Opening Act(s): PJ Harvey
Elevation, Beautiful Day, Until The End Of The World, New Year’s Day, Kite, New York, I Will Follow, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of, In A Little While, Stay (Faraway, So Close!), Bad-40, 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.
U2 Raises Crowd To New Elevation
Stars within fans’ reach as tour leaves spectacle behind
by Kerry Lengel
U2 is billing its current “Elevation” tour as a stripped-down, back-to-basics, all-about-the- music return to the good old days before the stadium extravaganzas of “Zoo TV” and “PopMart.”
But don’t let the absence of supersize cartoons and giant lemon mirror balls fool you: The Irish superstars’ concert Saturday night at America West Arena was a painstakingly planned tour de force of arena-rock showmanship.
After an energetic (if coolly received) opening set by post-punk diva PJ Harvey, the four lads from Dublin hit the stage in laid-back style. Casually dressed under undimmed lights, they launched with no fanfare into the soaring, soulful Elevation, from their current hit album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
Bono started working the crowd almost immediately. Singing easily and striding along the runway that looped onto the floor, he stretched out his hand to his adoring fans. It was a gesture he would repeat all night, now teasing them by waving his fingers inches from theirs, now grasping hands firmly like a Pope offering his blessing.
Is this guy a rock star or what?
At first the staging was low-key. Four video screens offered close-ups of each band member in understated black and white, and after the house lights went down, the band was illuminated by simple spotlights during such serious-minded anthems as New Year’s Day. But before long it was time to serve up a little spectacle in return for the top dollar fans had spent on tickets.
During New York, giant scrims were lowered so Bono’s undulating shadow could be enlarged to mythic proportion. For other songs, there were dazzling light patterns dancing across the faces in the packed arena, or colorful animation on a series of video screens that rose and then disappeared behind the stage.
As for the music, well, these guys are pros. While Bono plied his rock-god shtick, the Edge pounded out those ringing guitar riffs that define U2’s sound. As always, Larry Mullen Jr.’s eloquent drumming laid the rhythmic foundation, with a little help from bassist Adam Clayton. Whether playing the fierce and pounding Sunday Bloody Sunday, the grandly hypnotic Bad or the angular, serrated The Fly, they recaptured the energy that has made them legendary live performers.
The sheer breadth of the band’s two-decade repertoire made for some odd clashes in tone. One minute, Bono was crossing himself and praising God during Where the Streets Have No Name, and the next he was shaking his pelvis at the technicolor silhouette of a video-screen dancing girl during Mysterious Ways.
The band performed these transitions with practiced ease, but what held it all together was the deafeningly devoted crowd, which sang along as readily to new tunes such as Beautiful Day as it did to already immortal anthems like Pride (In the Name of Love) — the concert’s heart-swelling climax.
After that, a return-to-casual encore of One and Walk On was just the proverbial icing.
Reach Lengel at [email protected] or (602) 444-4896.
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