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[H]ip-hop is . . . the sound of music getting out of the ghetto, while rock is looking for a ghetto. -- Bono

U2 Lets Its Music Do The Talking In Elevation Tour Opener

- March 26, 2001

by Rob Hill

U2At 9:15 p.m. on Saturday (March 24), Bono, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., and the Edge strode out onto the stage at the National Car Center in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on the opening night of U2's Elevation Tour 2001 in anything but rock star fashion.

The house lights were on, the heart-shaped stage practically bare -- only four black and white, flat screen televisions hanging above the stage. The message was clear as the band bowed, waved, and assumed its position and plunged into "Elevation": U2 was here to let its music do the talking.

The stage extended in track-like fashion about 20 rows out, with an orchestra pit of some 150 fans encased inside the stage. "Elevation" lifted the crowd and the band into the night, as the house lights were still on, and the screens above weren't flickering a barrage of images. Attired in T-shirts and baggy pants, the band was essentially laid bare before 20,000 fans -- this night there would be no goggles, horns, cowboy hats, lemons, arches, or martini glasses to hide behind.

The lights finally fell as the first chords of "Beautiful Day" echoed through the filled stadium. Bono made his way from the back of the stage to the center of the crowd and seemed pleased to have the connection of hands on his ankles. "Until the End of the World" followed, and although the band sounded in top form, the first sign of opening night jitters occurred as Bono mistakenly fell into the crowd -- the track is only three to four feet wide -- as he and the Edge played a cat and mouse game at the end of the song. The fall appeared to almost stop the show for a few seconds, before Bono was hoisted back to the stage and finished out the song with what appeared to be a mock limp.

"This is for Michael Hutchence," Bono announced before "New Year's Day" segued into "Stuck in a Moment." With the Edge at the piano, the band played a fresh and reworked "New Year's Day" that sent the crowd through the roof. Next, the first of three Pop songs were played: "Gone" and then "Discotheque," bringing the first hint of color to the show, as small bank of TVs rose from the back of the stage and flashed yellows, pinks, and oranges in rave-like movements. Finishing off the mini-PopMart Tour ode was "Staring at the Sun," before the psychedelic banks submerged and transparent mesh curtains dropped from the ceiling around the stage. With this, the band broke into the ominous first chords of "New York."

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" was next, and then came "I Will Follow." The older material fit in perfectly on this night, not sounding retro, and "Follow" even sounded as if it could've been on the band's latest album, All That You Can't Leave Behind. Looking back across the pit, Bono introduced his mates, something the band has only done once before in concert. "On drums, the guy that gave us our only job, Larry Mullen Jr.; the guy with the biggest instrument in U2, Adam Clayton; the scientist of the band, the Edge. Thanks for sticking with us."

After the last song of the set, Bono plunged into the crowd, got to his feet, and ran down the tunnel, disappearing with a mob of security people. Strangely, the band stayed onstage in the darkness and minutes later, Bono appeared from behind the stage and into the eruption of "Bullet the Blue Sky," the first of four encores. A shortened version of "With or Without You" brought out the Bic lighters, before the opening chords of "One" tingled in the darkness. "Thanks again," Bono said in obvious appreciation. "Hope we didn't fuck it up."

"Walk On" finished up the show on a very upbeat note, with the crowd singing the last verse not only in key, but even getting all the words right. Leaving the arena, it was hard not to feel that not only did they not fuck it up, but that these veterans of rock may just be getting started. Lucky us.

Allstar/CDNOW, 2001.

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