Monday, September 28, 2009

20 Great U2 Live Videos

(Disclaimer: For all you Nifty readers - if you exist - I hope you won't mind this near-obsessive foray into music fandom as opposed to our normal routine of posting sick, perverted videos. Don't worry, those will be back soon!)

So in a little over two weeks, I'll be seeing U2 live for the third time at the new Cowboys stadium. The last two times were simply amazing (truly two of the best nights of my life) and I can't quite to see if they can top themselves again. Their latest tour, U2360, is getting rave reviews and setting a new pace for sell-outs. I'll been obsessively following the setlists and watching fan-filmed videos (which are much higher quality these days than in the past thanks to new phone technology) and it looks incredible. It manages to be big in its spectacle while still retaining an intimate atmosphere for the music. Which, of course, is what they were going for.

But such is the awesomeness of U2. While a great studio band with a record 22 grammys and 150 million albums sold to prove it, they made their name, in particular, as a live act. There's just an amazing chemistry between these four that takes the music to a new level and entrances any crowd (the hair stands up on the back of your neck and you are suddenly enclined to sing your heart out), including those that wouldn't much care for the band otherwise. To that end, I've assembled a list of twenty of my favorite live videos. This is hardly a definitive list, as they have so many great performances, but again, these are some of my personal favorites.

The list is in chronological order (I think). I tried to include videos from every era of U2 (not all could be embedded, unfortunately), but most are from the last decade as it produced many of the best performances and highest-quality recordings of them. I didn't include anything from the current tour as to not spoil any surprises for those that want to wait until they come to Dallas. On that note, one interesting factoid is that the first of the two Dallas shows on the "Elevation" tour (which is the one I went to) and the one on the "Vertigo" tour both had tour premieres - "Desire" and "Angel of Harlem" (because that's what the fan who was brought on stage wanted to play), respectively. Will we be that lucky on the third go-around?

Well anyway, enjoy!


1. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (Red Rocks) - This concert is so legendary that there was a tribute based entirely around it just a couple of years back. Needless to say, this is one of their most iconic performances that cemented them as one of, if not, the best live rock act ever.

2. "Bad" (Live Aid) - One of their greatest live songs, extended into a 12-minute version here as Bono goes out into the crowd to help pull out a woman from the crowd he saw was in danger of being crushed. Unfortunately, this cut down the number of songs the band got to perform at the event, but this is said to be the moment "America fell in love with U2."

3. "Silver and Gold" (Rattle & Hum) - Bono rant. "Ok Edge, play the blues." Perfectly encapsulates this era.

4. "Love Is Blindess/Can't Help Falling Love With You" (ZooTV, Sydney) - Heartbreaking outro to their groundbreaking tour designed to showcase how they had changed both their sound and attitude (and very successfully, I might add). This was the one and only time the band performed without one of its members (Adam Clayton was missing and his bass tech filled in). Unsure of their future, the band played like this could be their last performance. The Edge's guitar work gives me chills everytime I hear it.

5. "Please" (Popmart, Mexico City) - Like "Bad," a song that truly that on a new life performed live, as many U2 songs do.

6. "Elevation" (Elevation Tour, Boston) - Always gets the crowd going and was a great opener for this tour as the band came on stage with the lights on to the surprise of the audience.

7. "Until the End of the World" (Elevation Tour, Boston) - One of their absolute best live songs. The "duel" near the end between Bono and The Edge (in which The Edge always wins, of course) is just epic.

8. "In a Little While" (Elevation Tour, Boston) - One of my favorites. Joey Ramone died listening to this song in his hospital room and U2 gives a great performance in tribute to him (the Ramones were a big influence on them). "Slow down my beating heart..."

9. "Gone" (Elevation Tour, Boston) - Another song re-invented live into something truly special (and watching The Edge kick the crap out of his guitar at the end is just fun).

