"What we mean by pop music of the '90s is maybe not what everyone else thinks but it's pop to us."
-- Edge, on Pop
U2 Rocks the JACC
Notre Dame Observer,
October 11, 2001
As the final notes of The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" faded away in the Joyce Center, the biggest concert in Notre Dame's history was about to get underway. Irish rock band U2 made their way to South Bend to kick off the third leg of their critically acclaimed Elevation Tour. And what a kick-off it was, as millions watched around the world.
The tour is anticipated to be the second most successful in music history. A sparse set, in contrast to the band's high tech Zoo TV and PopMart tours of the '90s, features a heart-shaped catwalk that extends into the middle of the audience. This has been a back to basics tour for U2.
U2 is a revitalized band after the release of last year's All That You Can't Leave Behind, and they showed Notre Dame's campus all that a rock 'n' roll show can be as they lifted the spirits of the audience with a mix of classic hits and new songs.
This first show of the third leg featured a different set list from than the past two legs.
For the first time this entire tour, "Beautiful Day" began the show. Lead singer Bono got the crowd going in a frenzy that would last throughout the two-hour performance. The optimism of the opening song ("It was a beautiful day, don't let it get away") set the tone for an evening filled with songs of redemption and hope.
The amazing guitarist the Edge was on full display during the second song of the evening, "Until the End of the World." This was the loudest and hardest song the band would play all night as Bono played Judas betraying the Edge's Jesus, even kissing him on the cheek.
The band's classic 1983 track "New Year's Day" was next on the set list and gave bassist Adam Clayton a moment to shine as his memorable bass rhythm filled the Joyce Center. The song seemed to take on a new meaning in the wake of Sept. 11 as Bono sang, "Say it's true, it's true. We can break through, though torn in two, we can be one."
"Stuck in a Moment," the band's latest single, received one of the loudest ovations of the night. Written after the death of Bono's friend, INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence, the song is an inspirational message of hope and friendship. The final verse, sung in a falsetto by the Edge, was one of the show's highlights ("And if the night runs over, and if the day won't last. And if your way should falter, along the stony pass.").
A new cover of the Marvin Gaye classic "What's Going On" premiered next. The song embodies the thoughts of many Americans today as Bono sang "Brother, brother, there's too many of you dying." The song is scheduled to be issued as an all-star single in the spirit of "We Are the World" at the end of the month.
U2 then performed two of their biggest hits with "Pride (In the Name of Love)" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday." "Pride" could have been written in the last month as Bono sang, "They took your life, but they could not take your pride." "Sunday Bloody Sunday," one of the finest anti-war songs ever written, remains as relevant and important as the day it was written 18 years ago.
Written about "The Big Apple" after Bono purchased a house there two years ago, "New York" was transformed on Wednesday night into a tribute to the city. One of the least intriguing tracks off All That You Can't Leave Behind, the song was given new life and spirit as Bono sang, "In New York you can forget, forget how to sit still. But in New York, you can't break the city's will."
"Kite" is one of the best songs off the latest album, and it sounds even better live. Introduced as a song Bono wrote "about my kids," it is a beautiful reminder of our mortality. Bono even picked up an acoustic guitar to strum as he sang, "Did I waste it? Not so much I couldn't taste it. Life should be fragrant, rooftop to the basement."
The soulful "Angel of Harlem" was the only track played from 1988's Rattle and Hum. It was the most joyful, upbeat song of the night. As the second verse began, Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. joined in the Edge's great guitar riff, making it only the second full band version of the song played all tour.
Bono and the Edge stood at the tip of the heart-shaped catwalk as the frontman told the audience that "the entire universe" was watching the live webcast of the concert on U2.com. While in the middle of the crowd, they performed a stunning acoustic version of Pop's "Staring at the Sun."
The final four songs of the main set were a welcome return to the anthems that made U2 the biggest band of the '80s. The Unforgettable Fire's "Bad" tells the story of a heroin addict in the band's hometown of Dublin. As Bono screamed, "I'm wide awake, I'm not sleeping," the audience in the Joyce Center was taken to another level that only one band in the world can reach.
The Joshua Tree was represented with the final three songs; "Where the Streets Have No Name," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "With or Without You." "Streets" is the best live song around and had the crowd going crazy. "Still Haven't Found" made a welcome return in its second performance of the tour. "With or Without You" ended the main set as the crowd sang along, drowning out Bono's vocals. The song featured an extra verse, with Bono making a heart symbol with his hands over his chest as he sang, "We'll shine like stars in the summer night, one heart, one hope, one love."
The band left the stage to thunderous applause, which continued until they returned for the encore. "Elevation," the song that had opened every show of tour until Wednesday night, received a strong reception from the fans as Bono sang, "I can't sing, but I've got soul."
"Mysterious Ways," from 1991's Achtung Baby, with its funky guitar, sounded much better than on the album. The song featured an extended solo by the Edge and a snippet of another Marvin Gaye song, "Sexual Healing."
"One," the best rock song written in the last 10 years, was preceded by a lengthy speech by Bono. He talked about changing the world through teaching programs (such as ACE), aid to impoverished countries, and actions of the heroic fire fighters and police men and women of New York City. He challenged the audience to use the bravery to combat the poverty. "One" featured a beautiful extended verse and is reminder that "we're one, but we're not the same."
A verse of "Peace on Earth" preceded the closing number, "Walk On." As Bono sang that we've "got to leave it behind," he was joined onstage by members of the NYPD and FDNY. Their appearance received the loudest cheers of the night as the audience saluted the heroes of Sept. 11. Bono led the men on a lap around the heart, before ending the night with a refrain of "halleluiah, halleluiah."
U2 left the stage after a two-hour concert that was the best Notre Dame has seen. They are once again the best band in the world and have taken their place alongside the greatest rock 'n' roll artists of all time.
Bono talked of changing the world, and U2's music can do just that. Just ask the 8,000 people at the Joyce Center on Wednesday night.
© Notre Dame Observer, 2001. All rights reserved.