Opening Act(s): No Doubt
Elevation, Beautiful Day, Until The End Of The World, Mysterious Ways, I Will Follow, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of, Kite, Angel Of Harlem, Please, Bad-Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses, Where The Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For-Stand By Me, Pride (In The Name Of Love). Encore: Bullet The Blue Sky, What’s Going On, New York, Happy Birthday, One, Peace On Earth-Walk On.
Bono dances on stage with a female fan during ‘Angel Of Harlem.’ Gwen Stefani joins in singing ‘What’s Going On.’ Before ‘One,’ Bono tells the crowd its Dallas Schoo’s birthday and Bono gives the mic to a fan who leads the crowd in singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to The Edge’s longtime guitar tech.
U2 Delivers Solid, Inspirational Show
by Chris Macias
In the face of it, U2’s concert at Arco Arena on Tuesday night wasn’t much different from its San Jose Compaq Center gig in April. The band’s heart-shaped stage was intact, its set list was a near match and the crowd went nuts for nearly two hours straight.
Then again, U2’s songs seem to have taken on new meaning and context in the wake of the Sept. 11 events. At Arco, “New York” was less an ode to the Big Apple than an all-out tribute, featuring lead singer Bono’s cries of “I love New York” and skyscraper images on video screens. The show closer, “Walk On,” connoted a sense of tenacity during troubling times, while Bono introduced “Please” as a song “that could have been written three months ago,” given its jabs against religious fanaticism. American flags and on-stage dedications to the United States were nearly as abundant as the Edge’s effects-drenched guitar rhythms.
Some might accuse the band of being opportunistic in light of recent events, but what else could be expected of U2? The Irish rockers have never shied away from the topical, with songs addressing the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., conflicts in Ireland and other issues related to Amnesty International.
But weightiness aside, U2’s show was a winner for its overall solid delivery and sweeping musical dynamics. The band’s current “Elevation Tour” is a triumph of simplicity over garish staging, with the focus being on the band’s performance rather than the multimedia extravaganzas of U2’s previous outings.
Bono and the Edge utilized all parts of the stage, with the tip of the heart stretching to the center of the main floor, allowing good vantage points from all around the arena. The concert’s personal approach was also highlighted by Bono bringing a female fan on stage during “Angel of Harlem” — and the fan wasted little time in grabbing Bono’s behind — and Bono inviting a TV cameraman on stage for some choice shots.
Musically, U2 was a four-man power plant. As “Mysterious Ways” hit toward the top of the band’s set, U2 had generated more energy and excitement than many groups could hope to reach by their third encore. Bono’s vocals soared during the choruses of “Kite” and “Beautiful Day,” while he and the Edge also nailed some solid harmonies in “Where the Streets Have No Name.”
Still, the musical heart of U2 belonged to the Edge. Many of his riffs, including those in “I Will Follow” and “Bad,” are built on minimalist melodies but were taken to sweeping heights with an insistent, rhythmic approach and whiz-like use of electronic effects.
As a unit, U2 suffered a few lapses. There was a flub between bass and drums during the intro to “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” while a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” was somewhat lackluster. Bono simply didn’t have enough honey-coating on his voice or the range to do justice to the Gaye classic.
However, U2’s mastery of emotional swells often took the show into the stratosphere. The push and pull of volume and intensity during “Bad” and “Kite” resulted in glorious musical moments and wild adulation from the near-capacity crowd of some 17,000. U2’s reading of “One” was also particularly poignant. As the band churned through its signature power ballad, a roster of victims from Sept. 11 was broadcast on video screens.
In contrast to U2’s issue-oriented repertoire, the show’s opening act (and U2 label mate) No Doubt took a pogo ride through perky pop music styles. The band’s 45-minute set leaned on its greatest hits, such as “Don’t Speak,” “Just A Girl” and “Ex-Girlfriend,” which highlighted its candy-coated ska flavorings.
No Doubt also previewed a couple of tunes from its upcoming album “Rock Steady,” which is due Dec. 11. “Hey Baby” mixed a low-end dancehall groove with new wavey synthesizers and a drum-and-bass breakdown, while the mixture of Minneapolis funk and guitar crunch in “Hella Good” sounded like Prince’s “Erotic City” in a wrestling match with Limp Bizkit.
About the Reporter: The Bee’s Chris Macias can be reached at (916) 321-1253 or [email protected]
All images are © Brendan Bolles