Opening Act(s): PJ Harvey
Elevation, Beautiful Day, Until The End Of The World, Mysterious Ways, Kite, Gone, New York, I Will Follow, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of, In A Little While, Desire-Gloria, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Bad-Wild Horses-40, Where The Streets Have No Name, Pride (In The Name Of Love). Encore: Bullet The Blue Sky, With Or Without You, One, Walk On.
Hey U2: Shut Up And Sing
A great concert, an irritating piece of propaganda.
by John Miller & Ramesh Ponnuru
Last night’s U2 concert in Washington, D.C., had too many great moments to count, from the band’s entrance with the MCI Center’s lights turned on to lead singer Bono crooning into a cell phone handed to him from the audience. This may be one of the biggest rock-and-roll groups on the planet, but its four members can seem humble. There’s something nice about a global celebrity like Bono taking a deep bow before getting things underway and later telling the crowd, in a plain statement free of cynicism, “Thank you for giving us a great life.” It’s not what one expects from, say, Limp Bizkit.
Then there were the songs: A groovy version of the current hit “Elevation,” a stripped-down rendition of “Desire,” and a rousing performance of “Where the Streets Have No Name.” One of the secrets to the band’s success is an outstanding live show. The current tour’s stage design, featuring catwalks extending deep into the arena, is ingenious. U2 also is riding on the wave of its best album in more than a decade; the band proved it’s no dinosaur act by playing seven songs from All That You Can’t Leave Behind, released late last year.
U2 has always flirted with left-wing politics, though never too aggressively. The information booths for Greenpeace and Amnesty International were kept in the hallways, not the arena proper. Bono’s brief statement on stage for Third World debt relief last night was short and sincere — and certainly not an attention-grabbing pose for a trendy cause. Plus, many of U2’s more conservative-minded fans have appreciated that the band’s views are more complex: In one of their videos, Bono clutches a copy of The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. There aren’t a lot of rock acts that infuse any Christian themes into what they do, let alone so many and with such warmth.
Yet there was a single, disappointing moment last night: A propagandistic screed against guns. A large monitor displayed Charlton Heston announcing, “Any gun in the hands of a good man is a threat to no one except bad people” — followed by a poignant image of a little girl pulling a pistol from a bag left on the floor of her kitchen. Then U2 performed “Bullet the Blue Sky,” and Bono railed against gun deaths in the spoken-word portion of the song. During a week in which Washington has listened to Euro-weenies lecture its leaders about everything from the execution of Timothy McVeigh to greenhouse gases — and without even bothering to say thanks for the Marshall Plan — this was a bit much to take from a bunch of foreigners.
It was an annoying little stunt, but at least it wasn’t a show spoiler. U2 put on a great concert. Go see them when they come to your town, even if you’re a fan who carries an NRA membership card. Next time, though, perhaps the band will take the advice it dispenses during the chorus of “Walk On,” the final song it played last night: “Leave it behind.”
All images are © Ravin