From the Stacks

From The Stacks: U2, ‘Back Through the Mirror’ (Bootleg)

U2 is a divisive band these days, but back in the early ’80s they were new wave favorites.

Those early albums were short on talent but long on potential, and that’s what made them so exciting. All of the pieces were there–Bono’s voice, the Edge’s textures, Clayton’s workman-like bass lines, and Larry Mullen’s rock steady drumming. What made it all so special was the rawness, the simplicity, the potential. Many of us believed U2 meant “you, too,” as in “You, too, can do this.”

It was clear by The Unforgettable Fire that they were going to be the biggest band in the world eventually. That’s a truly great album, which is when us early fans knew that we, too, could not do this.  One album later, fans of “Party Girl” and “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” were permanently estranged by the super slick the Joshua Tree. That was no matter: U2 may have lost their core audience but they gained a massive global one in exchange.

But I come not to bury Caesar but to praise him. Listening to this audience recording of a 1981 club show in Germany brings back all of the magic of that raw little band that so many of us loved. Back Through the Mirror sounds like there couldn’t have been more than 75 people in attendance (and I bet they’re still bragging about it, lucky bastards), but U2 plays their little Irish hearts out. It’s a beautiful thing.

This particular bootleg is CD only, no vinyl to stick in your stacks. I have no idea how to price it. The fans who pay $500 to see the band in a football stadium don’t want a low quality CD of a 35 year-old show, and the old fans who would appreciate it have been run off by the slick pop and Apple gimmicks. Let’s call it 5-10 dollars if you can find a copy, but that’s a total guess. Happy hunting.

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