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"We will do a commercial with Apple for our album, and no money will change hands, which is important, because we have been offered boatloads of money from many other people." — Bono

U2 Open ''Elevation'' Tour In Style

- March 26, 2001

by Jon Glass

With a scaled-back stage show and rejuvenated role in the music business, U2 brought sincerity back to modern rock Saturday (March 24) in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on the opening night of their much-anticipated Elevation tour.

From their first-ever single, 1980's coming-of-age anthem, "I Will Follow," to the current release “Walk On," another self-reflection piece looking back at where their success has brought them, the Irish foursome powered through a two-hour set that pleased three decades worth of fans.

An arena filled with more than 19,000 fans is a far cry from the small club warm-up gigs in Paris, New York, and London that U2 played in recent months. But a general admission policy on the floor and an expansive heart-shaped catwalk -- which Bono spent half the set circling -- gave about as intimate as an experience as could be expected from an act of such stature.

And being that close, you could tell from the smiles on each band member's face that they were glad to be back in front of the masses. On this tour, U2 fans can literally touch and be touched by the band they love.

There was no grand entrance as Bono and company casually strolled onto the main stage and launched straight into the tour's namesake, "Elevation," followed by the recent Grammy winner, "Beautiful Day." Fans enthusiastically pumped their fists, sang along at the top of their lungs and pushed themselves to new spiritual levels as U2 pulled on modern-day classics such as "New Year's Day" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday."

Even with the abundance of fan interaction, the pre-tour hullabaloo over general admission floor seating was unwarranted. There was plenty of room on the floor, with no moshing or crowd surfing, and security plucked only a handful of people out the floor-level area. Bono even managed to snake his way through the crowd during main set closer "The Fly."

The group's in-the-round set-up -- with the lit catwalk circling the main stage and an open area for about 300 lucky fans -- gave way to great interaction between Bono and fans. The leather-clad frontman regularly made laps on the elevated track, shaking hands, mugging for photographers, and grabbing souvenirs such as band's symbolic Irish flag to a hot pink bra. At one point, he got a tad closer to the audience than he had planned, and slipped and fell off the walkway into the security pit.

During "Until The End Of The World," guitarist the Edge put on a few theatrics out front to playfully duel with Bono while circling the walkway. The band's rhythm pillars, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and bassist Adam Clayton, kept their posts in the shadows of the main stage all night, except for a few moments during formalized introductions when Bono insisted they come center stage.

For those not close enough, seven video screens displayed black-and-white close-ups of each member. An array of lighting effects and digitally-designed video screens kept the arena constantly filled with a colorful ambiance.

The Edge's signature chords ripped open the encore with "Bullet The Blue Sky" for which Bono turned a flashlight back on his bandmates and made a full pass of the upper rafters to give the screaming throngs a moment to shine.

The night ended with some of U2's most powerful work: "With Or Without You," "One," and latest single, "Walk On," the newest anthem bound to be belted out by fans during this tour and beyond.

Unlike U2's club appearance in New York last fall, when they played the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," there were no covers. Instead Bono subtly sampled lyrics from several songs throughout the night, including Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side," Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up" and David Bowie's "Young Americans."

Bono expressed the band's gratitude several times, summarizing his thoughts near the close of the night: "Thanks for following us all these years. Thanks for giving us such a great life."

What U2 undoubtedly will find out as the Elevation tour progresses is that as good a life as they have, they’re touching the lives of their fans in even greater ways.

© Billboard, 2001.

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