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, Desire, 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, Walk On.
Lexington Herald Leader
U2 Reinvents Itself With Old, New Numbers
Elevation Tour takes band to new heights
By Walter Tunis, contributing music critic
“All right, Kentucky… elevate!”
That was the friendly but firm battle cry Bono used to unleash U2 on a Rupp Arena crowd of 16,000 last night for its first Bluegrass performance in more than 13 years.
By mixing a lean blend of new tunes, old favorites and a few affectionate nods to fallen heroes, U2 didn’t so much re-establish its vitality as a band and its place in today’s mainstream as reinvent it.
Gone largely from the two-hour performance was the pomp and props of U2’s ’90s years. In their place was an intensely audience-friendly show that placed lead singer Bono and the boys squarely in the hands and hearts of their fans.
After the band opened with Elevation and a celebratory Beautiful Day, one of the evening’s most remarkable and energized moments unfolded. As Bono and U2 guitarist The Edge journeyed down the stage’s extended heart-shaped ramp to the center of the Rupp crowd, the singer wound up on his back. Whether it was by accident or intent was hard to say, but as The Edge bore down with a solo that seemed to rattle the earth, Bono responded by kicking his compadre’s guitar. Then slapping it with his hand. Then whipping it with his microphone. It was a snapshot of U2 at its most delightfully reckless.
Later, in the exact same spot the heart’s tip Bono and The Edge squared off again, but with far friendlier fire, thanks to a soulful and ragged duet version of Desire and an acoustic reworking of Zooropa’s Stay (Faraway, So Close!).
In practical terms, these seemingly opposing moments spoke volumes for the 21st-century U2. There were echoes of the band’s upstart ’80s beginnings, as in a still-solemn Sunday Bloody Sunday. But the real power came when U2 re-examined the promise of its past before last night’s largely college-age crowd.
Case in point: brief footage just before the concert’s half-hour encore of film icon-turned-National Rifle Association chieftain Charlton Heston proclaiming “a gun is only bad in the hands of a bad person.” The clip faded to a shot of a toddler playfully pulling a firearm out of a shopping bag and U2 blasting into Bullet the Blue Sky.
But the band’s current Elevation Tour seems to seek peace and prayer as much as it does protest. Kite, one of the most striking numbers from its new All That You Can’t Leave Behind album, was performed as a quiet and contemplative song of loss. Such loss was calculated more exactly in two other new songs. Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of eulogized the late Michael Hutchence of INXS while In a Little While was dedicated to punk forefather Joey Ramone, who died last month.
Lest the program sound like it was mired in sorrow, there were two set-closing Achtung Baby hits Mysterious Ways and The Fly that turned U2’s mighty mortality play into a pure pop party. PJ Harvey’s 40-minute opening was a quieter delight, mostly because the bulk of the crowd was unfamiliar with her work. But whether it was with the trio crunch of 1993’s Man Size or the more reflective quintet setting of You Said Something, Harvey’s set was a tough, spirited summit of Patti Smith-style street smarts and Chrissie Hynde-pop accessibility.
The highlight in this Derby Eve spectacular: another U2 reinvention of the old where 1984’s Bad and the chorus from 1983’s 40 were slapped merrily together as a preface to 1987’s Where The Streets Have No Name. It was a crowning touch to a show that merrily tossed past triumphs to an eager and willing young crowd.
Perhaps no one was elevated in the strict sense of the term. But you can bet more than a few souls were uplifted.
All images are © Kevin Shade