U2 continued to perform “Sunday Bloody Sunday” as a staple of their live set. As their popularity increased, the band chose it as the opening number of their two-song set for Live Aid. With U2 flags sticking out of the crowd everywhere, the band played a passionate performance during which Bono had the entire Wembley Stadium singing the words “No more!” along with him.
The song reached its live peak during the Joshua Tree Tour. On November 8, 1987, a bomb placed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army exploded during a Remembrance Sunday commemoration in Enniskillen for those killed in all conflicts involving the British Army. The bombing killed 11 people and became the latest stage of the Irish conflict. Later that same day, U2 performed one of the angriest and most passionate versions of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” in their career. It started off with just Edge and Bono before the rest of the band kicked in halfway through. After Edge’s solo, Bono unleashed one of his most scathing rants against the violence occurring in his home country.
After the tour ended, Bono mentioned at one point that the band may never play the song again, since it became real on that day that the performance would never be bested. For the next few years, U2 kept to their word. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” wasn’t played on any of the dates for the 1989 Lovetown Tour. It made a few appearances during the band’s 1992-1993 ZooTV extravaganza, but it was mostly left out of the set.
The song only really returned midway through the band’s 1997-98 Popmart tour. The tour was the most extensive U2 had done up to that point, with dates in South America, Japan, and South Africa. One of the most special dates of the tour occurred when the band visited the war-torn city of Sarajevo. During ZooTV, Sarajevo was under siege by the Serbian Army looking to add the city to a new Serbian state. The conflict lasted for about four years, leading to thousand of deaths and injuries. U2 was closely involved with trying to get help to the citizens of the city and wanted to play there during the conflict. It was deemed too dangerous, though, so the band waited until their next tour to play Sarajevo. It was during this show that “Sunday Bloody Sunday” made its return, albeit in a very different structure. The Edge performed a slow solo version of the song that emphasized the sadness over the violence rather than the anger. It was this version of the song that Edge continued to play for all the remaining dates of the tour, dedicating it to Sarajevo every time.
During U2’s successful Elevation Tour, the “…Sunday” returned in its full band version. This time around, the song was centered on Ireland again. While the Troubles in Ireland had been resolved by 2001, U2 played the song in tribute to those who died in the Omagh bombing of 1998. The bombing killed 29 people in Northern Ireland and was carried out by the Real Irish Republican Army, a splinter group of the IRA. The attack was seen as a response to the nearly completed peace process occurring in the nation. During performances, Bono would ask for the crowd to “Turn this song into a prayer.” During their emotional concerts at Slane Castle, Bono recited off the names of all the victims of the bombing in tribute to the lives lost. After 9/11, the song was played in tribute to those who died in the terrorist attacks. Instead of talking during the middle break, Bono instead hugged an American flag.
Catch the whole series here. Part I currently available and Part III due to be posted on Wedneday.