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23 years in this town

Now that U2 are starting the promotional cycle for what could possibly be a particularly significant album in the band's career, let's take a look back at the lead-up to arguably the most career-defining of all U2 albums, The Joshua Tree. 23 years ago today, U2 went "inthistowntastic". The Unforgettable Fire Tour had finished half a year ago. The most substantial work on The Joshua Tree was yet to come - originally intended for a release in late 1986, it came out in March 1987. But on 30 January 1986, U2 made their first public post-Unforgettable Fire foray, appearing on a late night Irish television programme rejoicing in the name of TV Gaga.

And what an appearance it was. After Bono and Larry endure a lengthy interview, they join Edge and Adam onstage; Bono is visibly inebriated, the sobriety of the remainder of the band is questionable, Edge is making one of his first adventures into headwear with a beret, and Adam's hair is dyed rather black indeed. The likelihood of alcohol being present onstage is pretty high. For the occasion, U2 avoid any of their old songs, let alone telegenic hits. Instead, they debut two new songs, followed by a ramshackle cover of Bob Dylan's Knockin' On Heaven's Door with a couple of audience members - one of whom thinks the best way to seize his 15 minutes of fame is by repeatedly singing the title and nothing but the title. Not that Bono set a good example for him in the two songs U2 debuted.

The first new song was Womanfish, a track U2 have never played since. Little wonder! Bono has only about three lyrics prepared, which he awkwardly throws around throughout the song. At one point, he discovers a harmonica and plays that instead. As for the rest of the band, Larry pounds out some strong drumming, while Edge brings out some energetic and heavier guitar playing that seems a bit removed from The Unforgettable Fire's atmospheric tones. When the song concludes, Bono explains that Womanfish is about a mermaid he met once in America. This explanation is broken by a drunken hiccup. The song quickly vanishes into total obscurity.

Next, Bono introduces what is essentially a rough sketch of Trip Through Your Wires, under the title of "I Trip Through Your Wires". Perhaps calling it a rough sketch is being polite. The band seem to have things somewhat together, but every second lyric Bono sings is "in this town". Edge seems unclear just how often he should be singing backing vocals for this line. Bono just keeps intoning it, over and over again. The tide is turning around in this town. We're starting to rebuild in this town. In this town. In this town. (In this town.) In this town? In this town!

It is veritably inthistowntastic. And on this 23rd anniversary, you can see what I mean in all its YouTubed glory. First Womanfish, then In This Town I Trip Through Your Wires. Enjoy. You're not going to see U2 doing this in the lead-up to No Line On The Horizon!

Posted on by Axver

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