If there is one song from the already incredible U2 Red Rocks’ set that stands out for me it is definitely 11 O’Clock Tick Tock. You will never hear a better live song by 22 year old kids who are completely killing it.
When I was already a fan for life this otherwise non-studio-album song cemented that belief even further. I clearly remember where I was when I first heard it. It hit me like a hammer. I will never not like this performance. From the cardboard box sounding first guitar notes which drop into the drony teenage angst ridden riff that accompany Bono trough the song while backed by the tightest and most attention demanding rhythm section the 80s had to offer. There is just so much there. It was only til much later I found out it was produced by Martin Hannett. That should explain part of the magic of the song. But being a live performance what stands out here first and foremost are Bono’s vocals who are ridiculously strong. Just insane. The sheer control the band seems to command on stage of their music and the audience makes this performance a forebode of things to come. Namely that this band will go on to be the biggest band of that decade and the one thereafter.
The performance also bares the first marks of things that would go on and define U2. Like this is the first song on which Edge uses the ‘Memory Man’ echo effect and you can see a sweaty and lingering Bono pick out a girl from the audience. And he continues to dance with her, while the music seems to slow down a bit before the dead simple guitar riff comes back to hammer the dagger right in there. Both a sound and image that were already hallmarks for fans at the time, but with this live recording the rest of the world would also know and understand. Bono demonstrates he is the absolute ringleader, while not singing but almost screaming this song and throwing in parts of the song Drowning Man. Yeah, it is intense.
The only bad thing about this song is that my volume doesn’t go to 11.
Also published on Medium.