U2
Wide Awake in America


2.0
poor

Review

by scotish USER (19 Reviews)
January 3rd, 2010 | 10 replies


Release Date: 1985 | Tracklist

Review Summary: During U2’s concert, these are the bits when everyone went to the bathroom.

Forgive me for opening on an unprofessionally personal note, but I feel it may be the best way to give the album some context and, more importantly, show you which side of the U2 lovers/haters fence I am firmly placed (it’s the former, if you were wondering). I came to “Wide Awake in America” in hope of discovering some more of the bands incomparably majestic live recording, to sate an appetite awakened by the delectable “Under a Blood Red Sky”. To be fair, it was more than a hope – a sort of expectation, a certainty that they would live up to themselves once more, once again prove themselves meisters of the arena. Surmise to say that I was not only disappointed, but confused, when I was let down.

What makes it more depressing is that matters begin with promise as twinkles dissolve into that familiar itching riff under those midrange, distinct notes, sending a tingle up the spine that goes with recognition. Our companion Bono sounds ever the same; the tones we have become accustomed to comfort. Larry and Adam we know are present and correct too as they quietly join in. Good. The whole gang is here and everything should go according to plan – another tremendous U2 live spectacle and one of our favourite tunes at that. A deliciously lively and sprawling bass seem to confirm our expectations, as layers unfold and supplement and engorge the gaining volume. But as much as this build-up builds-up, it concludes without it building up to anything; there is no moment of realisation or of released tension, no highpoint at all to speak of. So, what went wrong"

In theory, nothing did. Strictly speaking, Bono hits the high notes, the percussion returns to docility on cue, The Edge is as consistent as ever and never puts a foot wrong – it’s a remarkably tight live set. Precise, correct – though regrettably, only in the coldest and most mechanical sense. Gone is the showmanship, the spontaneity, the soul that makes U2’s shows extraordinary. So obsessed are they by following procedure that everyone forgets that they should be entertaining and creative; that they’re in the middle of a show, for goodness sake! The result is a dull, dreary and lifeless affair. Precision in a live set is commendable, yes, but what’s the point of a masterclass in musicianship if it’s no fun to listen to" The predominance of silence among the crowd speaks for itself. The one saving grace is the bass. Adams pounding exertion at every scale and pitch is delightful, battling the lifeless monochrome soundscape, even if his fight is ultimately lost.

I would guess that the shortcomings of ‘A Sort Of Homecoming’ are similar – although it is rather hard to tell, because somewhere along the line of recording or production a noticeable amount of clarity and potency is lost. This makes judgement hard. Did Bono manage to put enough power into his vocal performance (which remains diverse), did the Edge’s complementing and offsetting of it pack enough punch to thrill the crowd so; or were they just easily excitable" Either way, it doesn’t matter – what we get on ‘Wide Awake in America’ (apart from, bizarrely, the bass, which once again sounds full and juicy) is flat, listless and smells of poor production quality.

This is the second time that ‘Three Sunrises’ and ‘Love Comes Tumbling’ have been restricted to the B-side. Don’t worry, on the reverse is where they belong. These are no hidden gems but forgettable filler, as they serve no other purpose and are in themselves poor, any notable quality (perhaps the exuberant duo that both stringed instruments make on ‘Three Sunrises’ is a little redeeming) wasted on the sparse production and re-mastering that is typical of B-sides. Today, now that slapping something on the discs opposite side is no longer necessary, it is more than likely that they would have simple been excluded altogether. But let’s face it, everyone that has listened to “Wide Awake in America” did so for the live performance – so they don’t detract from the experience as much as they would. Nevertheless, skip-able tracks are the trademark of a poor album.

It begs the question – what was the point of “Wide Awake in America”" Was it a little extra for the fans" It’s hard to complain if it was, but they would come away disappointed anyway. To demonstrate once again that on stage is where U2 are at home" Nope; if that was it, they would have at least chosen tracks more suited to that experience and not been sloppy in the editing room. To fill in the gap while they worked on their masterpiece, the Joshua Tree" This seems the most admirable and least cynical explanation for this curious EP’s existence. Whatever their intent was, it’s no longer relevant (just like the B-side, both at large and in this instance). Which is for the better, actually, as anyone who takes an interest, even those like myself hoping to feed an addiction for the bands wonderful live material, will come away without finding what they were looking for.



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user ratings (67)
Chart.
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
scotish
January 3rd 2010


836 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

wow, this turned out to be long for a 20 minute album. but hey, it needed a review.

Fuff24
January 3rd 2010


1121 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

good review

robin
Emeritus
January 3rd 2010


4574 Comments


word, i enjoy seeing you churn them out

Nagrarok
January 3rd 2010


8598 Comments


Good work on the review.

It begs the question – what was the point of “Wide Awake in America”?


Mooonneeeeyy, it's a hit.

scotish
January 3rd 2010


836 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

agreed nagrarok tbh, hence why I slipped in that least cynical bit. it doesn't quite fit the U2 ethic but I think that there's alot of truth in it : (

JohnXDoesn't
January 4th 2010


1393 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

nice review, but its just a little ep so perhaps a bit....too critical?



the live cuts are good imo. a sort of homecoming is a fave of mine, however. so i could be bias



i do like the studio cuts. and while three sunrises feels lite and love comes tumbling would be filler on any album, i think they work as odds and ends

scotish
January 4th 2010


836 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

thanks John. I might have come across a bit hard yeah, but I think I just started writing and didn't

really stop. not that I saw very much in it anyway.

JohnXDoesn't
January 4th 2010


1393 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

well i do agree it really is slight. but i find it a bit more enjoyable, i guess. they could have put a couple of more cuts on, at least. just to give it some energy. may have made it feel different



good to see a nice u2 review. i reviewed a few from them, but many of my reviews are hit and miss and wordy. i should go through them like a proof reader but can't be bothered :/



whatever the case it would be nice to see a sensible review of some of their albums. being a fan, it was hard for me not to go overboard. i am disappointed in my no line on the horizon review, as i trashed the steve lillywhite cuts a bit. turns out i like them quite a lot, and two of them are my favorite cuts on the album. i still claim that is the best of their last three albums

scotish
January 4th 2010


836 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

took a look at your no line on the horizon review and it's great, captures the swishy sound of the

album perfectly. can't say that I'm as enthusiastic about that album as you are though, even if I did

see most of it played live (which was amazing). still, excellent review, that it's big doesn't really

matter imo.



I might take a run at some of U2's discog, but I might run into the same problem as yourself being a

fan... maybe rattle and hum to round up the live albums? we'll see.



edit: ugh, hate that line break thing that happens when you edit comments.

JohnXDoesn't
January 4th 2010


1393 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yes well my zooropa review is horrible. poorly written. i mean, i was always an average reviewer at best, but good lord someone plz redo that one



even if its negative it would be an improvement :/



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