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, Discothèque, Staring At The Sun, New York, I Will Follow, Sunday Bloody Sunday, The Sweetest Thing, In A Little While, 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, One, Walk On.
U2, Bono Rise To The Occasion For ‘Elevation Tour 2001’ Here
by Michael D. Clark,
There were no skyscraping golden arches or psychedelic lemons bearing human fruit at this U2 show. The vintage car-headlight illumination and super-sized Achtung Baby screens were all left back on planet Zooropa.
Irish supergroup U2’s first tour in four years wasn’t about fly sunglasses or how many people could be wedged into a football stadium to watch lead singer Bono strut to Pop Muzik. This was a rock ‘n’ roll concert, and it was the sweetest thing.
At the opening night of the “Elevation Tour 2001” on March 24, U2 told its Miami audience that it was reapplying for the job of biggest band in the world. On Monday, the sold-out crowd at Compaq Center offered the group the position.
U2’s latest album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, is its most energetic, straightforward rock album since The Joshua Tree in 1987. The difference is then they were looking forward. Now, they are looking back and taking fans of all ages with them.
Even the Grammy awards chose the first single from the album, Beautiful Day, as the song and record of the year. For better or worse, U2 is the newest of the “oldies,” trading youth for immortality.
All came to see what was promised to be a stripped-down affair compared with the exhausting Vegas stage shows of the ’90s. U2 didn’t disappoint. After a decade of voice manipulations and synthesizer-assisted melodies, U2 is back to where it was at its peak — moving rock ‘n’ roll forward by exploring its past.
Playing to their smallest crowds since a few indoor dates in the late ’80s, Bono, The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. spent just over two hours mining their catalog.
From the first notes of new song Elevation, this was a different experience than the satellite TVs. On a stage adorned only with a heart-shaped platform maybe 20 yards into the audience, the members simply started playing as if it were a living-room jam.
U2 has the luxury of so many hits that it doesn’t have to save its recent radio success for the encore. Beautiful Day was the second song and the official beginning of the rock. After stomping the main stage in black pants and leather jacket, Bono and Edge began at opposite ends of the heart-shaped arc for Until The End of the World.
Bono was pacing a catwalk slowly during Sunday Blood Sunday, a song about the ravages of war in Ireland. He would shake and cry when singing it in the Blood Red Sky days. This rendition was soft-spoken.
“Thanks for hanging around all those years,” Bono said during a break. “We’ve got a lot of friends in Texas and here in Houston.”
Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of, dedicated to Michael Hutchence, the former INXS vocalist who died of accidental strangulation, was one of the most riveting moments. With Bono center stage, he sang with compassion and sympathy. Edge’s rare falsetto accompaniment on the final coda was perfect contrast to Bono’s calm.
However, not every gimmick livened up a pyro-free stage. The inhuman techno-beat of Discotheque merging into Staring at the Sun muted the effect of both songs. It was a brief respite, broken by the blaring alarm of Edge’s guitar on the 1980 first single I Will Follow.
More than 20 songs were played, and the wish list wasn’t nearly fulfilled. Bad was little changed, except instead of yelling the chorus of “wide awake,” Bono whispered it, indicating there shouldn’t be a question. B-side favorite The Sweetest Thing, featuring Bono on keyboards, and soundtrack extra The Ground Beneath Her Feet were interesting curiosities.
In the end, it was the The Joshua Tree hits that still brought the biggest roar.
Saved as encores, Bullet the Blue Sky still worked as an anti-war protest and With or Without You is the greatest love song that doesn’t necessarily end happily. As good as All That You Can’t Leave Behind is, or anything U2 does after it, Where The Streets Have No Name will be this band’s legacy.
All images are © Houston Chronicle; © U2.com; © Kyle Marden