Normally I go to Trouser Press for the lowdown on much more obscure post-punk bands than U2 (such as Fingerprintz, Cowboys International, Family Fodder, or Scott Wilk And The Walls), but I felt compelled to see what one of the Internet’s best music review resources had to say about the lads from Dublin. I giggled my ass off when I saw this great little piece of pretentious, yet thoughtful writing:
“Empirical science recognizes two forms of testing, only one of which â€” weighing a pebble, say, or candling an egg â€” is considered non-destructive. It’s the other investigative process that causes irreparable changes to the object being examined. In human terms, this can be characterized as the how-will-you-know-if-you-don’t-try-it quandary. In the discipline of rock, the great what-if questions â€” like what happens to a fiery, idealistic young band that becomes unthinkably popular and still wants to respect itself in the morning â€” can only be answered by living through the experience and extracting whatever data and conclusions might emerge. If the career of U2 is seen as some sort of cosmic sociology project, the results are more confusing than illuminating, and the damage to the subjects is unmistakable. As pivotal collaborator Brian Eno might have observed in one of his oblique strategy sessions, the path between where you mean to go and where you ultimately wind up is rarely a straight line.
All the ironic prophecy anyone need hear regarding U2 is right there in ‘I Will Follow,’ the sweeping declaration that opens Boy: a tiny tape error and a nearly inaudible count-off signifying both the cavalier ignorance of buffed niceties and the commitment to live all-together-now music-making, the distant herald of the Edge’s distinctive two-note riff drama, Larry Mullen Jr.’s firing drum reports, the weird-but-right glockenspiel tinkles, Bono’s titular invocation and finally Adam Clayton’s surprising bass propulsion. And then the lyrics, sung as a passionate teenager’s soulful cry to unmarked heavens: ‘I was on the outside when you said, you said you needed me / I was looking at myself / I was blind I could not see / A boy tries hard to be a man / His mother takes him by his hand / If he stops to think he starts to cry…If you walk away…I will follow.’
Coming straight from the outside of rock convention, the unprecedented Dublin quartet followed nobody in its procession toward locating and satisfying a vast need among the world’s three-chords-and-the-truth-seeking rock audience. The boys tried hard to be men, and within a few years had lost every bit of their childlike grace, with mounting self-obsession and the concomitant inability to see themselves develop into world-class prats before discovering a measure of graceful maturity. ‘If he stops to think he starts to cry.’
U2 had released a few praiseworthy singles before ‘Boy’ introduced them to the world at large, via such songs as ‘I Will Follow,’ ‘An Cat Dubh’ and ‘Into the Heart.’ Powerful and emotional, Bono (Paul Hewson) mixes a blend of rock, Gaelic and operatic styles with the occasional yowl or yodel to lead the band’s attack; guitarist Dave ‘the Edge’ Evans largely shuns chords in favor of brilliant lead or arpeggio figures that propel and color the songs. Mullen and Clayton provide a driving and solid (but sensitive) foundation, completing Boy’s musical package, delivered to disc with great skill and invention by producer Steve Lillywhite. An unquestionable masterpiece, ‘Boy’ has a strength, beauty and character that is hard to believe on a debut album made by teenagers. (Note to novice collectors: the US and UK covers are entirely different.)“
This live set comes from the period right before their MTV ascendancy with their legendary live version of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”.