As I sit down to write this, the U2 world is engulfed in an inferno of rumors. What’s known for sure is this – this year, 2017, is the thirtieth anniversary of the original release of U2’s hit record The Joshua Tree, and U2 seems to be planning a tour or a series of concerts to commemorate the occasion. The official announcement is rumored to be taking place on the morning of January ninth, so by the time you get around to reading this the speculation may be all over, replaced by the facts as proclaimed by our favorite band, but at this stage there are a lot of things still up in the air. One question that’s been on my mind since these rumors began a week or so ago is this – if this is a tour that exists specifically to celebrate The Joshua Tree, what songs, precisely, is U2 planning to perform? Dare I hope that the album will be performed in it’s entirety? That would mean that a song that has never before been performed live, “Red Hill Mining Town”, will finally make it’s live debut. If U2 actually present “Red Hill Mining Town” live on stage, it will fulfill a dream that has burned in my breast ever since I got turned on to U2, way back in 1989.
“Red Hill Mining Town” is an interesting song in that it’s origins are couched in a political event, the National Union of Mine-workers strike of 1984, but it isn’t overtly political in it’s lyrics or message. Instead, Bono chose to examine the way personal lives and relationships were affected by this affair. The words to “Red Hill Mining Town” tell the story of a worker who has lost nearly everything because of the strike, only to find themselves in danger of losing the one thing they have left, their romantic relationship. I’ve often read or heard about this happening – a man (although the song could just easily be about a woman) who is out of work loses his self-confidence and turns bitter, and this change in his personality begins to place a strain on his marriage or partnership. That’s exactly the sort of struggle that this song talks about.
The music to “Red Hill Mining Town” is, in many ways, the most traditional sounding on The Joshua Tree. The song starts out with a simple guitar riff before Bono’s voice, full of aching and ardor, comes in plaintively. Before long, the rest of the band join in, bringing some depth and strength to the somewhat mournful proceedings. Bono’s wailing on the chorus is backed by wordless “ooh’s”, which help give the song it’s timeless feeling. Despite the classic sound of the song, though, Bono’s passion and the gentle, hypnotic, rise-and-fall melody, along with the huge uplift when Bono’s voice raises an octave for the chorus, set this song aside as an undeniable winner. It was an early favorite of mine when I first discovered U2, and to hear or see it played live, by U2, would be a dream come true. Hopefully, tomorrow’s announcement will include something to give me hope that that dream is about to come to fruition.
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