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, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, 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, One, Peace On Earth-Walk On.
U2’s first show in New York since the September 11 attacks is filled with tributes to the city. Bono brings fans on stage three different times - during ‘Stuck’ a male fan helps sing the song; a female fan plays and sings during ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’; and a girl gets on stage during ‘New York’ and is carried by Bono. During ‘One’, video screens show the names of hijack victims, and a list of NYPD and FDNY personnel who died in the rescue is added. An MLK video shows during ‘Pride,’ a la Zoo TV.
Wall Street Journal
U2 Gets Back To Its Roots
No Bizarre Stagecraft, No Techno, No Ornate Costuming — Just Good Old-Fashioned Rock
by Mark Oppenheimer
New York — U2’s performance last Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, a stop on the group’s Elevation tour, was a lesson in the elementary principles of rock ‘n’ roll. The show had none of the bloated stagecraft of the band’s last two tours, ZooTV and PopMart, spectacles to make Andrew Lloyd Webber proud. Instead, the audience watched just four musicians, simple lighting and a two-hour set that mixed old hits with the best songs from a new album.
In returning to basics, the band has made a wise choice. During the 1990s, U2, R.E.M. and Madonna, three of the most popular artists of the previous decade, suffered crises of confidence. Hoping to keep up with the kids, they experimented with new sounds. Tying to stay on top of the latest musical trends, they made stabs at incorporating electronica and techno into their music. The results were failures — not quite on the order of Pat Boone trying to pass himself off as Little Richard, or the Rolling Stones embracing disco, but still unsuccessful. All that seemed a dim memory on Wednesday. At the start of the concert, The Edge, the band’s guitarist, stepped onstage wearing a New York Yankees T-shirt, and the crowd’s already considerable excitement ascended from there. The band began with “Elevation” and followed with “Beautiful Day,” both off its album “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.” It played “New Year’s Day,” its first international hit, and “Out of Control,” from its first album, “Boy” (1980).
What made the 1997 PopMart tour — with its 35-foot lemon covered in mirrors and gigantic olive on a toothpick — so ill-conceived was its misunderstanding of the band’s strengths. This time, fortunately, there were no overblown effects, no choreographed dance moves and no costume changes. The emphasis was on the music and musicians. Lead singer Bono himself generated the excitement by walking spontaneously out into the audience during the third song and standing aloft on the crowd’s outstretched hands, a black-Irish Jesus on water.
Also on the playlist on Wednesday was “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” a song about the 1972 killings of 14 protesters by British troops in Londonderry. U2 has always been a political band, and this song, from its “War” album (1983), remains the finest example of the group’s ability to be meaningful without being preachy. You could recognize the song by any one its musical elements played alone — The Edge’s guitar, Adam Clayton’s bass or Larry Mullen’s propulsive drumming — but the chorus transforms it into an anthem: “How long, how long must we sing this song?” Bono asks. His plaint had special meaning on Wednesday, the day after the Irish Republican Army had announced it would begin to dismantle its cache of weapons.
“Today is a great day for us because the IRA has put its arms to bed,” Bono said. “There is no going back. We want to thank these men for making this choice.”
The evening’s iconography came in such forthright, potent doses. The band took a break in the middle of “(Pride) In the Name of Love,” a classic about Martin Luther King Jr., to show footage of the speech he gave the day before his assassination, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” Bono also removed his street tough’s leather jacket to show an American flag lining.
The return to simplicity suits U2’s music, which is built of classic rock architecture — bass and drums supporting catchy guitar riffs and melody lines drawn through the vocals. U2 stands in that line of rock quartets that make songs timeless by radically stripping them of artifice. The Beatles, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, R.E.M. and U2 are our enemies of pretense. They are worlds away from the Doors’ portentous poetry, or Led Zeppelin’s ersatz mysticism.
In concert, U2 does not embellish the studio versions of its songs. “One,” “New York” and “Staring at the Sun” all sounded in Madison Square Garden as they sound on the band’s albums: tightly constructed works of concision and energy. The performance faltered only when the band forgot this principle. Why, for example, was Bono’s voice amplified with an echo effect on almost every song? The synthesized voice has become increasingly common as a studio trick, but we don’t expect the great rock acts to resort to Britney Spears-style cheating in a concert. Even worse, the sound-board jockeys were too busy juicing up the vocals to notice when Bono and The Edge, singing backup, were caught in an audio sludge, their voices lost.
Still, that was a rare lapse. The Elevation tour, especially on a day so important to Irish history, and in a season so fraught for American history, reminded New Yorkers how great rock ‘n’ roll can be, and how much it matters. Before the encore “One,” Bono paused to praise the United States: “Poles, Jews, blacks, weirdos, rock stars, peanut sellers. Nobody looks at you funny,” he said. Names of those killed on Sept. 11 began to roll up the screen behind him: Darlene Flagg … Shuyin Yang … Zoe Falkenberg and hundreds of others. Bono began to sing — “One love, one life, when it’s one need in the night” — and we nodded and sang along.
All images are © Ingrid Petzer; © Jay Yankowy