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Elevation Tour Concert Reviews

Fort Lauderdale, FL - National Car Rental Center
Fort Lauderdale - U2 welcomed fans into their heart-shaped world last night as they launched their Elevation 2001 tour in front of a sold-out crowd of 19'000 at the National Car Rental Center in this Fort Lauderdale suburb.
The veteran Irish rockers, playing on a small stage enclosed by a red, heart-shaped catwalk, directly connected with the audience via the striking-looking "in the round" setup, which had been rumoured about for weeks on fan Web sites.
But getting the really intimate show were the 300 ticket-holders allowed inside the large heart. They had lined up outside the venue early yesterday for a much-coveted wristband.
Meanwhile, U2 and the wristband holders were protected from the rest of the general admission audience on the floor -- an issue that had been a safety concern heading into the tour launch -- by the heart-shaped structure. Those in the nose-bleed secions, meanwhile, got a better look at the band, with an impressive lighting rig and the help of four large screens above the stage, two on either side and one at the back, which intermittently broadcast black-and-white closeups of lead singer Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr.
The two-hour set, which began with Elevation from their latest album All That You Can't Leave Behind, started as low-key as you could possibly imagine for a U2 concert. The four members casually walked onto the stage with the house lights up and kept them on for the entire duration of that first exhilarating song.
They kept that energy up over the course of the next three numbers, the triple-Grammy-winner Beautiful Day, Until The End Of The World, and New Year's Day -- the latter featuring The Edge on piano.
Unfortunately, the show began to lag in the middle with one-too-many slow-tempoed numbers, like the new songs, Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of and In A Little While along with Sweetest Thing -- which had never been played live before and should never be again -- The Ground Beneath Her Feet and Gone.

 Surprisingly tepid too were Discotheque and I Will Follow -- songs that should have been concert standouts.

 Two notable exceptions to the ho-humness of it all were the new song, New York, which prompted six transparent panels to drop down as screened backdrops, and the anthemic Sunday Bloody Sunday, which produced the first big singalong of the night and even saw Bono waving a tri-coloured Irish flag that had been handed to him by an audience member.

 The show finally began to rebound towards the end, particularly with the heartfelt Bad,With Or Without You and One, the soaring Where The Streets Have No Name, Bullet The Blue Sky and the funky Mysterious Ways .

 Bono, in particular, took to the catwalk like a regular supermodel, posing, preening and even running laps at times when he wasn't reaching out towards the audience members or just outright falling right into the crowd and making a run for it -- like he did right before the encore.

 Occasionally, The Edge, dressed in a Miami Dolphins T-shirt and his trademark toque, would venture out too and the guitarist and singer played nicely off each other.

 But it took formal introductions by Bono for Mullen -- "He hasn't changed in 20 years!" -- and Clayton -- "The man who has the biggest instruments in the band!" to walk the plank.

 All in all, Elevation is a much more tasteful affair than 1997's colorful extravaganza known as PopMart, although there were some leftovers like the dancing female silhouette who appeared during Mysterious Ways.

 I would have liked to have seen some of the playfulness from that last tour continue on this one but I suspect that will come in time.

