Opening Act(s): Garbage
Elevation, Beautiful Day, Until The End Of The World, New Year’s Day, I Will Follow, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Wake Up Dead Man-Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of, Kite, Desire, Stay (Faraway, So Close!), All I Want Is You, 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, One, Peace On Earth-Walk On.
The Goal Is Elevation
by Anna Roberts
Things have never come that easy for U2, especially when it comes to touring. Like many bands, their first tours had them selling themselves across America, establishing and defining their sound. Their “Zoo TV” tour of the early ’90s was an onslaught of audio and visual stimuli, inspired by their new tech-heavy sound and concept-heavy appearance. Following was the little financial disaster of 1997-98’s “Pop Mart,” a tour in which a lack of corporate sponsorship and an over abundance of kitsch forced them to swallow their pride and break even. Last spring’s first leg of the “Elevation” tour had them working overtime trying to prove that in this day and age of manufactured boy bands, a foursome of men in their 40s can still kick ass and save the world from mediocre music.
Although all noble causes, it is the most recent stint that is creating the biggest challenge for the lads from Dublin. In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, America has been searching for a little hope and a little healing. In the weeks after the events, the band’s songs have seen more radio play than in years past and have become a type of melodic Prozac, or at least a friend in the airwaves. And with they’re latest tour, these musical psychologists are making house calls.
On Oct. 16, they held their second self-help forum in Chicago’s United Center, a city they claim is “much like a hometown gig.” The band created their own stages of grief, and led the audience through each with a career and emotional spanning set list.
Aggression came first, with guitar-heavy battle anthems “Until the End of the World,” “New Year’s Day” and “I Will Follow.” Phases of sadness with “Stuck in A Moment” and “Kite” moved into feelings of comfort by way of release with raucous versions of “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Pride.”
Their first encore brought a sense of unity with a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” The spacey, strobe-light friendly “New York” off their latest All That You Can’t Leave Behind has since been transformed into hymn and tribute to a city, a nation and its people. Bono’s addition, “Even Chicago loves New York” had the United Center roaring with approval. He recounted his days as youth living in the bomb-infested Ireland. “When the bombs reached London, every Irish man was looked at as is they were a (monster)? so be kind to our Muslim friends.” “One” and “Walk On” closed the evening with a sense of hope.
“We feel very fortunate to be touring in America right now,” Bono told the sold-out crowd, alluding to the nation’s spirit more than the band’s own financial status. In a season when canceling overseas tours is the norm, U2 brings their songs (now more relevant than ever) into the source of concern. Janet Jackson, who pulled out of her European tour due to safety reasons, was playing just hours away in Milwaukee.
Undoubtedly a good band, U2’s courage may have drowned out her sound. The band is not a stranger to hot spots, having played a historic show in Bosnia and several gigs in Belfast; and although America may not be in deep conflict, its people are still looking for a good time.
Blackhawk and Bulls banners hung over head but it was the American flag that got the biggest cheer on Tuesday night. During “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” lead singer Bono, who is not a stranger to flag accompaniment on stage, skipped the usual Irish banner and cradled a fan’s Old Glory as he crooned “Wipe your tears away.” In the nation’s third-largest city and the arena that housed American legend Michael Jordan, the irony of four men from out of town helping to heal their neighbor was lost in the light of soul. U2 themselves have withstood the test of time, having faced critical and financial obstacles, and yet come out on top again and again. Leading by example and sound, the band spoke with tongues of angels and held the hand of America. It was one hell of a night.
All images are © Fred Gillich; © Jaime Velasquez; © Bob Davidson; © Chuck Zacharias