Opening Act(s): No Doubt
Elevation, Beautiful Day, Until The End Of The World, New Year’s Day, I Will Follow, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of, Kite, Wild Honey, Please, 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, Walk On-Hallelujah.
The Daily Texan
We’re One, But We’re Not The Same
At sold-out Austin show, U2 changes their tune for a nation that’s changed its soul
by Matt Dentler
Music can’t fight your war for you. Music can’t kill your disease. Music can’t bring back the dead. Great music, however, has the power to make it feel at least somewhat possible. When great music rips through your speakers, it sounds like hope. Fear and tragedy be damned; we’ll take our music.
U2 didn’t ask to fight a war, though America recruited them nonetheless. When the Elevation Tour rolled into Austin on Monday night, U2 was fighting for something different than when they played Texas earlier this year. In April, the Elevation Tour saw U2 fighting for the “best band in the world” crown. They won that, and in light of recent national events, November sees them fighting for the spirit and soul of the nation.
When Bono sauntered down the stage and clutched a Texas flag from one audience member and an American flag from another, he embraced them both in the middle of the band’s greatest political tribute, “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”
The mood of the show was somber and sincere, full of moments just like that one. Opening with “Elevation,” the band wasted no time getting everyone in sync. Aside from this jubilant anthem, the songs of Monday night’s show were more about issues and politics. Gone were the love songs and the sex songs. There was no “With Or Without You” or “Mysterious Ways,” tunes they performed at earlier dates but have left behind in recent shows.
“Even Texas loves New York,” Bono sang while grabbing a cowboy hat from a fan in the middle of “New York,” a song recorded long before Sept. 11, but greatly altered since. The Elevation Tour has changed with the nation, taking seriously that which used to be taken for granted. Songs such as “Beautiful Day” and “Pride” take on new meaning, hitting the sold-out Texas crowd with a new set of fists.
When Bono shouted the line, “Free at last, they took your life, but they could not take your pride,” the entire arena shook with a newfound respect for the words. Bono also lost his father since we last saw the band, and he paid touching tribute to him with the soaring and mournful “Kite,” a song originally written for his children.
The band reminded the crowd of their first Austin appearance in 1981 at Club Foot with the bridge of “I Will Follow,” their first hit single. While The Edge worked out the atmospheres on guitar, Bono sang of the show 20 years ago, shocking many when he cried, “You’ve changed.” Then he clarified by screaming, “You’ve changed me! And I thank you for that.”
During a playful acoustic set, Bono and The Edge met together on the tip of the heart-shaped stage to perform “Wild Honey” and “Please.” The performance of “Please” saw the night’s most personal moment as well as the one major technical flaw. Bono sang the peaceful cry as Edge’s delicate guitar provided a soft backdrop. The two of them shared one microphone, almost embracing. But then, Edge’s guitar began to hiccup over the mixing board into our ears. As slight chord changes were made, an otherwise pretty performance became a bit nerve-wracking with the technical glitch. But it was organic, and it was real.
During “Bullet The Blue Sky,” The Edge - and his tech - made up for the mishap with a corrosive and tough set of guitar sounds. While Bono walked the stage pouring a spotlight through the crowd, The Edge channeled the spirit of Austin’s own Stevie Ray Vaughan with his electric blues blitz. During “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen provided a thumping, countrified rhythm to complement the song’s original gospel qualities.
Then, turning dry eyes to tears was a stirring take on “One.” The band scrolled a list of Sept. 11 victims on video monitors as the song flowed from their hearts. It was the kind of passionate moment U2 is famous for, peaking with Bono’s revised refrain, “These are our sisters! These are our brothers!” There was more than just an ocean of cigarette lighters sparkling. The eyes and spirit of all in attendance shined along.
It was an example of why people pay more than $100 to see U2, as many Erwin Center scalpers could attest to. It’s cheaper than therapy, cheaper than a televangelist, cheaper than a psychic hotline. And how do you tap your feet or shake your hips to any of that?
No Doubt opened the show to a glowing reception from early arrivals. The popular ska-rock band performed just about every one of their singles, eliciting smash renditions of “Just A Girl” and “Spiderwebs.” Lead singer Gwen Stefani bounced around the stage, screaming between songs, “Oh my God, we’re opening for U2!” No Doubt had plenty of their own hits - and fans - on display Monday. “Don’t Speak” and “Simple Kind Of Life” especially came across sublime. And new songs like “Hey Baby” prove that the group’s upcoming album, Rock Steady, will be one to keep your eye on.
The night was emotional without manipulation, a healing process for a nation still unsure on the proper way to rock ‘n’ roll now that life has changed.
“It’s so nice to be in Texas,” Bono confessed just before he and the band left the stage on their way to the tour’s next city. Hopefully, Austin won’t have to wait another 10 years to hear him say that again. On Monday night, they fought for America, and the gratitude came ringing in thunderous cheers from the audience. Everyone was a little lighter and not at all the same.
On second thought, maybe music fights our wars for us all the time.
All images are © Dave Prewitt; © U2Fox