Exclusive: Listen to a U2 Concert from 1981

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It’s hard to imagine that over a quarter century has passed since the time this show, featuring an up-and-coming New Wave band called U2, was recorded for the King Biscuit Flower Hour in the intimate Orpheum Theater in Boston on Nov. 14, 1981.

It was shows like this that helped establish U2 as one of the most consistent and powerful live acts, and when the band exploded into one of the biggest bands of all time, there were a number of us who could say: “We saw them in a small venue before they were famous.” Those days are long gone, but recordings like this are the next best thing.

In many respects U2 hasn’t really changed that much as a live act (this recording sounds as though it could have been made on the band’s last tour of the USA). It’s fascinating to hear the quartet working with a set list made up mostly of early album tracks that did not become hits.

There are certainly a few of the hits, including “I Will Follow,” “I Fall Down” and “October,” but the band puts its focus into a number of tracks from the first two albums that are hardly played these days. Among them: “Another Time Another Place,” “I Threw A Brick Through A Window,” “Rejoice” and “Cry The Electric Company.” One listen and it’s clear how crucial The Edge is to U2’s sound. He clearly controls the energy of the show based on how he starts his guitar at the onset of every song.

The band also offers up a fiery versions of “Out Of Control,” “Fire” and the infectious “11 O’Clock Tick Tock”. All in all, this is an amazing show that offers an early glimpse on what rock’s future would clearly become.

In addition to King Biscuit, this concert was recorded by Starfleet and broadcast live on its network of FM stations. Those recordings have been buried in an archive until recently purchased by Paste’s parent company Wolfgang’s Vault. Stream it from Paste or purchase it for download here.

Set List

1. Intro – 00:14
2. Gloria – 04:42
3. Another Time, Another Place – 03:56
4. I Threw A Brick Through A Window – 04:06
5. An Cat Dubh / Into The Heart / With A Shout – 10:41
6. Rejoice – 03:36
7. Cry / The Electric Co. – 04:52
8. I Fall Down – 03:17
9. October – 02:09
10. Stories For Boys – 03:05
11. I Will Follow – 03:51
12. Twilight – 04:07
13. Out Of Control 04:23
14. Fire – 03:46
15. 11 O’Clock Tick Tock – 05:40
16. The Ocean – 03:07


Bono – vocals, guitar
The Edge – guitar, vocals, keyboards
Adam Clayton – bass, vocals
Larry Mullen Jr. – drums, vocals