Opening Act(s): Garbage
Elevation, Beautiful Day, Until The End Of The World, New Year’s Day, Out Of Control, Sunday Bloody Sunday, When Will I See You Again-Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of, Kite, Angel Of Harlem, People Get Ready, Staring At The Sun, Bad-40, Where The Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Pride (In The Name Of Love). Encore: Bullet The Blue Sky, What’s Going On, New York, With Or Without You, One, Peace On Earth-Walk On.
Bono obtains an American flag from a fan and hugs it tightly after ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday.’ He invites a male fan on-stage to play guitar to ‘People Get Ready,’ but the super-nervous fan struggles to pick up the chords. He eventually imitates Bono while making up some of the song lyrics and singing them. Bono sings a bit of Daniel Lanois’ ‘The Maker’ during ‘Bad.’ During ‘One,’ the names of passengers who died September 11 on the hijacked airplanes are shown on the video screen.
A Beautiful Night
by Glen Nott
The eyes, sometimes they play tricks on you. Other times, they confirm what’s otherwise unbelievable. There was Bono, wrapped in hip-length leather jacket and his trademark housefly goggles, looking skyward and belting out a tune.
On the wall behind him and floating just above his head was a neon sign: Fortinos Supermarkets.
What a juxtaposition to be in: the biggest, boldest rock band on the planet hosting a shoulder-to-shoulder indoor campfire in the heart of Hamilton, Canada’s spectacularly unfamous downtown.
A miracle, perhaps? A mistake, maybe? There are other Hamiltons in Bermuda, Scotland and Ohio, after all.
U2 took the stage at Copps Coliseum Saturday night, and 18,000 of the luckiest people alive knew for sure they had arrived at the right place.
From there, the only direction left was up — like in an elevator.
The band — Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. — strode casually onto the stage in full light just before 9 p.m., with the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band playing over the loudspeakers.
The show opened with two singles, Elevation and Beautiful Day, from the new album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
U2 is a band fully aware of its own image and, from the simple yet affective Elevation tour staging, to the driving wallop of ear-drum tickling volume, it was clear that U2, right now, just wants to be a backside-kicking rock band.
And the derrires were there to be kicked, for sure. U2, over its 20-year run in music, has built up a staggering collection of hit songs. The band didn’t ignore its back catalogue, of course, but did throw a few knuckleballs to keep everything honest.
After running through End Of The World and New Year’s Day, Bono introduced the band’s first single, Out Of Control, in a time-warp sort of fashion.
“We’re a band from the north side of the city. We’re called U2,” he said, pretending Copps was a pub in Dublin. “This is our first single, and we hope you like it.”
This second North American leg of the Elevation tour is the band’s first series of concerts since the terrorist attacks in the United States. For a band steeped in politics, peace and world policy, this was tender ground for U2 to walk.
American flags outnumbered Irish and Canadian colours on this night, and handmade signs with simple messages such as Peace On Earth, and Our Children dotted the coliseum.
Bono, ever the posing rock star, made full use of a heart-shaped runway that jutted halfway into the floor seats. He could have used it as a soapbox for anti-war pronouncements, but instead chose the subtle approach, proving again that this lead singer’s charisma works both over the top and when understated.
When the band finished up on an angry rat-tat-tat version of Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bono plucked a U.S. flag from the throng of waving arms and gave the cloth a long, warm hug.
Later, during the second encore of the night, the band put together a beautiful, slightly injured version of One, as a video scrolled behind them showing the names of all those killed on the doomed hijacked flights of Sept. 11.
If U2 is showing its age anywhere, it’s in the throat of Bono. His vocals seemed thin at times, and most especially in a breathless version of Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of.
At the end of that number, seven songs into the set, Bono told the crowd that this was the band’s first time playing in Hamilton.
“But we’ve been to Hamilton many times visiting friends — good friends. We visit with the Lanois family, who are here with us tonight,” he said.
“We’d like to thank you for the loan of your son, Daniel. Without him, and Brian Eno and Steve Lillywhite, those boasts we made as 17-year-olds would mean nothing today.”
That crew of producers, but most specifically Lanois, has helped to shape the band’s sound, and have been involved in U2’s biggest album successes — The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, and All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
The crowd lustily cheered the gesture, but then it was back to the music.
The show hit another level with a terrific rendition of Kite, and the crowd, bathed in dancing strobes or house light much of the night literally became part of the show.
About midway through the show, Bono helped an audience member up onstage to play guitar for People Get Ready. The fellow struggled with the chords (C, Am, F), so Bono gave him a quick tutorial, then just handed the mike over instead.
Bono made another little aside to Lanois during Bad, when he mumbled the line “I’m not a stranger in the eyes of the Maker,” a reference to Lanois’ song The Maker, from his Acadie album.
The band closed the main set with a trio of huge hits — Where The Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, and Pride (In The Name Of Love).
The crowd, needless to say, wasn’t going anywhere. The Copps concourse, where T-shirts were selling for the price of a ticket, could wait a few more minutes.
For the first encore, Bono slowly approached the microphone stand as the opening strains of Bullet The Blue Sky churned around him. It ended up being the most powerful song of the evening.
A cover of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On was followed by New York, a now cryptic cut from the new album, and With Or Without You ended the first encore.
When the band responded to the call for a second encore, some doofus made the mistake of pointing a laser pen in Bono’s face.
“Turn those red things off please,” he said. “We don’t like them. We’re from Ireland and they remind us of something really mean and nasty.”
With that, U2 launched into One, and finished out the night with a combo of Peace On Earth and Walk On, then left a crumpled American flag on the mike stand as the four exited the stage.
The Hamilton crowd tried hard for a third encore, but the recorded strains of the song Grace sparked the house lights up, and it was time to go home.
There aren’t many occasions when a $130 concert ticket looks like a bargain.
And U2 at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Canada on Oct. 13, 2001, was certainly one of them.
You can contact Glen Nott by e-mail at [email protected] or by telephone at 905-526-4688.
All images are © Jorge Chaves; © Hamilton Spectator