Weekend Concert: U2, Berlin, 1981

This is very early U2.

It’s Nov. 4, 1981.

Guitarist Dave “The Edge” Evans and drummer, Larry Mullen are 20. Singer, Paul (Bono Vox) Hewson and bassist Adam Clayton are 21.

Their second album, October was released a few weeks earlier on Oct. 12. The music is still largely unknown to U2 fans. This Berlin crowd responds best (when they respond at all) to the material from the first album, Boy.

Never the less, the performances of the October songs are the highlight for me. The band comes out fired up with a searing rendition of Gloria, with Bono all a jitter. I Threw a Brick and the other October songs are crisp and strong. Their rendition of October is gorgeous.

Here’s the playlist:

Another Time Another Place
I Threw A Brick Through A Window
An Cat Dubh
Into The Heart
The Cry
The Electric Co.
I Fall Down
Stories For Boys
I Will Follow
Out Of Control
11 O’Clock, Tick-Tock

I saw U2 in Portland on the night in July 1981 that a briefcase containing their new songs was stolen from their dressing room as they played (nobody in the bar knew this at the time, of course).

From the wikipedia page for the album:

“The band entered the studio in July 1981 to record October, but the album’s recording sessions were complicated when the briefcase containing Bono’s lyrics was stolen by fans after a show in Portland, Oregon. The band already booked studio time through the end of August and thus had to continue recording in spite of this, even improvising lyrics on some songs. Bono said of the recording process of October, “I remember the pressure it was made under, I remember writing lyrics on the microphone, and at £50 an hour, that’s quite a pressure.”

Two years later, I saw them in Portland again. Only this time, instead of playing an empty bar, they packed the 2,500 seat Paramount Theater.

The U2 of the empty bar played well, but the U2 at the Paramount was a monster.

Bono ran from one side of the stage to the other and appeared to be trying to make eye contact with every member of the audience. He luxuriated in stage space that he does not enjoy in this Berlin concert. But he dances and gyrates through the whole thing nonetheless.

Say what you will about U2’s religiosity, this is a good show.

Comments | 8

  • U2

    As a 15-year old, my friend loved U2 from the beginning. She was (and still is) good at finding great bands before they go mainstream. Thanks for the memory.

  • I've heard of this band...

    I watched the first song as I put this up. I love the hair at this show.

    I have to admit, I was never a fan of U2. The music didn’t really grab me, and I wasn’t really paying as much attention to lyrics back then – I was looking for the groove. U2 sounded a bit dull to my ear so I moved on to other things.

    But, everyone I knew said they were great, and like Springsteen, said the magic really comes from a live show and not the recordings. And I never got to one of their shows… until now.

    So, this is my first official U2 show, so wish me luck. And thanks for the ticket!

    • I saw them...

      OK. I watched.

      This “version” of U2 I enjoyed. I liked the small stage, the music was a bit harder-edged and more interesting than later works (to me, I know everyone else loves them…).

      I think what I liked best, aside from the hair, was watching them become superstars. It’s fun to revisit early shows of groups that would someday be giants, before they reach that point. You can see that they’ve “got it” but are also still working really hard to reach the top.

      Really enjoying everyone else’s comments, too.

      Where is Tim? I’m waiting for the story of sitting in the studio with Bono… : )

  • In the Beginning

    The early U2 were the best days, IMHO. I didn’t really hear them until I returned to NYC in 1982 and had a roommate who was a hardcore fan. And yes, they were fabulous. Thanks for this!

    • Early Days when you could afford a ticket

      When I first saw U2 at the Orphem in Boston(War Tour) I was astonished at the clarity and strength behind Bono Vox (good/great voice) how it held up so well always on key as if in the studio along with the rest of the band’s incredibly polished stage presence and sync when they worked the crowd.
      In my live experience, Bono came marching far up the isle whaling out Gloria with all the stamina of a broadway performance, stopped for a moment and I’ll never forget when he bothered to sing right up to my brother and I recognizing the remote balcony audience above, then pointed right at us making eye contact singling us out, as if to say you guys are going to get an up front show too.
      Bono and I happen to be the same age so I felt the connection and it has always amazed me how many eclectic personas one person can evolve into as Bono has throughout his a lengthy career on and off the stage. Although, since these early days, U2 have been completely carried away outdoing themselves in grandios production the rawness often missing, but then again, I would not pass up a chance to see each phase of their development along the way and I’m sure would have enjoyed subsequent shows.
      Having bumped into both people, I do believe Robin Williams and Bono were split at the womb considering their tendency to ham it reveling in the crowd pleasing they feed off with their intense, innate antics and energy. They both have contributed a lot to making US a more celebrated and closely connected world with their humanitarian work. Thanks for the flashback, I loved it.

  • Pride

    U2 would be in my top 5 even if their only song of note was Pride (in the Name of Love).

    There are 3 songs that I know that will bring tears to my eyes at their crescendos every time I hear them:
    Richard Thompson’s Vincent Black Lightning ’52;
    The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah;
    U2’s Pride.

    Pride’s not on this concert.
    I have live versions of that song that I can listen to.

    The thing I love about this period of U2 is that as young as they are (see the opening piece above) their combination of professionalism and passion for the music is outstanding. They are like Springsteen in that.
    I don’t care much for U2’s religious themed material as I don’t care that much for Springsteen’s New Jersey themes, but the level at which they care sells the musics. Plus, many of the songs are just plain great, like Pride and October and Gloria, etc.

  • Great concert. One thing

    Great concert.
    One thing about U2 that’s pretty impressive, is that they’ve managed to keep all the same members for 37 years. That pretty much never happens. If you look at any rock band that’s been around 10, 20, 30, 40+ years there is almost always multiple personnel changes. Pretty cool that they’ve kept the same lineup all that time – I actually can’t think of any other band with that longevity that has.

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