 The group, playing arenas for the first time in almost a decade, will visit Toronto for two sold-out shows at the AirCanada Centre on May 24-25.
Calgary, AB - Pengrowth Saddledome
CALGARY - When it comes to U2, for most people bigger is better.
But for others -- admittedly, myself included -- as the Dublin act has increased the size of its sound, stature and stage show, the level of interest has responded inversely.
The band's Popmart tour, which waddled its bloated self into Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium for two shows in 1997, signalled the pinnacle of the apathy.
The over-the-top extravaganza with its enormous lemon, disco ball and huge jumbo screens was entirely about ego and spectacle with the music acting merely as a soundtrack.
Which is fine. Some of the best concert acts (Pink Floyd, Kiss) have successfully incorporated theatricality into rock 'n' roll, but the fact that U2 had purposefully distanced itself from the music -- even as an exercise in ''irony'' or a comment on the coming millennial Zeitgeist or whatever -- was tough to swallow.
That's why last evening's sold-out Saddledome show -- the band's first-ever Calgary, as well as the first in a two-night stand -- was refreshing re-introduction to what first made U2 so exciting.
To everyone.
Front and centre, for the most part, was the music -- over two hours of material from the past two decades of the Irish group's up-and-down, nine studio-album career (not including Rattle & Hum).
And everything about this tour is about enhancing the power of that music in order for the quartet to reconnect with its audience, not alienate them.
The rush seating, the minimal light show and the stage itself -- a heart-shaped area which includes a section for 300 lucky fans to get even more up close and personal -- enhance that back-to-basics approach.
To further that, they took to the stage with the Dome's houselights up full and to a recorded verison of the tour's namesake, Elevation, from their latest album, All That You Can't Leave Behind.
And the moment that frontman Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. took over from the recording and made a little Elevation of their own, was more than a little symbolic and a whole lot electrifying.
They raised the roof with the sweet, simple, pure power of rock 'n' roll.
From there, the veterans slid into a surprisingly effective verison of All That You Can't Leae Behind's first single, Beautiful Day.
After hearing it incessantly on radio and MuchMusic, it was quite a feat to make it fresh, but that's exactly what they did.
For the remainder of the show, the band pulled out the obvious (the anthemic New Year's Day from 1983's classic War), the surprising (In A Little While, one of the best songs from their latest release) and yes, even the ill-advised (New York, one of the worst).
What was most striking about last night was the sense of unscripted fun the band brought to the show, and subsequently, the music.
Watching Bono play bull to The Edge's electric guitar matador came across as off-the-cuff and playful, and not manipulative and rehearsed.
And Bono worked the room -- all sides of it -- and walked the heart-shaped catwalk like everyone's favourite uncle at a family wedding.
Maybe that's because it was only the eighth show into the world tour and they're still feeling loosey-goosey, but it's also probably, thankfully, something more.
You get the sense that U2 no longer feel the need or the pressure to go out of their way stiffly prove that they have a sense of humour about themselves and their music.
At times, Bono's rock star antics can wear a little thin (especially during his faux guitar-playing during I Will Follow -- is that thing even plugged in?), but for the most part he just gave everyone what they were looking for: A focal point and, again, an easy conduit inside the music.
Sure, the band and the media proclaiming the quartet saviours of rock 'n' roll -- while for the past decade they've been more than active participants in the collusion to kill it -- is still a little hypocritical.
But after last night, U2 has come a long way towards getting unstuck out of that moment and leaving it all behind.
Calgary, AB - Pengrowth Saddledome
CALGARY -- Another night, another Beautiful Day.
Yes, it was deja vu all over again inside the Saddledome last night as monstrous Irish rock act U2 took to the stage for the second of two sold-out Calgary shows, and the ninth of its current Elevation tour.
For those in attendance who hadn't caught Monday night's event -- and the band's first performance ever inside the city's limits was an event in every sense of the word -- it was an opportunity to see the world's biggest rock band in a slimmed-down performance that hearkened back to the glory days of The Joshua Tree.
For those lucky enough to be seeing the band for the second time in two nights, it was an opportunity to have reaffirmed the fact that at this point in their career, with nothing left to prove to themselves or their fans, U2 are at the top of their game.
The band turned in yet another real rock show, as equally energetic and entertaining as the previous night's.
