Concert Reviews

Under a Blood Red Rocks Sky

Slide Show

“This song is not a rebel song. This song is ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday!’”

This song is beset by incorrectly tuned guitars.

But let’s not get too nitpicky about local U2 tribute band Under a Blood Red Sky’s performance of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and the rest of their act at Red Rocks last night, a largely faithful re-creation of the original U2’s June 5, 1983 performance at the amphitheater, a now-mythical show that helped launch the Irish foursome — and the venue itself — into international stardom. Sure, Under a Blood Red Sky lead singer Billy Bunting’s Bono-mullet was a little thin on top, the Irish accents were a bit garbled and the Edge stand-in (aka “the Tedge”) flubbed a few chords. But what the group lacked in polish it made up for in heart, exhibiting the same end-of-the-world determination that helped earn U2 the title “The best band in the world.”

After performing a song-by-song re-creation of the original show, from “Surrender” to “Gloria” to the obscure “Party Girl,” Under a Blood Red Sky returned for a full second set of U2’s greatest hits, complete with Bunting transforming from an early-era sleeveless T-shirt Bono into a mid-era shiny leather bodysuit Bono and a late-era American flag-emblazoned jeans jacket Bono. It appeared no one bothered to tell Bunting and his band mates that their performance was just the lead-in to Red Rocks’ final “Film on the Rocks” of the summer – or maybe everyone realized a tribute to one of Red Rocks’ greatest concerts was better than the crappy film Wedding Crashers anyway. And considering the very, very long pre-movie extravaganza also featured promotional helicopter fly-bys, plane-ticket giveaways, MC commentary by Chuck “drunken bear” Roy and a real wedding on the stage officiated by Red Rocks marketing head Eric Dyce, the tribute band was probably the least surreal part of the night.

As evening set in, it became easier to forget that the thousand points of lights glowing in the amphitheater were text-messaging cell phones, not lighters, and that the band giving it their all on stage weren’t really superstars. It made one hope the tribute band succeeds in its quest to return to Red Rocks next year for the original performance’s 25th anniversary (unless, of course, Red Rocks is able to lure back the real deal, at which point Bunting has generously offered to step aside). But even if future plans fall through, Under a Blood Red Sky will always have August 21, 2007.

In the midst of the U2 classic “40,” Bunting paused, clearly amazed at his audience, a sold-out Red Rocks crowd (one that surely dwarfed the meager attendance of the original show, a storm-bedraggled affair that was nearly cancelled). Opening his arms wide, the faux Bono exclaimed, “You guys sound beautiful!”

Right back at you, Bunting. Maybe not even better than the real thing, but not too far off. – Joel Warner

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner