U2 – Higher Ground (EGG 97/98)

Higher Ground (EGG 97/98)

Eriksbergs Shipyard, Gothenburg, Sweden – June 6, 1987

Disc 1 (55:30) Where The Streets Have No Name, I Will Follow, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For / Exodus / Rain, MLK, The Unforgettable Fire, Bullet The Blue Sky, Running To Stand Still, Exit / Riders On The Storm / Gloria, In God’s Country, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bad / I’m Waiting For The Man

Disc 2 (65:42) Springhill Mining Disaster, New Year’s Day, Pride (In The Name Of Love), Party Girl, With Or Without You / Shine Like Stars / Love Will Tear Us Apart, People Get Ready, 40. Bonus Tracks: Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, GlasgowScotland – July 30, 1987: Stand By Me, C’Mon Everybody, Trip Through Your Wires, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bad / Norwegian Wood, 40 w/ Charlie Burchill

U2’s Joshua Tree continues to remain relevant close to 33 years since its release in March 1987, like all great works of art it has a timeless quality to the instrumental music and its message remains unchanged through time or the way the message is interpreted. We realize this, and U2 realizes this as they have just finished a tour where they play the whole record, not for nostalgia’s sake, more to deliver a universal message of hope. Just as there is renewed interest in the Joshua Tree record, there has always been interest in the live collectors market for good reason, the performances of U2 during 1987 were at a very high level. When I first listened to this title I was on a long drive and was able to take in the entire concert. I was hit by a revelation that the band, certainly Bono in particular, played at this high level day in and day out and while their concerts typically lasted about 90 minutes, a lot of different emotions were covered in the short time.

This is Golden Egg’s second title to feature a recording from the original Joshua Tree tour, the previous was the excellent The Greatest Gift Is God (Golden Eggs EGG-3/4) title (they have also released several from the 2017 tour as well). The concert they have chosen to release is the June 6, 1987 concert held at the Eriksbergs Shipyard in Gothenburg, Sweden where the band headlined a large open air event with opening acts Lone Justice, Big Audio Dynamite, and The Pretenders. This is the only Scandinavian show of the tour and was originally scheduled for Ullevi Stadionon yet due to repairs there in the wake of a Bruce Springsteen concert the concert was moved to the Shipyard. Not every concert can be under perfect circumstances and the back cover of this title says as much “This show was recorded on a rainy evening at Eriksbergs Shipyard 6/6-87 Gothenburg, Sweden”.

This recording has circulated before and at the time, was considered one of the better recordings from the tour. In the days of vinyl there were a couple releases featuring this tape, Higher Ground (Sun Records U2-6687) and People Get Ready (No label) while on CD as Free For All (Dirty Deeds Records DDR 009), and Rain (Hawkmoon Records HM-112/113). This new title from Golden Eggs features the complete concert from the master tape by a fellow named KK who used a Sony WMD-3 recorder and a Marantz EM-8 mic, he was on the upper right side and was able to get a recording that falls into the very good near excellent range. As one would expect it’s slightly distant but clear and detailed with all instruments and vocals coming through nicely with good balance. There is just enough crowd noise present to capture the atmosphere and considering the intangibles, the rain, large crowd, a very nice document. I do not have any of the previous versions of this concert for comparison.

The set list for the concert follows the typical pattern of the European leg, and like the others, it’s the little flourishes from Bono that seem to make the evening unique. He greets the audience in Swedish during the introduction to I Will Follow and to begin I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, he sings the first few lines of The Beatles’ Rain in certain reference to the weather. Capturing the crowd from the word go is evident, as soon as he starts singing Streets, the audience sings in unison with him. Like on many concerts on this tour, he also plays homage to Bob Marley by singing Exodus, and that evolves back into The Beatles’ Rain to finish it, excellent version of the song.

During the middle of the always great Bullet The Blue Sky, he raps about walking through Gothenburg in the rain before going in the arms of America. Running To Stand Still is beautiful, somehow the band can play a very intimate version of the song, you can hear the audience quietly singing along, the harmonica solo sounds simple and humbling at the same time. During the dark shaded and aggressive Exit, Bono references The Doors’ Riders On The Storm that seems to imply that it was meant to Rain, this evolves into a great version of Them’s Gloria that leads the band into the light shade of In God’s Country in dynamic fashion.

Bad is certainly one of U2’s most poignant songs musically and lyrically, on this evening Bono gives a moving introduction to it, “I wrote the words about a friend of mine, his name was Gareth Spaulding and on his 21st birthday he and his friends decided to give themselves a present of enough heroin into his veins to kill him. This song is called Bad”. To reinforce the songs message, Bono briefly references The Velvet Underground’s Waiting For The Man, a song about copping heroin, nine and half minutes of musical drama and U2 at its finest.

Bono introduces Springhill Mining Disaster as an old folk song written by Peggy Seeger and was played by an Irish band called the Dubliners whose singer Luke Kelly was an early influence to him. The song is somewhat of a rarity for the tour, played just a dozen times during the 1987 tour, Bono sings with a pronounced Irish accent in certain homage to his early hero, passionate and moving. The encore section is very good, Party Girl finds the audience doing their best “Under A Blood Red Sky” participation part and a great version of Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready, if U2’s popularity was the train of reference, there were many fans climbing aboard. They get an audience member to come up and help play the “three chords”, after the first player isn’t a player at all, they find one making for a very fun rendition of the classic.

The bonus material is from Glasgow, Scotland a month and half after the Gothenburg performance and is taken from a very good audience recording. It is a clear and detailed recording that sounds upfront with a nice chuck of audience near the taper, no worries as this reeks of a close atmospheric sound. If anything it suffers from lack of frequencies range, so it’s a bit flat, none of this hampers your enjoyment of this 27 minute fragment. This was U2’s second night in Glasgow and to begin the concert they play a couple covers, Ben E King’s Stand By Me and a Rockabilly version of Eddie Cochran’s C’Mon Everybody instead of the regular opener Where The Streets Have No Name. The first song proper is Trip Through Your Wires, cool to have a JT song not played at the Gothenburg show. The encore of 40 is superb and features Charlie Burchill, hometown son of Glasgow and guitarist for the Simple Minds, the crowd is like the sixth member and is loud and vocal making for a dynamite rendition to close this set.

The packaging is the tri gatefold sleeve we have come to expect from Golden Eggs, the cover is taken from the Higher Ground vinyl cover, the back and interior features a collage of live and posed shots. A typically nice package from the folks at Golden Eggs, this is one of my most listened to periods of U2 and I very much enjoyed this set. 

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