(That's surprising, really, because if you believe every one of  the umpteen reported U2 sightings, the band members spent all of yesterday drinking and eating and shopping at local establishments -- not to mention partying at a half-dozen different nightclubs on opposite ends of the city after the Monday show.)
Musically and in the basic structure of the show, Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen, and Adam Clyaton pretty much stuck to the same script as the night before, waltzing onto the modest heart-surrounded stage to a recorded verison of All That You Can't Leave Behind's Elevation, before launching into it live with the houselights on full.
But if the set list seemed predictable, the performance itself was far from it. There were some wonderful memorable moments of honesty that made last night's show unique. Bono taking a white flag from the crowd during Until The End Of The World and carrying it Christ cross-like on his back.
The Edge and Bono playing with one another like two friends who knwo each other so well.
And the back leather-clad frontman -- who was somewhat more talkative than the previous night -- pulling a young girl from the audience and slow-dancing with her during New Year's Day.
They may have been small differences, but they made all the difference in the world.
Toronto, ON - Air Canada Centre
TORONTO -- Bono may not have his magician's lincence.
But there was plenty levitation, rock 'n' roll style, going on at last night's wildly uplifting U2 show -- the first evening of a sold-out two-night stand at the Air Canada Centre.
The frontman for the veteran Irish band, who became a dad for the fourth time just this past Monday, playfully led his group through an energized and exciting two-hour concert in front of some 18'000 fans.
Touring arenas in North America for the first time in a decade, U2 have strived to get closer to their audience this time out by performing smaller venues on their Elevation 2001 Tour and constructing their tiny stage inside a heart-shaped, red-coloured catwalk on the floor.
The intimacy thing appears to have paid off, both for them and their faithful following.
About 300 lucky concert-goers, who payed for general admission tickets, lined up early to receive wristbands the would allow them inside the hollowed-out heart with the band.
As U2 did on their opening night two monts ago in Florida, Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr., casually strode into the arena with the lights fully up and launced the concert with Elevation from their latest album, All That You Can't Leave Behind.
Bono, who's been dropping other people's songs into U2 classics since the beginning of the tour, wasted no time with the opener as he shouted out ''Happy Birthday Bob Dylan!'' and then sang a snippet of Mr. Tambourine Man as he patrolled the catwalk. (Dylan turned 0 yesterday and for the encore, Bono delivered an abbreviated, stripped-down verison of Forever Young.)
Clearly two months of touring, not to mention the heady experience of siring a son, have bolstered the singer's already awesome stage presence. When Bono wasn't lying down on the catwalk or diving off it into the crowd, he was running sprints around it.
As for The Edge, his trademark echoey-guitar sound was the other highlight of a big-sounding show.
''We played the Maple Leaf Ballroom (a 300-seater on St. Clair West) here about 20 years ago, and I just want to say, you have a lot of patience," said Bono. "It's taken us a few years to get back in a 'club'. We have a lot of mates here in Toronto, and it's just really spoiled us."
The band followed their equally powerful second song, Beautiful Day, with Until The End Of The World, and to the delight of fans, Bono and The Edge played bull and matador, respectively, on the catwalk while audience members stretched out their arms towards them.
The fourth tune of the night, Discotheque, saw Bono perched at the very front of the catwalk holding onto fan's hands while he grooved to the music, and the follow-up, New York, proved to be just as effective a hipshaker.
Another big improvement over opening night was the show's pacing, with nary a dull moment last night. They made better use of the four overhead video screens, onto which black-and-white images of each individual band member were projected, along with transparent screens that dropped down around the stage.
Bono got more serious on the fifth and six songs, Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of and Kite, dedicating them to his late friend, INXS frontman Michael Hutchence and ''people you love,'' respectively.
But the group quickly upped the energy level again, most dramatically during I Will Follow, Sunay Bloody Sunday -- which prompted the first big singalong of the evening -- and the barnburners Where The Streets Have No Name, Mysterious Ways and The Fly.
Another difference from the tour launch was the inclusion of an anti-gun film right before Bullet The Blue Sky, which showed Charlton Heston spouting pro-gun nonsense before an unattended little girl ran through her livingroom and stumbled upon a weapon.
It took Bono until the encore before he mentioned his newest family member: ''Thanks to my missus for giving me such a beautiful boy.''
