording done in Royal Oak, a Northern suburb of Detroit, the Royal Oak Music Theatre is a somewhat intimate venue with a capacity of 1,700 and sits in a wonderful eclectic downtown area that also features great shopping and restaurants. The audience recording is very good, clear and well balanced that has an in your face sound, there are some occasional times where the sound is a bit muffled but nothing that detracts from the performance. The band was touring in support of October and takes the stage with Gloria, the first song on the new record. The audience seems rather subdued but give a huge cheer for the “Black Cat”, Bono tells the audience that “it’s a great room, I really like”. With A Shout follows with the theme of faith in reference to Jerusalem and the Cities history of Religion and the bloodshed that is caused in its name, very powerful message both lyrically and musically as it is ripe with strife. “This is Rejoice….and we WILL”, my favorite song from October, stirring and passionate but pure rock and roll. It does not seem that the audience is completely won over as they are very quiet, the band are turning in a great show and aside from some occasional screaming the overall mood is one of restraint. Bono tells the audience “We didn’t think you’d know who we were….we thought everyone else were going to see the other Great Irish rock n roll band…the Rolling Stones”, typical to Detroit a round of boo’s come next. Curiously the Stones had just completed their two night stand at the Pontiac Silverdome just a couple days before, the Stones were getting massive media coverage around the time of the shows.

As the band start October the audience is so quiet you could hear a pin drop, and the wind chimes give a melancholy feel to the song, I Will Follow finds the band switching gears quickly and Bono demanding “On Your Feet Detroit!” and they comply. What is interesting about this recording is you can hear the momentum slowly start to build, this is how it was done, especially in a city like Detroit, you had better come to play, the band goes for the jugular with Twilight and a powerful Out Of Control to close out the main set. Fire is the first encore and one of just a couple songs that is not repeated on this set, the last song is also not a repeat and is The Ocean. On the album Boy, it clocks in at a short 1:30 but in the live setting is longer and is also a predecessor to 40 as it is similar in structure, Bono gets the audience to clap double time along with the song, the song fades with just bass and drum played with a marshal tempo.

The tri gatefold sleeve is adorned with a mix of live and studio shots of the band, all four looking very young and boy did Bono have one hell of a head of hair, I guess we can partially thank him for the popularity of the mullet. A nice release, this is the music that first made me aware of this band and while I considered myself more of a metal head in those days U2 was a band that always interested me where much of the popular New Wave music did not. Excellent release, one that is easy to recommend.

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  1. Thanks for the nice review, relayer. I was ecstatic when I saw this title on GR’s release schedule, as I attended the Grand Circus show. Dream Syndicate were the opening act. As you’ve recounted from your listening to the tape U2 played a great set from start to finish. During one song ( most likely ” Sunday Bloody Sunday ” ) Bono ran upstairs ( where we were seated ) waving the white flag and inciting the audience. They ended the show with much drama by playing ” 40 ” . One by one they left the stage during the song, Bono first, then Edge, and Adam, until only Larry was left to finish the emotional closing of the set. I haven’t received this title just yet, but when I do it’ll put me right there all over again! The Grand Circus Theater is now the Detroit opera House.

    I came THISCLOSE to attending the Royal Oak show in ’81, coming so close as to drive past the venue but not go in. Faraway ( So Close ) indeed! There were three lame reasons as to why I didn’t go: 1) I was by myself 2) I was still kinda whacked out from the Rolling Stones/Santana/Iggy Pop at the Silverdome on December 1, and 3) there was a girl I knew in attendance that I didn’t wannna run into! Doh! But now I’ll get to enjoy what I missed forever!

    Thank you Godfatherecords for releasing these early U2 shows and related titles of the era ( Elvis and the Attractions, Clash, Talking Heads, etc). More please! And thanks again relayer67 for writing about this one! Hey Detroit! The Stooges and the Five will never die!


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