San Diego Sports Arena, San Diego, CA – April 14, 1987
Disc 1 (55:31) Where The Streets Have No Name, I Will Follow, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, MLK, The Unforgettable Fire, Bullet The Blue Sky, Running To Stand Still, A Sort Of Homecoming, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Exit, In God’s Country
Disc 2 (48:22) Bad / Ruby Tuesday / Sympathy For The Devil, October, New Year’s Day, Pride, With Or Without You, Gloria, I Shall Be Released (*w/ Maria McKee), Mothers Of The Disappeared
There has been an ongoing series of torrents on a well known tracker featuring the work of a taper named KeithM. Keith recorded hundreds of concerts in Southern California in the early / mid 80’s armed with a Sony Walkman D6c with Sony ECM-939 stereo microphones. The torrent series of Keith’s recordings feature fresh transfers from the master cassettes to digital done by the JEMS collective. This ongoing series features excellent subject matter, U2’s Joshua Tree tour, Keith recorded nine of the first 16 performances and while several of these recordings have circulated before, they were easily a generation or two from the master. The recording featured here is from the second of two nights in San Diego, like the majority of Keith’s recordings, the sound quality is excellent, three dimensional, simply a wonderful recording, he managed to find a spot where he got the perfect mix of music to audience with little crowd noise close by. The sound has a virtually perfect mix, all instruments, vocals etc are in perfect balance and like many Walkman recordings, the upper frequencies are well represented. This recording is one that just draws you in, the performance and atmosphere inside the Sports Arena is electrifying.
U2’s rise to fame was certainly based in large part to their live performance, early on the buzz around the band was they were incredible live, pushing the boundaries with passionate music and a very charismatic front-man, who could draw in 150 or 15,000 fans and everyone left satisfied. Their music reflected the conflict of the common and rejected alike, their themes were universal, and thus relatable to the World, who in turn embraced the band. San Diego was a shit hot show, the recording begins nice, the last strains of John Lennon’s version of Stand By Me is playing over the PA, as soon as the strains of Where The Streets Have No Name the audience is ready, you can feel the slow start and when the band kick-in in earnest the place erupts, somehow Keith was not too affected, you can here where he has to stand is about it. I Will Follow hits you like a freight train, the guitar and bass slice through the air and the band play a very muscular version, the audience cheer loudly when Bono cries out “I WILL FOLLOW”.
Bono tells the audience that after 10 years of playing music that their new album, The Joshua Tree, has gone to number 1 on the charts and while they still haven’t found what they were looking for, it was encouraging. For me this is one of those songs that got played to death around this time, both on radio and MTV (you remember, MTV used to played music videos) but the older I get not only do I appreciate it more but it seems to resonate more with me, older and trying to become wiser. MLK, somber and reflective yet uplifting in a certain leads directly into Unforgettable Fire, great song and comes alive on stage, the album of the same name has really grown on me the past decades. Bullet The Blue Sky is quickly becoming a show stopper, Bono’s rap about fighter planes and takes an American Evangelist voice and has the audience in his hand, he says “…Outside it’s American…tonight it’s San Diego” and the place erupts, The Edge’s playing is incredible, from slide to strumming, his guitar sounds like a hundred as he takes what Hendrix did to a futuristic new level.
Love Running To Stand Still, after Chris Cornell passed I watched a video where they dedicated the song to him, when Bono breaks into the harmonica part it was so emotional and every time I listen to the song I think of him, I did not know him but the lyrics fit my perspective of who he was. The set list is purposely as it seems to tell a story, A Sort Of Homecoming followed by Sunday Bloody Sunday, one quiet reflection, the second fists beating on a chest, a wall, a podium. Bono says “there are two kinds of flowers you can send me, these are of joy” in response to what were thrown onstage. Again two forms of poignant songs. It was interesting to watch U2 grow up, their early work was fraught with youthful anger and frustration with the status quo culminating with War. The Unforgettable Fire was the first step forward, Joshua Tree was a leap. Exit is a show stopper, the music is so direct and bombastic and the lyrics show great maturity, Bono interjects Them’s Gloria and quickly the audience takes over and the songs evaporates into In God’s Country. So simple melodic and beautiful, again a fast favorite of mine and like the best U2 music, speaks to the World, any place any where.
Somethings never seem to change, the beginning of the second disc feature’s Bono speaking out…”This is a song about a very dangerous…very dangerous drug called heroin…a drug that’s torn many cities in two, a drug that’s torn many lovers in two”, and then starts singing Bad, how relevant is this message today. It makes the inclusion of The Rolling Stones’ Ruby Tuesday, Bono has the audience in the palm of his hand and has them take over on lyrics, when he returns he defiantly sings a bit of Sympathy For The Devil, since Live Aid, Bad has become the centerpiece of the concert, the electrifying performance brings the house down. Somber and gentle is Edge’s keyboard work for October, it does not seem to have a soothing effect on the crowd as they are wound up, for good reason. New Years Day starts of quietly, the song is extremely melancholy, the audience seems in a haze. The band leave the stage and after a minute the audience sound confused as they want more, Bono comes out and says “what can I say to that…Pride In The Name Of Love”. After a brief sing a long, Bono thanks the audience and gives the Amnesty International speech.
The audience clamber for more, they will be duly rewarded. With Or Without You is first encore, real good version here. Bono sings in an almost quiet voice for the first verse, the crowd can be heard quietly singing along. I much prefer these early live versions, Bono is in great voice and brings out the passion of the lyric. Gloria hits the spot to get the blood flowing, the audience lend their voice to the chorus. Bono’s scream of “NO…NO…NO…” gets the audience to do the same and each band member gets introduced with wild applause. They play Bob Dylan’s I Shall Be Released again, the song made its live debut the previous evening. Bono introduces it as “a special song” and Maria McKee from the opening act Lone Justice comes out to sing it with Bono. U2’s cover of the song is more uplifting, brighter than both Bob’s and the many who have covered it. The last song is also a bit special, the first live performance of Mothers Of The Disappeared, 40 was the usual set closer but as the band begin to settle down with the material the more they begin to spice it up.
Packaging is tri-fold sleeve using similar layout from The Joshua Tree with lots of live and posed shots of the band circa 1987, a cool picture of the San Diego Sports Arena as well. First off, full props go to KeithM, his superb recording makes for an easy foundation. Second, Golden Eggs for giving us this incredible release, if it was up to me I would have waited til all nine were out and made a massive box set out of them, so incredible are the recordings and performances, perhaps some of the greatest of all time. Brilliant and absolutely essential.