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I love the idea of carnival but it comes before Lent. You have to have both. -- Bono

by Kal El

Arrowhead Pond, Anaheim, CA
Night 2 of 3

This was the first of four or five Elevation Tour shows I will be attending, and overall I was extremely pleased. My girlfriend and I were on the floor outside of the heart, but we had a spectacular view of all the action onstage and especially on the ramps. The general admission arrangement and the open stage design are both work exceptionally well. The folks behind the stage (which I have always maintained is not bad position for open-stage arena concerts) had an obscured view only during "Mysterious Ways" and "The Fly," when the video screens were up. Compared to the last couple of stadium tours, I don't think there was a bad seat in the house.

The setlist was much the same as what I had seen posted from prior shows, although the biggest surprise of the evening might have been that they did NOT play "Kite" after playing it at the prior two shows -- I figured it would be part of the regular set by now for sure. I didn't miss it, though, as I don't believe it's one of the new album's stronger cuts. (I'm in the minority on this, I know.) We didn't get "Stay" either, which I did miss, a lot. Give the Zooropa album its due, I say!

Nevertheless, I was happy to see the inclusion of some lesser-known but very worthy tunes, including "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" and "Gone." The acoustic mid-show set included a lovely version of "Angel of Harlem" that began when Bono glanced over at Edge and asked him with a laugh to "take this one a little slow."

If I wanted to nitpick, I could say that the set was a little heavy on the predictable hits, some of which are sounding a bit tired these days. I think I would find it much more convincing if the boys played "Please," for example (the one POP song I was sure would be held over for this tour) rather than dusting off "Sunday Bloody Sunday," though this is obviously a crowd-pleaser. "Even Better than the Real Thing" made a lot more sense in the Zoo TV and PopMart sets than it does here, and I would have been happy to give this one up in favor of "Stay," "When I Look at the World," or something else from Zooropa or the new album. I think "Bullet the Blue Sky," which has been played EVERY night since 1987, is overdue for a long rest, but I must admit it sounded great. The reworked version of "The Fly" they're using to close the main set this tour is hot -- bringing this one back in a new arrangement was a brilliant move.

As for the actual performance, Bono seemed a bit tired to me, but perhaps that just because I was close enough (when he ventured out onto the heart ramps, where he was for at least half the show) to see the whites of his eyes! His voice sounded more nasal to me than it does on my recordings, both studio and live bootleg. He added the chorus to Johhny Cash's "I Walk the Line" to the end of "One," then dedicated "Walk On" to Johnny. Unlike the tributes to Michael Hutchence and Joey Ramone, this one actually felt spontaneous and added some humor to what is usually a somber tune. I do wish the Edge would have spent some more time on the ramps during the show -- at times it felt like we were watching Bono and the U2s instead of the band as a cohesive unit.

The evening would have been memorable in any case, but as we were leaving the floor after the last encore, I happened to spot Elvis Costello standing by the soundboard chatting with a group of perhaps a dozen fans. I walked right up to him and shook his hand. He was signing autographs, but I had nothing for him to sign -- I remembered too late the U2 ticket stub in my pocket. Anyway, meeting Elvis (whom I addressed by his real name, Mr. MacManus) was a teriffic coda to an already-great night. For those of you unfamiliar with this brilliant musician's work, do yourselves a favor and give a listen to "All This Useless Beauty," "Armed Forces," or "King of America." He is a musical hero of mine -- easily on a par with Bono and Edge, and he's a much better lyricist than our Paul! (Sorry, Bono.)

Overall I rate the show about an A-minus. If you're still deliberating over which tickets to buy, you definitely want to go with the general admission.

Thanks for reading my lengthy review, friends.

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