Opening Act(s): Chemical Brothers
Beautiful Day, Elevation, Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of, I Remember You, New York, I Will Follow, Desire, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Mysterious Ways-Sexual Healing, One-Walk On, All I Want Is You, Bad-Ruby Tuesday. Encore(s): 11 O'Clock Tick Tock, Won't Get Fooled Again.
U2 perform a free concert for 1,000 people presented by New York radio station KROQ (WXRK, 92.3FM). The show is broadcast on radio across the country. U2 cover The Ramones' 'I Remember You' and The Who's 'Won't Get Fooled Again.' '11 O'Clock Tick Tock' is also performed for the first time in almost eleven years.
New York Times
Divinely and Romantically, Embracing a Higher Love
by Jon Pareles
U2 is stripping away its facades. On Tuesday night, when it played at Irving Plaza for a nationwide radio broadcast, U2 was just a four-man band on a plain club stage. The concert was, pragmatically, part of a promotional effort for the band's new album, "All That You Can't Leave Behind" (Interscope). But it was also a signal that U2 had decided to reclaim an identity that it struggled against for a decade: unguarded, anthemic and openly spiritual.
U2 spent most of the 1990's trying to transform itself and stay up to date. On albums it fought its own penchant for grandeur, enveloping the music with electronic noise and dance-club rhythms and letting some lyrics turn oblique. Onstage it embraced the artifice of razzle-dazzle stadium productions. The tension between U2's reflexes and its ambitions sparked extraordinary work, particularly the 1991 album "Achtung Baby" and the Zoo TV tour that followed it.
But after U2's 1997 album, "Pop" (Island), and its tour met a mixed reception -- in part because they were too somber for the title -- the band remade itself once again. Holding onto only a little electronic embellishment, it has returned to its 1980's sound, with the rhythm section of Larry Mullen Jr. on drums and Adam Clayton on bass proudly marching ahead while the Edge's guitar peals like cathedral bells.
Again and again during the set, Bono sang with one hand upraised, a preacher's gesture. He was giving his benediction in a tradition shared by soul music and Sufi devotional poetry, as the songs in the set -- both new ones like "Elevation" and older ones like "Desire" and "Bad" -- sought grace and fulfillment. Whether it was through the power of a deity or the embrace of a lover, the songs called for nothing less than transcendence, a willing surrender to something greater than earthbound concerns. The songs confess to weakness and doubt, believing that love -- divine or romantic -- can conquer all.
U2's music promises the certainty that the lyrics crave. It relies on the three-chord basics of punk, blues, folk-rock and Bo Diddley beats; it also depends on the Edge's own wide-open guitar style, picking just a few notes to conjure resonant sonic expanses. Bono's voice often starts out low and humble, then ascends like the rock version of a classic Irish tenor as choruses proclaim the possibility of release.
Between songs, Bono spoke about U2's longevity -- he has spent more than half his life in the band -- and compared the band to the priesthood and the mob. "You won't get out of it while you're alive," he said. The set harked back to U2's beginnings in the 1970's, with a Ramones tribute and an old U2 song, "11 O'Clock Tick Tock." It added other people's songs -- "Sexual Healing," "Ruby Tuesday" -- to the codas of its own tunes, and it attached new songs to old ones, segueing "One" into the new "Walk On." The band was no longer trying to escape rock's memory or its past.
The music defied the wounded, petty, vengeful tone of most current rock; the songs would rather reach past momentary problems than wallow in them. And if that made U2 vulnerable to charges of being goody-goody types, not hip and ironic, it was a chance the band was willing to take. U2's encore, the Who's cynical "Won't Get Fooled Again," hinted at self-protection, even if Bono lingered over the line "get on my knees and pray." But by then it was too late: U2 had long since given up on acting cool.
© 2000 New York Times. All rights reserved.
