Opening Act(s): PJ Harvey
Elevation, Beautiful Day, Until The End Of The World, Discothèque-Staring At The Sun, Mysterious Ways, Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of, Kite, Gone, New York, Out Of Control, Sunday Bloody Sunday, The Sweetest Thing, Desire, Stay (Faraway, So Close), Bad-Norwegian Wood, Where The Streets Have No Name, Pride (In The Name Of Love). Encore: Bullet The Blue Sky, With Or Without You, The Fly, One-She’s A Mystery To Me, Walk On.
U2 use Spice Girls themes during the band’s introductions. Bono refers to Larry as ‘Baby Spice’, Adam as ‘Posh Spice’ and asks The Edge if he’s ‘Sporty’ or ‘Scary’.
A Beautiful Day For U2 Fans
Mark Lepage, The Gazette
“Sign a petition for Jubilee 2000” read the sign at the political action table - “Make Bono proud.”
The implication was that good works by the kids would make the U2 singer a proud papa. But this relationship between band and fan is less parent-child than, in a sense, between peers, and 20 years on perhaps there’s enough pride to go around for everyone.
In the first of two sell-outs, Bono was capable of remembering that far back for 20,000 fans. He remembered when “we played a place with the imaginative name of Le Club,” meaning Le Club Montreal.
“I don’t remember how many people were there but this” he gestured to a Molson Centre stuffed to the gunwales “feels just great.”
Taking the minimalist, heart-shaped stage with house lights up, the band was absurdly loose and confident, powering through Elevation, Beautiful Day, Discotheque, and Stuck in a Moment, dedicated to Michael Hutchence, the late lead singer of INXS. Even this early in the evening, it was apparent that passion and physicality would be married on that heart-shaped stage.
First the entrance, with Bono in heavy boots and what looked like an upmarket Plateau leather jacket, the pumping intro of Elevation with house lights up. Then the lights came down with a crackle and Beautiful Day illuminated the hall. The vocal was ragged but heartfelt - which might stand as a description of the singer.
A girl inside the heart-shaped crowd pit held up a sign reading Dance With Me!!! She had the right idea but the wrong execution. This was to be a redesigned version of U2 Stardom.
Bono worked the crowd all night, with that lumbering grace (another Bono title - His Lumbering Grace), part drunken matador, part boxer, but all comfort. He was close, but he did it his way, reacting less to the crowd’s pleas and gestures than directing them. It was the most physical show this side of vintage Iggy, albeit with the danger sucked out and replaced with arena love and adulation.
Meanwhile, Edge worked his invisible sonic enhancements with a visible FX rack, and techno toys were revealed song by song - individual video screens in Day, strobelit floor strips in Until the End of the World, a backdrop monitor in Discotheque.
We were moving inexorably to rock-as-church, as we always have with U2. Most churches have a charismatic leader. And here’s another great thing about church - all is forgiven.
Having survived the weekend MusiquePlus marathon rerunning of Rattle and Hum - a friend calls it their white bellbottom-giant belt-buckle phase, their Vegas-Elvis phase - here was U2 making it better. In the Molson Centre hallways, tables for Greenpeace and Amnesty International invited fans to help build a better world. Inside, U2 had built a better band for a better mass-venue rock experience.
There is only one way for a band that has always insisted on significance, to make this experience work, and that is to enjoy itself, to let the songs stand on their merits without turning them into a history lesson. Out of Control, reanimated after Bono knows how long, was both nostalgia and vitality. The Sweetest Thing, with Bono at the keyboard (!) was sweet. Happy, settled, confident - let him say it.
“I’d like to introduce you to the rest of the Spice Girls,” he said. “On drums, Baby Spice.” Bassist Adam Clayton was Posh, and Edge? “Are you Sporty or Scary?”
Desire and Stay (Far Away So Close) were performed as busker tunes by Bono and Edge. Bad and Where the Streets Have No Name were performed as hero anthems, as they should have been, with the singer running victory laps around the stage perimeter. Then Bono was thanking the crowd for its years of support - through the “Olympique” shows and Zoo TV, thanking them for spending their hard-earned money. It was touching, and polite, and apt.
Give credit to the crowd (Bono informed them that a stage meter had confirmed them the loudest of the tour), whose welcome for opener PJ Harvey would have been an admirable display of manners had it not simply been proof that they had the ears and eyes to recognize talent. She might have blown any other band out the back doors. As it was, she justified a touch of pride in the entire enterprise. Ninety-seven million albums later, U2 will not give up on this compromised and vital music.
All images are © Montreal Gazette; © Hayley Coristine