Review Summary: Where the streets have no blame.
I'll preface this review by wishing all prospective buyers the very best of luck in finding a physical copy of this album. The Wide Awake in Europe
EP exists solely in vinyl format, and only 5,000 copies were ever produced; in fact, this review was only made possible thanks to the gods of YouTube. Having said that, the appearance of new U2 material can hardly come as a surprise, particularly as the band themselves have been hinting at the coming of a new release for the past year or so. In fact, in an August interview bassist Adam Clayton himself remarked that, "We're kind of trying to break it up a bit. You know, the idea of doing another big record and going away for a long time doesn't appeal to us. But the idea of putting out tracks in the show and seeing what happens to them, maybe putting out a little EP at some point - these are all possibilities we're thinking about."
It is thus that we find ourselves with U2's latest release, Wide Awake in Europe
. As is obvious, the record's title is itself strongly reminiscent of U2's 1985 release, Wide Awake in America
, a four-track record that featured two live songs and two previously unreleased studio out-takes that were left over from The Unforgettable Fire sessions. Much in the same vein, Wide Awake in Europe
features a trio of live recordings, all of which have been taken from the band's ongoing 360° Tour. Of the three songs in the tracklist, the Brussels performance of "Mercy" is undoubtedly the biggest treat to fans - it is a leaked B-side from the How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
sessions that has not yet received an official release. In its final form, the song certainly does not disappoint: The Edge's trademark chiming rings all over the track, and Adam Clayton's bass infuses the backing rhythm with an infectious tempo that belies its slow, trance-like status. Bono's lyrical themes also recall All That You Can't Leave Behind
numbers like "Peace on Earth" and "When I Look At The World", creating a strong sense of familiarity as he gently muses, "We're a binary code...a one and a zero". At the end of its four minute span, "Mercy" manages to comfortably stack up to its many predecessors, and is a worthy addition to the U2 canon.
Although it has the silliest title for a U2 song since Zooropa
's "Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car", the inclusion of the Redanka remix of "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" provides the listener with a welcome and much-needed break. The song is a complete polar opposite to "Mercy"'s overbearing subtlety, and successfully injects the EP with a sultry party vibe. Although the remix itself has strongly polarized audiences each time it has been performed on tour, it remains as a very fine piece of showmanship, with Bono's classy snippeting of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Two Tribes" and "Relax" being particularly well-executed. As an end to affairs, EP closer "Moment of Surrender" is equally as stunning and effortlessly manages to be hopeful, glorious, and resplendent all at once. The most haunting moment of this ambient ballad is undoubtedly the Paris crowd's echoing of Bono's sorrowful refrain at the very beginning of the track. There is no theatrical panache to be found here, just a firm reminder of the legions of loyal followers which the four Irish lads still command.
Many bands - old and new - can only marvel at the ease with which U2 have reasserted their relevance, despite having been in the show business for over thirty years. As the twilight of an artist's career approaches (and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that U2 are on the brink of just that), logic dictates that the best message to send is always one of youthful defiance. With this extended play U2 have done exactly that - perhaps even flawlessly.
Bring on the fourth decade.