Like 'Under a Blood Red Sky,' this four-cut mini-LP is intended as a sort of U2 tour memento. It contains two live tracks and two outtakes from The Unforgettable Fire, and it carries a list price of only $4.98. But while Under a Blood Red Sky served a slightly deeper purpose it was the group's first live record, and it capped a stage in U2's evolution as a band Wide Awake in America is more a curio that will be of interest primarily to die-hard fans.
its songs onstage tearing them apart, stretching them out, giving them an entirely different feel and never was that tendency more apparent than on the Unforgettable Fire
tour. Even the harshest critics of that atmospheric, out-of-focus LP had to admit that, onstage, the songs suddenly made sense. "Bad," one of the live cuts here, seemed to benefit the most from that album-to-stage transformation. On The Unforgettable Fire
, the song is a one-dimensional mood piece; in concert, though, it became a showstopper, gradually building from its swirling keyboard intro to a droning, two-chord throb punctuated by the urgent screams of the group's lead singer, Bono. (In this case, the change may have been due to Bono's realization, after he'd written the song, that it was about heroin; during the tour, he frequently dedicated it to a friend from Dublin who had died of an OD.) "A Sort of Homecoming" also has a harder edge in this live version, which was produced by Tony Visconti. Both Adam Clayton's bass and the Edge's guitar are more predominant in this mix, which is considerably cleaner than the studio LP's murky mess.
It's fairly obvious why the remaining two tracks didn't make it onto The Unforgettable Fire. With its prayerlike opening verse and its occasional bursts of Jimi Hendrix-style guitar pyrotechnics from the Edge, "Three Sunrises" sounds like it would have been more at home on War, while "Love Comes Tumbling," a beautiful, lilting ballad, is of relatively minor significance.
Perhaps my greatest misgiving about Wide Awake in America, though, concerns its title. The reference is to a line from "Bad," but the implication that the songs were recorded during the U.S. portion of the group's tour is misleading. Both "Bad" and "A Sort of Homecoming" were recorded in England, not America. (RS 452-453)