In the same speech, he thanked Canada Finance Minister Paul Martin for all he's done towards third-world debt. ''In Canada, you're leading the way on debt issues. So you've got to give him credit. He's a good man.''
Famous fans spotted at last night's show included movie star Harrison Ford, who took in the Oasis/Black Crowes gig at the Molson Amphitheatre earlier this week and also reportedly attended David Gray's Warehouse concert last month. Who does this guy think he is? Leonardo DiCaprio?
Opening last night for U2 was British singing-songwriting dynamo PJ Harvey who was chosen by the band for their entire North American tour, although she was unable to make the launch in Florida due to a nasty feber. (Canadian Nelly Furtado was chosen as a last-minute replacement for two early dates.)
Harvey, backed by a loud, tight four-piece, cetainly seemed fully recovered last night as she howled her way through an 11-song, 45 minute set dominated by material from her latest, New York City-inspired album, Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea.
After tonight's performance, U2 head to MuchMusic where they will take part in an hour-long interview from midnight to 1 a.m.
London, England - Earls Court Arena
LONDON - Judas betraying Jesus, the 'troubles' in Northern Ireland past and present, heroin addiction and gun-running in South America. All in the space of just over two hours.
Never could it be suggested that U2 shows lack a widescreen worldview, a genuine emotional tug, all told creating an incessant spectacle. And that's despite this Earl's Court concert being just the latest in a mammoth worldwide trawl set to put the band in the record books.
Ten years ago, Bono and his three less culpable childhood friends were lampooned by the pious, cooler then cool music press for being, well, pious and politically opinionated.
Wearing cowboy hats while waving white flags and much talk (in an American accent) of apartheid, the Bible and ''f*cking the revolution'', a chest exploding with emotion, was not considered a commendable agenda for a rock star. And perhaps it still isn't.
However U2's renaissance in the nineties, as they sought to replace ham with irony, industrial with industry, has allowed a redressing of the balance. Rock and roll was, and should be, about inciting and inspiring, pioneering and protesting, particularly now, when the ceiling is falling in on a lousy procession of say nothing, mean nothing guitar bands, the pointless, mind-numbing pop infestation and culture of self-serving celebrity.
Yes, U2 are still banging on, and with activism against the world eating itself finally embraced by the likes of Radiohead, REM, and the Beastie Boys, it would seem that being pictured with the Pope, taking calls from Bill Clinton and getting holed-up with world leaders as corporate smashing riots explode outside has some worth after all.
Either way, it comes as no surprise that this show - beyong the musical vision - circles the smoking bonfires of the collapsing peace process, Jubilee 2000 and the appetite for the arms within the superpowers. Equally resonant and disturbingly well-publicised is the rather saddening reality the Bono's father is on his death bed.
Having worked their way through the punk energy, rock and roll bluster, humour and excess of their previous incarnations ensuing, beyond ostentatious stage pyrotechnics, the gimmick of the Elevation World Touris that there is no gimmick. Much like this year's rather innocuous All That You Can't Leave Behind, everything is stripped-back.
The house lights stay on, the screens off, at the start, providing the somewhat bizarre spectacle of the band almost rehearsing, whilst unleashing a tremendously relentless - despite being aired in an aircaft hanger - opening sequence of Elevation, Beautiful Day, Until The End Of The World, and New Year's Day.
The show is an intensely captivating experience, featuring some of the most uplifting populist rock music from the last twenty years, and a charismatic, edgy and passionate to the point of madness delivery from Bono who, when not singing at the sky, is crawling on his knees, an urgent conduit to the heart of this audience.
U2 have refined their enviable black-catalogue well. They unearth the scarred urgency of the ancient I Will Follow and the drug and sonic highs and lows of a magnificent Bad. They give Desire an acoustic reworking on the ingenious heart walkway, and pile on the bombast for Sunday Bloody Sunday.
Elsewhere, there is almost wall-to-wall drama, in the squalling blitz of Bullet The Blue Sky the heaven opening introduction and explosion of Where The Streets Have No Name a Joy Division embellished With Or Without You and an emotionally draining One.
Significantly, and with the exception of guitar pedal too far abomination of The Fly it's only on material from the new long-player that the pressure drops particularly on the listless In A Little While, a meandering Stuck In A Moment and a take on New York that is more overblown than the city itself.
But this show delivers on so many levels, transcending the limitations of such a vacuous, factory-line experience. This may just be U2's strength, but Kite - prefaced with dedication to the ailing Bobby Hewson - jets through the vast atmosphere, while a brilliant curtain-closing dispatch of Walk On again unravels the band's perpetual drive for political awareness and progess.
As they rock out with beguiling, primitive freedom, lines such as ''you're packing a suitcase for a place none of us has seen, a place that has to be believed to be seen'' are silhouetted on the backdrop, again raising the spectre of Northern Ireland.
Even more direct is Bullet The Blue Sky with Bono ferociously lambasting the arms dealings of America, the UK, Russia, France and China, and an inevitable speech about ending Third World debt, in which he suggests the battle is far from over and that intelligent thinking, not civil disobedience, will out.
When so much has been said about and thrown at U2, in a career of quite fascinating twists and turns, they still demand and inspire debate, contention and alarming passion. Unlike most of their peers, they bid to make things happen. Whether any of the 18'000 here actually listened to the stricken pleas and rants of a 40-year-old who may well be ''the last of the rock stars'' is academic.
This was some show.
Montreal, Quebec - Molson Centre
MONTREAL -- Strip away the spectacle that has been U2's mode of entertainment for the past decade and what do you have left?
Thankfully, you still get what you're looking for -- Irish rockers U2.
Gone are the giant Golden Arch of Popmart and the more-gi-normous-than-giant television screen and remote clicker of the ZOO TV Tour. Essentially, Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. have replaced all the high-falutin gadgetry with what made U2 so popular in the first place: Strong songs, memorable lyrics, and a certain je-ne-sai-quoi presence that fans have come to know in U2's 22-year recording career.
That didn't mean last night's sold-out Molson Centre concert -- a return engagement a mere 4 1/2 months after playing a two-nighter here on the second leg of their Elevation tour -- was short on spectacle. Lighting, giant video screens and plenty of visual imagery played an important role in keeping all 21'000 spectators happy.
But the biggest spectacle of all came from none other than the band itself, with Bono not surprisingly the leading contender.
Charisma, spirit
The artist hardly known now as Paul Hewson was all charisma and energetic spirit the second opening number Elevation began. As he kneeled down and blessed himself, with the house lights still on, his congregation greeted him with open and outstreched arms as if the Pope had suddenly appeared. Yeah, he sure had a hard time working this crowd into a frenzy by the time Beautiful Day hit familiar ears.
The charisma almost got the best of the U2 frontman during Until The End Of The World, when Bono, after literally being held up by lucky front-row fans, fended off against The Edge in a tete-a-tete- cat vs.-cat fight. At one point, Bono took a tumble on his derriere and appeared slightly achy for the next few songs, New Year's Day, Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of and Kite (the latter pair from U2's latest disc, All That You Can't Leave Behind).
Fortunately, as if on cue, mellower moments lay ahead.
While Clayton and Mullen Jr. held their own as musical anchors, The Edge proved himself more than just an electrifying lead axeman. His rhythmic rockabilly swager suited Angel of Harlem to a T.Even better was his acoustic, campfire reworking of Staring At The Sun, harmonizing along with Bono.
Bics were definitely a-flickering in approval.
Through U2 has always relied on staple favourites Sunday Bloody Sunday, Pride (In The Name of Love), Where The Streets Have No Name, along with encore numbers Bullet The Blue Sky and One to whip the adoring public into a frenzy, once again the spectacle side -- in subtle doses, of course -- cannot be forgotten.
Audience participation
Bad had Bono slow-dancing with a lady from the crowd. As said lady revealed her bare pregnant belly, Bono -- a new father himself -- sweetly kissed the baby-to-be in true gentleman form.
The otherside of Bono showed up on Mysterious Ways, as he thrust his pelvis against silhouetted images that danced from one screen to another.
The one thing almost missing from last night's U2 show was the socially and politically conscious side. At first, the only evidence came towards the middle of the first encore with New York, which Bono reworded slightly to reflect the tragic events of September 11. A cover of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On also shed some lyrical light on our changed times, with words slightly changed.
It wasn't missing earlier in the day, however, when Bono took a side trip to Ottawa to meet with old buddy PM Jean Chreitien at his Rockcliffe residence.
Bono joked about the meeting last night with the crowd, suggesting that he would have tired Chretien to a chair to make him listen to what he had to say. Apparently, that wasn't necessary and his message about debt relief to poor African nations was well received.
In Bono's words, "He (Chretien) told me, 'You don't need to tie me up because Africa will be the No. 1 priority at the next G-8 summit.' "
Walk on ... er, rock on!
Hamilton, Ontario - Copps Coliseum

HAMILTON -- U2's Elevation Tour is still flying high.

 Even after repeat business.

 Having now seen the Irish rock superstars four times this year -- at their tour launch in March in Fort Lauderdale followed by two sold-out shows at Toronto's Air Canada Centre in May and now last night's Copps Coliseum date -- I'm happy to report the force is still very much with them.

 As part of the fall leg of their first arena tour in 10 years, the Dublin foursome visited Steel Town for the first time ever to the delight of 18,000 fans, who snapped up tickets in just over half an hour.

 Black leather-clad frontman Bono even scored extra points with the audience, who were waving Canadian, American and Irish flags, by mentioning the group's frequent producer, Hamilton-born Daniel Lanois.

 "I'd like to say hello to the Lanois family tonight," said the singer before launching into Kite, from the group's 10-times platinum latest album, All That You Can't Leave Behind.

 It was actually an emotional moment as Bono mentioned he wrote Kite for his children although his father -- who passed away from cancer two months ago -- really inspired it.

 "I still think about him everyday," he said.

 That was only eclipsed by Bono grabbing the American flag out of someone's outstretched arms and burying his head in it -- presumably in remembrance of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- after belting out U2's signature political song, Sunday Bloody Sunday with major crowd participation.

 Speaking of which, a young, aspiring musician with a placard that read "Me+Guitar, People Get Ready," was plucked out of the audience by Bono and fitted with an acoustic guitar.

 As it turned out, he had to be shown the chords but Bono wouldn't let him give up, even as he struggled with the fingering: "I believe in you!" the singer shouted.

 The two of them eventually traded duties, with the young man singing the cover of Curtis Mayfield's People Get Ready while Bono played the guitar.

 It was those moments of spontaneity that have helped to make U2 -- rounded by expert guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. -- arguably the biggest rock band in the world right now.

 The Elevation road show is much the same as when I first saw it, right down to the set list, although the song order was different.

 There's still the now familiar heart-shaped catwalk. That dynamite opening of new songs Elevation and Beautiful Day, followed by classics Until The End Of The World and New Year's Day. Bono and The Edge pretending to taunt each other on the catwalk. The hair-raising standouts Where The Streets Have No Name and Pride (In The Name Of Love). And Bono using a spotlight on the audience during Bullet The Blue Sky.

 But it really boiled down to how these four men still managed to make the show seem fresh and different.

 Like Bono planting a kiss on The Edge's cheek during Until The End Of The World. The Edge singing a snippet of When Will I See You Again before Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of. And reinvigorated versions of Out Of Control --- U2's first-ever single -- Bad and New York and the recent addition of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On?

 Mighty powerful too, and without any comment from the usually effusive Bono, was the scrolling of the names of the airplane victims from the Sept. 11 attacks on a screen behind the band during the second encore songs, One and Peace On Earth.

 Opening last night were techno-pop act Garbage, whose new album, beautifulgarbage, arrived in stores about two weeks go.

 As usual, Scottish-born lead singer Shirley Manson was her wonderful, sneering, sexy self in a new short hairdo, a tank top, suspenders and pinstriped pants and sneakers.

 Backed by drummer Butch Vig and guitarists-keyboardists Steve Marker and Duke Erikson, Manson at one point addressed the audience behind her to inquire: "Does my ass look too big?"

 Playing both new material -- standouts were the harder-edged Silence Is Golden, Shut Your Mouth, 'Til The Die I Die and Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go) -- and older favourites I Think I'm Paranoid, Stupid Girl and I'm Only Happy When It Rains, the foursome with a touring bassist offered a pleasing mix of music.

 But in the end, they were no match for the awesome power of U2.