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.
Denver Rocky Mountain News
U2 Delivers No-Nonsense Show
by Michael Mehle
What’s a U2 concert without a wall of television screens, an evening of costume changes and a heavy dose of irony poking fun at pop culture?
For starters, refreshing. Add to that commanding. And (though they’d be loath to hear it) a tad nostalgic.
U2 brought its understated Elevation Tour 2001 to the Pepsi Center on Friday and showed a sold-out crowd that less is more if you’ve got the songs to back it up. The show was far from flawless, but that was also part of its charm. This was unrehearsed, unpolished, meat and potatoes (or would that be corned beef and cabbage?) arena rock, a U2 specialty put on the back burner while the band pumped up its act for stadiums.
The group set the tone early by taking the stage with all the house lights on, blasting into the exuberant Elevation while unsuspecting fans scrambled to their seats.
The message: If you were waiting for flash and fancy props, you came to the wrong show. Like an investor with a portfolio full of tech stocks, U2 lived large for a few years before realizing that this was a good time to downsize and get back to basics. Cars suspended above the stage as spotlights? Gone. A giant disco ball shaped like a lemon, enormous golden arches and lounge-like alter egos? All gone.
Redemption came Friday in the form of a stripped-down, no-nonsense rock show that kept the crowd on its feet for two hours. The band peppered its concert with two decades worth of hits, uncorked live versions of new songs and got up-close with a crowd that hadn’t seen U2 in an arena in more than a decade.
The show’s one flourish was a heart-shaped walkway that extended halfway across the arena floor, allowing Bono and The Edge to cavort with a general admission crowd charged just $45 a person to stand on the floor. (Seats on the sides went as high as $135).
During Until the End of the World, the two sparred like bull and toreador, Bono with his fingers on top of his head like horns and The Edge slashing at his guitar.
At the end of the first set, while the band barreled through The Fly, Bono left the ramp and pushed his way through the crowd and to the back of the arena. But mostly the band stayed closed to the stage and its rhythmic backbone, content to charge through their repertoir minus theatrics.
The concert’s zenith came 45 minutes into the evening when the band followed its bristling, early ’80s breakthrough, I Will Follow, with its bellwether anthem Sunday Bloody Sunday. If the audience’s attention had wavered a bit before that, U2 had the throng locked in for the duration afterward, following that potent one-two punch with the brilliant B-side, Sweetest Thing.
“That’s the most expensive apology,” Bono explained to the crowd afterward. “That song was written for the missus, having forgotten her birthday.”
Other highlights included the mournful Stuck In a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of, a gorgeous mid-tempo ballad dedicated to INXS’ late frontman, Michael Hutchence, and punctuated by The Edge’s warm falsetto on backing vocals. Later, U2 raised the roof with another heavyweight combination of Bad and Where The Streets Have No Name.
While the concert offered some sublime moments, it also had its share of klunkers. For starters, the band played three songs from Pop, which was at least two too many. Also, in the time that it took for the quartet to plod through the new, tuneless New York, it could have served up at least two of dozens of gems that didn’t make the set list.
Also, Bono wasn’t 100 percent. His voice was splendid, but he spent much of the evening sauntering across the stage. Where’s the frontman who sprinted to the top of the towers at Red Rocks? Maybe that’s just the difference between 23 and 40.
But the band is adamant that their salad days aren’t behind them, and the strength of the new material from All That You Can’t Leave Behind backed them up on Friday. On some stops, Bono has declared this the “Reapplying For the Job Tour.” And the job he’s referring to is that mythical position as the greatest band on earth.
So, after Friday’s show, do they get the job?
We won’t waste our time on U2’s egotistical exercise. But we would be happy to invite the band back for a second interview.
All images are © Denver Rocky Mountain News; © Tom Johnson