Opening Act(s): PJ Harvey
Elevation, Beautiful Day, Until The End Of The World, New Year’s Day, Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of, Gone, Even Better Than The Real Thing, New York, I Will Follow, Sunday Bloody Sunday, The Sweetest Thing, In A Little While, Desire, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Bad, Where The Streets Have No Name, Mysterious Ways, The Fly. Encore: Bullet The Blue Sky, With Or Without You, Pride (In The Name Of Love), One, I Remember You, Walk On.
San Diego Union-Tribune
Top Of The World, Baby!
U2 leaves nothing behind in high-flying, triumphant Elevation tour stop
by George Varga, Pop Music Critic
Moving forward by moving back is a daunting task for anyone. But U2 made it look easy during the Irish band’s stripped-down yet rousing Tuesday night concert at the San Diego Sports Arena.
From the opening notes of the first song, the aptly titled “Elevation,” to the last refrain of the final encore, “Walk On,” U2 performed with renewed passion and commitment, as befits a veteran group seeking to reclaim its rock ‘n’ roll throne in an era dominated by teen-pop poseurs, rap-metal louts and swaggering hip-hop braggarts.
Or, as U2’s 40-year-old front man Bono sang during the concert’s emotionally revealing “New York”: Still I’m staying on to figure out my midlife crisis / I hit an iceberg in my life / But you know I’m still afloat.
Make that afloat, and back on course, as the 125-minute, two-dozen song concert handily demonstrated.
The sold-out Elevation 2001 show was U2’s first here since its uber-high-tech PopMart tour stopped at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium in 1997, and its first at the Sports Arena since 1992’s similarly elaborate Zoo TV tour.
The move back to arenas, after nearly a decade in stadiums, coincides with U2’s latest album, the Grammy Award-winning “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.” It finds the band turning back to guitar-driven basics and away from the edgy, experimental, techno-drenched approach featured on the three albums it released during the 1990s, “Achtung Baby,” “Zooropa” and “Pop.”
Artistically, the new album is a retreat to commercially safer ground. But as Tuesday’s concert reaffirmed, there’s much to be said for musical simplicity and directness, especially when a band produces such stirring, anthem-like songs as U2.
Witness the first two selections of the show, both from “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.”
The first, “Elevation,” was initially heard on tape. Then, with the arena’s house lights still on, U2’s four members strode on stage to a deafening ovation and began playing the same song live, without missing a note.
Anchored by a thumping beat from drummer Larry Mullen and bassist Adam Clayton, and a liberating blast of fuzzy guitar from The Edge, the song surged with no-frills power. So did Bono’s falsetto vocal refrain, which the near-delirious crowd of almost 13,000 happily sang back at him.
The house lights were turned off for the similarly uplifting “Beautiful Day.” But the band and the crowd glowed for the remainder of the performance, which alternated between still-vital U2 classics like “New Year’s Day,” “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Where the Streets Have No Name” and such winning new songs as “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” and the Al Green-inspired soul-ballad “In a Little While.”
Bono was in a playful mood throughout. He repeatedly inserted fleeting musical quotes — which ranged from Radiohead’s “Creep” and Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” to Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” and David Bowie’s “Young Americans” — into U2’s own songs.
A master showman, the fist-pumping singer transcended most of the rock-god poses he struck as he pranced around the heart-shaped catwalk that extended from the stage to nearly the center of the arena floor. A few hundred lucky fans were in the center of the “heart,” but most of Bono’s interactions were with the crowd beyond.
The sound and lighting were both first-rate. So was the imaginative use of the black-and-white video screens that hung above each side of the stage.
But this show was about music, not props, and the band seemed to gain new strength by focusing on the power of its songs. Yet, for all its redemptive rock ‘n’ roll thunder, some of the concert’s most touching moments were also its quietest.
“Desire” and “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” were performed as spare duets by Bono and The Edge, who stood together at the tip of the catwalk. Both songs achieved an intimacy rarely heard in arenas. So did the impromptu, a cappella (and initially out-of-tune) encore of the Ramones’ “I Remember You,” one of two songs Bono dedicated to the pioneering punk-rock band’s lead singer, Joey Ramone, who died this week.
Early on in the show, Bono fondly recalled the aftermath of U2’s 1987 Sports Arena show, when fans of the band gathered next to downtown’s U.S. Grant Hotel and serenaded the band.
He concluded Tuesday’s concert by offering repeated thanks to the audience for “a great night,” words that rang as loud and true as U2’s music.
All images are © U2.com; © Andrew O’Donnell