U2 Brings Down The House In New York
by Barry A. Jeckell
Following in the recent steps of fellow superstars Madonna and Ricky Martin, U2 played a rare club gig Tuesday (Dec. 5) night in New York. The group performed an hour-long set of new songs and classics for an audience of 1,000 contest winners, music industry insiders, and celebrities at the city's Irving Plaza.
Sponsored by New York's K-Rock (WXRK) and broadcast on radio stations nationally, the show was undeniably the hottest ticket in town. For every Billy Corgan and Zack De La Rocha (to whom Bono lamented the recent end of their respective bands from the stage) sighting inside the venue, there were also rumors of notable figures -- MTV News mainstay Kurt Loder and actor Matt Damon among them -- who were cut from the list, which was strictly held to 1,000 by local fire officials.
The novelty of the night was the opportunity to see a band of U2's stature -- whose spectacular multi-media tours routinely sell-out arenas and stadiums worldwide -- performing in an intimate live environment it has been far removed from for many years. The situation seemed to fit well with guitarist the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton, and drummer Larry Mullen Jr., all of whom looked relaxed and content throughout the set. The same cannot be said for frontman Bono, who appeared uncomfortable and confined, as if the small stage didn't offer enough room for him to prowl and preen before his adoring audience.
The band kicked off with what are arguably two of the strongest tracks on its latest album, "All That You Can't Leave Behind" (Interscope) -- "Beautiful Day," and "Elevation." The former served to explosively announce the band's return, as it was delivered with a ferocity that placed it squarely among the band's substantial arsenal of anthems. Throughout the song, a manic Bono teased the audience, crouching, lunging, and stretching his hand just out of reach of the fans squashed against the security barrier in front of the stage.
Another new album song, "Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of," which Bono dedicated to late INXS singer Michael Hutchence, followed, offering the Edge a welcome chance to deliver a falsetto verse. After explaining the influence the music of the city had u2 as a young band, Bono dedicated "New York," the last new song of the evening, to Joey Ramone.
From there on out, the band ran through a litany of some of its biggest songs -- including "I Will Follow," "Desire," "One," and "All I Want Is You." Save for a few jumbled lyrics, and the unnecessary inclusion of refrains of the Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday" (during "Bad") and Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" (during "Mysterious Ways"), each was memorably and excitingly delivered, pushing the crowd into a near frenzy.
Dressed in a leather blazer and pants, Bono's sweaty, rock star posturing was in stark contrast to that of his comfortable, t-shirted bandmates. The inherent pretension we've come to expect from this man -- who compared being in the band to the Mafia, saying, "you don't get out of it while you're alive" -- seemed to melt away only sporadically during the set. Remarkably, one of these moments came during his heartfelt and humorous introduction of the band that was laughingly interrupted by an audience member seeking three seconds of fame by yelling, "Yankee baseball!" during a quiet passage, to which the singer reacted with an "only in New York" grin.
Another vulnerable moment came during "Mysterious Ways," as Bono perched himself on the security wall, leaning on a barrage of outstretched arms to support him. While at first it looked as if he was looking for the other 15,000-to-70,000 people usually in front of him during a performance, the human connection briefly accomplished the goal of bringing Bono and U2 back to the emotion of the music that made the night such a unique and special experience.
What was an event most will speak of with reverence for years to come ended on a sour note, as the band followed a stellar encore performance of the rarely performed "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" with what now seems to be a rock concert requisite Who cover. The band ran through a sloppy rendition "Won't Get Fooled Again" that saw Bono obviously reading the lyrics from the stage floor. With a history of so many great songs, the forced inclusion of the homage to Townshend and company was indeed a poor decision.
The show was opened by an hour-plus DJ set by the Chemical Brothers, who were warmly received, but found their considerable talents reduced to that of a jukebox. The duo received far more response for slipping in a snippet of the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and an unembellished full version of the Clash's "Train In Vain" near the end of their set than for several passages of innovative mixes and rafter-shaking beats.
© 2000 Billboard magazine. All rights reserved.