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, Kite, New York, I Will Follow, Sunday Bloody Sunday, In A Little While, Desire, Stay (Faraway, So Close!), Bad-Ruby Tuesday, 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-Happy Birthday, Walk On.
This is U2’s first concert in Milwaukee since 1981. On the eve of his 41st birthday, Bono sings Happy Birthday to himself at the end of ‘One.’
U2 Pares Special Effects, Relies On Music
by Dave Tianen, Journal Sentinel staff
Early in U2’s sold-out show Wednesday night at the Bradley Center, Bono announced that he still missed his lemon.
The lemon, in case you were one of the fortunate many who missed the band’s “Pop Mart” tour in 1997, was a giant citrus that transported the band across stadiums and then disgorged them at the front of the stage.
I suspect that not many of the fans at Wednesday’s show missed the giant fruit or, for that matter, the songs from the “Pop” album, which have disappeared along with the huge munchies. The band’s “Elevation” tour is an altogether better show.
What U2 has done is re-create themselves as an arena-rock band. In so doing, they’ve become bigger by going smaller. The special effects are minimal. Some translucent screens for playing off shadows. Seven risers with neon animated dancers for “Mysterious Ways.” A hand-held floodlight that Bono used to illuminate the upper decks during “Bullet the Blue Sky.”
It was a simple stage with a heart-shaped catwalk in front and just the four band members on the stage proper. But by dispensing with all the toys, U2 was forced to rely on its music, which always has been the first and best reason to see this band.
None of this should be taken to imply that the show was static in any sense. Bono is an active and theatrical frontman and used the large catwalk to its fullest, even putting his almost 41-year-old heart and lungs to the test of a full sprint around the perimeter.
But this is a band that naturally generates energy through its music and the chemistry it has with its audience.
Take “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” which is a kind of battle cry for pacifism. Like many U2 songs, it has a powerful anthem quality, particularly when you have thousands and thousands of fans pumping their fists in the air and singing along. Standing at the forefront of the stage, Bono was surrounded by pumping arms. It was one of those images at large rock shows that’s mesmerizing, hypnotic and almost a bit frightening.
This tour appears to be U2 at its most relaxed and playful. During “Until the End of the World,” Bono and The Edge engaged in a bit of bull-and-matador horseplay. At one point, Bono sang “Happy Birthday” to himself (his 41st birthday is today). He also stopped to reminisce a bit about the band’s last appearance at the old Palms club 20 years ago.
More importantly, the band appears to have confidence in its new material and played most of the new album, “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.” Although the lyrics have a typical U2 ambivalence, juxtaposing scenes of wonder and desolation, the song itself is celebration on a grand scale. In a similar vein, “New York” celebrates the city’s odd ability to both energize and exhaust, but in the context of a tune that adds its own rousing voice to the mythic experience of the Irish immigrant.
Opening for U2 was PJ Harvey. U2 often has opted for opening acts that are edgier than they are, and Polly Jean Harvey probably fits the profile. She was one of the great alt-rock critical darlings of the ’90s, but she’s never had a tiny fraction of U2’s mass audience.
The odd thing about Harvey’s set was that she didn’t appear do anything different than she would have done if playing for a New York club crowd of 200 devoted fans. She had to be playing in front of thousands of people who had little or no idea who she was, but she hardly spoke to them or made any serious attempt to introduce herself.
About 25 minutes into her 45-minute set, she appeared to be finally making a connection with the crowd - partially on the strength of talking dirty to them. Nothing like an incessant chorus of “lick my legs” to wake up a crowd.
All images are © Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel