U2: Elevation Tour
6 April 2001
At first it seemed like U2 brought the weather with them. Rainy skies blew in Friday, reminiscent of most of the band's Denver appearances. There were the now infamous storms during the band's Red Rocks show, and it was cold and a little damp for their appearances at Mile High Stadium for ZOO-TV and PopMart.
This time, though, it did turn into a beautiful day as the skies cleared late in the afternoon, relieving general admission ticket holders standing on line for prime floor space.
The old McNichols arena, immortalized in Rattle and Hum, has been replaced since that last Denver indoor appearance. Now at the new home of the Colorado Avalanche, the band played to a raucous capacity crowd packed from floor to ceiling, providing the most energy the arena has seen since the Stanley Cup playoffs.
A lot has been said about how the Elevation tour is all back to basics and stripped down. But one has to keep in mind "stripped down" is purely relative. In U2 terms, this was scaled back. Even as such, it was the most extravagant indoor concert since... well, when ZOO-TV started up with its indoor broadcasts.
This time, all the theatrical flourishes were put in the service of the music, making the large tunes loom ever larger and the soulful songs wail with soul.
The most amazing aspect of the show was how the band was able to create an intimate atmosphere in a sports arena. With the heart-shaped stage extending halfway across the floor, parting a sea of people down the middle, each band member got a chance to strut down the catwalk and greet the crowd. Yes, even Larry Mullen, Jr., the drummer.
Most of the band interaction was between Bono and The Edge, whom Bono introduced as a man who could have flown the space shuttle but instead chose to be in a rock band. His head, Bono noted, is so large that he needs to wear a hat, referring to The Edge's ever-present knit cap.
There were a number of theatrical elements and nifty surprises that also helped make the cavernous arena feel like a nightclub. TV screens rising from the floor provided an opportunity to touch on elements of the Joshua Tree, ZOO-TV, and PopMart tours.
Those same screens even provided Bono with cyber belly dancers to accompany him during Mysterious Ways. At one point, he's lying on top of one of the screens as it rises up, singing while lying flat on his back, legs dangling off the end of the screen. At another point, he's dancing to the side of one of the screens, as if he's making out with his cyber partner.
The fantastic set covered a lot of new ground from All That You Can't Leave Behind, including the opener, Elevation, which found the band coming on stage with the lights still up and offering Bono an immediate opportunity to run around the catwalks, instantly breaking the ice with the crowd as he go-go danced around to the driving beat.
Beautiful Day followed on the heels of Elevation and kept the crowd jumping. They would stay on their feet - even those with seats - for the next two hours.
Taking a moment to chat, Bono thanked the fans for sticking around the past few years and also thanked the creator of the wide angle lens. Thanks to that invention, he said, the couple thousand drenched fans at Red Rocks looked like a packed stadium.
Unlike the chilly reception that greeted Pop's songs during PopMart, the new tunes have already been embraced by the fans and they were greeted with the same enthusiasm that awaited the band's classics.
The new material played well. Extra power was given to Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of as Bono dedicated the song to Michael Hutchence, the INXS lead singer who committed suicide.
In a Little While was pure soul and New York also got a stunning performance in a showcase of one of the tour's theatrical elements: drapes descended from the ceiling and bounced off light and shadows in a terrific demonstration of how the big arena can be made small.
Old hits peppered the list, running the gamut from Sunday, Bloody Sunday and I Will Follow to With or Without You and Until the End of the World.
Sweetest Thing, offering the rare opportunity to watch Bono perform behind a keyboard, was introduced as the "most expensive apology ever" since it was written as an apology to Bono's wife for his having missed her birthday. He then went on to relinquish the rights to her and the single, released in promotion of The Best of 1980-1990, became a huge smash. (As a side note, all the proceeds went to a good cause nonetheless. His wife used the funds to help her work in relief for Chernobyl victims.)
Contrary to reports of the band's "dismissal" of its work on Pop, the album was well represented during the show. Discotheque got a rocked-up retooling that ended with Staring at the Sun. Gone also made a surprise appearance. This time their reception was much more positive.
True to form, Bono provided thrills along the way. On a couple occasions he did a bit of bodysurfing into the crowd - and his last attempt, during The Fly, found him crashing to the floor, generating a unified gasp from the audience. Then he was seen charging through the "festival seating" crowd out the far exit only to return to the stage a couple minutes later to polish off the show. A quasi-James Brown moment!
The band now has such a solid catalog of material that, after two jam-packed hours, many hits were left behind, including I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For and Pride.
The show concluded with a rousing rendition of Walk On, with "leave it behind" lighting up the walls, and leaving the crowd craving more.
Early last year Bono explained how the band was going to "advance toward simplicity." At first it seemed a contradiction in terms. At the Pepsi Center during the Elevation Tour 2001, it all made sense.
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