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"'Elevation' came from a sound, that abrasive guitar: 'We've really got to do something with that.'" — Adam, 2002

by latindrummer

Some info about the venue: While Staples Center can appear as an imposing and uber-tall facility, The Forum felt cozier, less intimidating and more fan friendly, offering better vantage points from just about every seat, unlike Staples Center. Initially I was kind of bummed out that we were up in the 24th row. As it turned out, anyone in row 10 or above in the upper level got the most out of the stage production and video screen. In order to truly appreciate the giant screen and its related effects, you have to be facing perpendicular to the stage and in the upper sections. I finally got to experience that mega-screen in all its glory, and sequences that didn’t quite work for the fans stuck behind the stage or on the opposite far end, were finally brought to full realization for those with direct line of sight. Luckily on this night, Both Erica and I saw what the band intended us to see. We were excited to see what the group had in store for us this night. To whet our appetites, one of the guitar techs was demoing Edge’s Gibson Explorer and began playing the main riff to “Bad,” leading to a big, collective “Yeaaaahhh!!!” from the crowd. We were pumped.

From the moment Bono entered the arena and began the chant for “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone),” I knew that this show would be different, energy-wise. The crowd was into this new track, and it sounded more powerful and jolting than the versions performed on 5/19 and 5/27. The crowd joined in on the opening “woah oh ohs” and Bono responded “THAT’s the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard!” to a roar of approval. Larry’s drums felt like artillery. There was greater definition and velocity without sacrificing sound quality. I could feel Adam’s bass rumble under my seat and reverberate throughout my body, and Edge’s guitar lines and Bono’s vocals floated above all that glorious low end. It was crystal clear, and the crowd was getting into it. Bono’s singing was great, flawless, and spirited. “The Miracle” sounded so cool, it chugged along and the choruses were catchy and prompted a sing-along. Before I had a mild interest in the song, and finally on night 3 I was loving it. This crowd was awake and then some.

The following selections went down well and the crowd response was excellent, rabid even. “Electic Co.” returned and continued the rockin’, jumping pace. Did I mention I love singing along with The Edge? ESPECIALLY on the choruses to “Electric Co.” There’s not much to that chorus but there’s still something about Edge singing ‘E-lec-tric coh-oh-ohhhh’ that still gives me chills, that glorious feeling. ’“Vertigo” and I Will Follow” continued the powerful trend: brief but potent and muscular songs that propelled the show forward and kept the floor area bouncing.

The story-telling portion of the show was very well received and the new material continues to win people over. Responses were very, very strong for “Iris,” “Song for Someone,” and “Cedarwood Road.” People are becoming familiar with the songs and the new album seems to be winning a great deal of fans. This time around I got to experience the entire big screen and marveled at the images and band interplay. This set up is deceptively simple, one giant big screen the size of a billboard. But the interactive qualities and the multi-layering of the images make for a unique visual show, something only U2 could envision and pull off.

The BIG change up in the set occurred when the group pulled a fan onstage right after the nightclub segment of the show. During “Mysterious Ways” a sikh, and I think it’s the same dude that was pulled up ontage during a New York Elevation show, was again pulled up and embraced the band and got into a duel with Bono on the catwalk. At song’s end they let the fan stay onstage and handed him a smart phone for the Meerkat video feed. In a surprise move, Edge begins the intro to “Elevation” with the houselights on. The band launch into the song on the e-stage while the fan filmed the group. Larry was on the cocktail kit and the group laid down a thumping version of the song. It was rockin’ and the crowd was into it, jumping up and down like it was the Elevation Tour all over again. The group was revisiting All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and in memory of Dennis Sheehan, the group eased into a tender and stripped down version of “Stuck in a Moment.” I never really liked this song, it sounds just like “People Get Ready” and that lame John Mayer song (in actuality, the John Mayer and U2 songs are SUPPOSED to be tributes to “People Get Ready.”) But tonight’s version was something. Bono sang the opening verse and chorus while Edge accompanied him on piano. It was refreshing, sweeter than usual and very heart-felt. The rhythm section joined in and made the song gel by the second chorus. Wow…THIS was the way this song was meant to be played: no guitar, no synth brass, just piano, bass and drums. It was like they covered a sentimental Keane song (a good Keane song).

Yet another stand out version of “Every Breaking Wave” was performed and pretty much left the entire Forum stunned. I’ve written before that this song is the show’s emotional center-piece and tonight’s performance is no less than that. As the tour progresses it seems Bono’s delivery and lung capacity get stronger and stronger. The simple beauty that is “Every Breaking Wave” left us in a trance, a peaceful serenity. Now I understand what Bono means by surrendering to the power of music. That breathtaking serenity was broken when “Bullet the Blue Sky” came crashing in like a fighter plane slamming into The Forum. Regarding BTBS, I can take it or leave it. On some tours it’s bad-ass and it was a great 1-2 companion piece to Sunday Bloody Sunday during the ZooTV and Vertigo Tours. These days I’d rather the group play one of the underrated tracks off The Joshua Tree like “In God’s Country” or “One Tree Hill.” By the way, sidenote: a fan, Marc Trevino, was pulled onstage at one of the Phoenix shows after telling the band he could play “In God’s Country” on guitar. And what happened? They did a semi-improvised but awesome rendition as a 5 piece on the e-stage. Wish stuff like that could happen more often. Back to BTBS, it’s The Edge’s “guitar hero” showcase where he can push his strat to the limit, use his wah effects and play a searing solo. A verse and chorus of “The Hands That Built America” bridge BTBS to “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and the final set 2 closers, “Beautiful Day” and “With or Without You.” The final big change occurred when “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” was played as the final selection during the encore.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to witness three different shows on this tour. I’m not a paid fan club member, so I was not able to take advantage of any presale offers. However I was still able to purchase reasonably priced tickets via ticketmaster, the primary ticket agency, without having to resort to scouring Ebay or private brokers for overpriced tickets. Major gripe: I think it’s ridiculous that the tickets in the lower section were over $250 a piece. It’s disheartening to know that a great seat will cost the same as my grocery bill for the month. Within these three shows a total of 29 different songs were performed, excluding any snippets or interpolations the group is known for doing. The group is still able to offer great value to the fan for putting on a show in excess of 2 hours in length. Some variety is also offered, although in limited doses. 24 songs were performed each night on average. A typical U2 set averages between 19-22 songs, usually. The new album usually has 6 selections in the set. No songs from October, Pop, Zooropa or No Line on the Horizon have been featured up this point. It would be cool to see the group sneak in some more dance material from Pop or Zooropa, maybe open up some space for “Unknown Caller,” “Gloria” or “11 O’ Clock Tick Tock.”

I have to give mad props to my Erica for looking as dazzling as she did at this show. She thought it was a great show, the band performed great as always and Bono’s voice was strong and compelling. Great end cap to a 3 show streak. We’re there if the band returns for a second American leg. 

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