10. "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)" (Elevation Tour, Boston) - One of the best moments during the middle of each concert is when Bono and The Edge perform one or two songs in an acoustic set. Here they brought back an underrated gem from the "Zooropa" era. They are playing it again on the current tour and I hope we hear it.

11. "Out of Control" (Slane Castle) - U2 brings back their very first single, which they had released more than 20 years earlier, for the home crowd in Ireland.

12. "Desire" (Slane Castle) - 'Nuff said.

13. and 14. "Beautiful Day" and "MLK/Where the Streets Have No Name" (Superbowl XXXVI) - Best halftime show ever as U2 pays an emotional tribute to the victims of 9/11 with a powerful performance. As it always is, "Where the Streets Have No Name" is absolutely euphoric. If pure joy could be translated into a song, it would be this one.

15. "Vertigo" (Vertigo Tour, Chicago) - People go so crazy for this song live that U2 often opened and closed with it on several dates during this tour, which I don't think they've done with any other song. I love this performance because, as he often does, Bono snippets another song - "Stories for Boys" from their first album "Boy." This is my favorte snippet of either a U2 or non-U2 song he's done as both songs feature the lyric "Hello, Hello" and it works seamlessly.

16. and 17. "The Fly" & "Mysterious Ways" (Vertigo Tour, Chicago) - Best. Encore. Ever. U2 finally perfect their performance of "The Fly" (one of my personal favorites) and this performance of "Mysterious Ways" with the The Edge's closing sonic fury and the dancing girl from the audience make it my single favorite U2 live video to watch.

18. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (Vertigo Tour, Milan) - Pure magic. No song gets the crowd to sing along more than this one. In fact, I've seen videos of several shows on this tour where the crowd completely took over the vocals! Will the same happen in Dallas? We'll find out soon enough!

19. "All I Want Is You" (Vertigo Tour, Milan) - Just another great performance of another great song.

20. "Magnificent" (Somerville Theatre, Boston) - Great vid from the "No Line on the Horizon" promo tour. Sure to be one of the highlights of the upcoming concert. Can't wait!


Xanthippas said...

Awesome list!

Nat-Wu said...


Nat-Wu said...

Good list dude. And it proves you're the biggest U2 fan anybody knows.

adam said...

Nah, I don't have a website or blog or twitter page devoted entirely too them, just one post. But I'm working on my tribute band...

Xanthippas said...

Man, of all of those, I think the halftime show is my personal favorite. There will never be a greater halftime show than that one. I'm a cynical bastard sometimes, but I teared up when I watched that. Hell, I teared up watching it again just now. Such is the power of music to heal, even in the wake a horrible tragedy.

adam said...

Yeah, while not the best quality video in terms of sound for those songs, I had to put that one because of its raw, emotional power. And no, there won't ever be a better halftime show than that.

adam said...

I should have made this longer (though I could simply go on forever with it, but I had to stop somewhere and didn't want the page to take forever to load), so here's 5 honorable mentions just for the fun of it:

-"With or Without You" from Elevation, Boston. Just a pretty good version of this:

-"Kite" from Elevation, Boston. Bono wrote this for his kids but here it's an emotional tribute to his late father instead:

-"Cry/The Electric Co." from Vertigo, Chicago. U2 bring this "Boy" song back for one awesome performance:

-"New Year's Day" from Slane Castle. It was hard to pick the best professionally recorded performance of this song, but I think this is it:

-"Zoo Station" from Vertigo, Chicago (begins the "Return of Zoo TV" encore that follows with "The Fly" and "Mysterious Ways" from above):

DCnish said...

U2 if also my faaaaavorite band! If you're interested, I've compiled a great youtube playlist of my favorite U2 videos/songs/live performances:

(Youtube only allows 200 videos per playlist, so I've also got 2 other U2 music lists, and also a playlist specifically for U2 interviews, etc. If you go to my main youtube page (DCnishy), you should see them.) Enjoy!

adam said...

That's awesome! Thanks.

I don't know if you leave near the DFW area in Texas but if so you should check out my U2 tribute band: