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"I'm not on this trip as a tourist, and if I thought that this was just show business from the White House, then I'd be out of that plane." — Bono, on his 2002 trip to Africa with U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill

by Michael West

Birmingham 2 Review

Having seats again for tonights show we decided to travel up to the NEC a little later than night one. If anything, we figured this would save us the torture of having to see Kelis yet again! We got into the arena at about 8.10pm, just as Kelis was starting the last song of her set I hate you so much. She fills me with such apathy at this stage that I couldnt even be bothered to state the usual (unfunny) gag of The feelings mutual, sweetheart. As she finished up we made our way across to our seats. They were much better tonight thankfully! Level with the side of the heart on Edges side at the back of the floor and elevated a few rows back so we could comfortably see over the thousands of bobbing heads in front of us. I always feel completely fine and relaxed until Your love keeps lifting me higher hits the PA. This signals that there are only another two songs to come (Higher Ground by Stevie Wonder and Sgt. Peppers by the Beatles) before the Influx mix of Elevation and then BOOM!!

As soon as the first note of the mix came through I was straight up onto my feet. I was really hoping hard for a Bono that was both full of vigour and voice, so my excitement was intermingled with a hint of trepidation at this early stage of proceedings. They filed onto the stage one by one, with Bono last as always. He knelt down in front of his mic stand and crossed his chest as if to signify his hope for strength from Him and then Wooooo! were into the show proper! As hes done at all the UK shows thus far he chanted words such as Jubilation towards the end of the song, as opposed to the more familiar e-l-e-v deal. Very good crowd interaction here (as you would expect with it being the first song of the night I suppose). I find it very hard, as with Beautiful Day, to assess how good Elevation really is these days! Its always very slick and well-performed no doubt; I just think weve heard it so much over the past year or so that they all just seem to blend into one after a while. Into Beautiful Day we go, and the crowd really seem more up for it tonight than yesterday. This track is always warmly received, which is more than understandable considering it got to #1 over here and it is a quintessential U2 song I believe. Instead of The goal is SOUL! rap that normally brings this tune to an end we got a little mumble about Bonos dad before Another SOUL leaves the world.

Until The End Of The World was much improved over last night. Edge absolutely nailed his solo at the end of the song whereas night one simply wasnt quite there for my (perfectionist) tastes. Unfortunately, the Is this Rock and Roll!? lines were missing again this evening. It doesnt sound like much but, to me, it adds the song much more oomph and zest as it comes to a roaring and rocking climax. Manchester 2 remains the best performance of this song thus far in my opinion. Even though we were only three songs in at this point I felt that tonight was going to easily eclipse what I thought was a very poor (by their own high standards) first night in Birmingham. I thought the chances of them doing two crap gigs in one place were slim at best and I was proved exactly right! I could almost picture the boys in a little huddle before coming on stage and saying words to the effect of Right, last night was poor lets get out there and rock the house tonight! :o)

The crowd were definitely much improved this evening; the mix from my position was excellent with both vocals and music being crisp and clear and Bono and the boys looked a great deal more buoyant and content big smiles all around. Wed been curious as to what song would be fourth in the set all day, basically hoping that it wouldnt be New Years Day! We saw Edge do a passable impression of Maurice Greene on steroids (which he probably is) running back from the tip of the heart to the main stage and I groaned in anticipation of what was to come. But then Discotheque! A very pleasant moment indeed I have to say. This is just so much fresher and more welcome in the set for me. The multi-coloured lighting effects were very nice here (I couldnt see them properly from behind the stage in Manchester). I personally cant remember hearing any of Coldplays Yellow in this song but Im assured that it was in there. I love the segue into Staring At The Sun. Those little guitar licks of the Edges are so infectious! Crowd pretty loud here.

Kite was fantastic again tonight! Absolutely storming live song! Before it started Bono spoke of his father, saying that he told him he felt useless by being on the road at this time. Bob told him that if he was back in Dublin hed be just as useless there! This song has very rapidly turned into a live favourite of mine and I think it should always have a place in a U2 set list. First tears of the night for me as I thought of how beautiful this song was and also trying to place myself in Bonos shoes. I thought Bonos voice on this song, and indeed throughout the entire show, was FANTASTIC! The best I have heard on this tour (a different person to last night and smoother than the end of Manchester 1). The Im a maaaaaaan line was absolutely nailed into the ground! This sounded so powerful! One of the best notes Ive heard him hit and hold for a long time. Sang Last of the opera stars as opposed to the standard rock stars line. New York was excellent again tonight. I saw a few disinterested faces around me up and leave for a toilet break at this juncture. I cant really understand that mentality to be honest with you whats the point in forking out to see a concert just to nip outside every time they dont play a song pre-93? I cant express enough how much better this song is live than on the album. A powerful rock song and people leave the arena. Beyond me

Next up came Out Of Control! This was fantastic again tonight, just as good as Manchester 2. As the band starts the song Bono sets off on a diatribe about how they are a new band called U2, that this is their first single and hope you like it (In Manchester 2 he referred to them being called The Hype). Like I Will Follow, the second half of this song in particular gets me going crazy every time! Edges solo sends me up into the rafters somewhere, looking down thinking I fucking LOVE this band!. I was secretly hoping to hear 11 O Clock Tick Tock tonight but Im thinking one of the London shows will grant my wish. Sunday Bloody Sunday was oceans better than night one and I really enjoyed it tonight. There are times when it sounds very run-of-the-mill to me but when Bono and the crowd really get into it, as they did tonight, I enjoy it. Tonight we got the Get Up/Stand Up snippet and it was also restarted again at the end of the song this received the biggest ovation of the night thus far. Wake Up Dead Man came next and, yet again, even more miserable bastards starting leaving in droves! You know, theres a dude up there on stage that is going through an ensemble of emotions every day hes giving his everything for the fans and hes repaid with the sight of peoples backs. There are countless numbers who cant get tickets to see this band and that sort of behaviour annoys me I have to say.

Stuck was a brilliant version tonight! Im starting to enjoy this number a lot more than I was in the early reckoning. This was the best version I have heard thus far in. Crowd were drowning out Bono on occasions. The B-man himself looked very happy at this point, dropping in lovely little falsettos wherever he could obviously a sign he was a lot happier with his vocal delivery tonight. In A Little While was missing first night (Im backing it to have been on the set list but simply dropped due to Bonos voice) so it was a real treat to hear this evening. To my eyes, Bono always starts this one off great but then appears to get a little out of breath and then needs some assistance from Mr. Evans (who always does so impeccably I have to report). I personally preferred this version over Manchester 1, which was a mild disappointment for me. They stayed out at the tip of the heart and I was half hoping to hear The Ground Beneath Her Feet as that would have been a first for me. They appear to have fallen out of love with that one for the moment, though, as we got Stay once again. I dont have a problem with that at all! I absolutely love this song and cant get enough of it. Im so pleased its back as a regular fixture in the set. A song that makes my heart ache and yearn. Beautiful! Absolutely stuffed last nights version into outer space and more tears were evident for me. I thought Bono sounded brilliant here, his phrasing and enunciation on the word enough in the Stay, and the night would be enough line is amongst his very best I think. He let the crowd fill in for the cities line which obviously ended with Belfast BIR-MING-HAM!. He prefaced the song with a little speech about how this was a song from an album that the Americans didnt understand.

All I Want Is You was next and, as always, was very nice. Of course, its nice to see them change the set around, but any song that comes at the expense of Bad isnt a good thing in my estimation. I enjoyed it more than Manchester 2 and the crowd did a pretty good job with the YOOOOUUUs at the end (though they started way too early to begin with!). With Bono in such good form tonight I was really hoping that they would opt for Bad over this one but, alas, to no avail. As the organs began to signal the intro to Streets I felt very emotionally charged and there were more tears. However, as soon as the guitar hit I lost leave of my senses, shouting COME ON!!! and clapping my hands high above my head in sheer joy and excitement. Always an exhilarating moment. Naturally, the crowd went berserk, generating the best atmosphere of the night by no small distance. Mysterious Ways followed and this is always a treat I think. Just sounds so funky and makes me want to dance! Edge nailed his solo again tonight. On a slightly different note, Id just like to say at this point that U2 have a lot more room to manoeuvre when it comes to their set lists than they probably think. Im of the opinion that you can keep a small handful of songs that you play every night and then just completely change everything round after that. I would probably just keep Streets (guaranteed biggest ovation every night), Mysterious Ways (something funky to jive to) and One (slow and emotional number). After that, just go for your life! Anyway I knew Pride would be next at the expense of The Fly (noooooo!). It always gets the crowd going and I dont exactly despise it however, if it was played a lot less frequently I would be a happier camper.
First song after the encore was Bullet and this was fantastic again tonight (always seems to be better after the Charlton Heston intro which appears to guarantee an extended rap from Bono at the end). I have gone from saying that this song should definitely be dropped before the tour started to now genuinely looking forward to it every time! I had found myself singing Pull the trigger rock and roll nigger, bigger than Jesus on a bumper sticker! all day so I was loving it when that came out! The whole America, Mark Chapman etc diatribe is a stirring and fascinating sight I think. Cant get enough of it. With Or Without You was better than last night (as was every song come to think of it!) but still didnt exactly give me an erection. The fact that they curtail it every night lends itself to the Right, weve played it for them, thatll do now school of thought in my eyes. Up next was a very big surprise PARTY GIRL!! This was a request from a dude in the heart. Bono addressed the crowd by saying words to the effect of Just because youve given us big mansions and fast cars doesnt mean you tell us what to do oh, it does actually! So it wasnt note or lyric perfect so what!? Its a live show and this kind of spontaneity makes the moment all on its own. Great to see them all huddled around next to Larry pretty much making it up as they went along! The crowd were great with the shouts of Hey! and plenty of air-punching towards the end of the song. A wonderful and unexpected treat.

One is always a massive high point in the show for me and tonight proved to be no different. The lyrics are just something else. I closed my eyes just before Edges solo (extended slightly again tonight) and it literally felt as if I was being elevated! A strange but very pleasant sensation. A magic moment. The first line to Walk On was muffed slightly but the rest of the song was very good. I would personally prefer it to be closer to the album cut. One area where I think it can be improved is the fact that Larrys drums are too quiet in the mix!! I thought this was the case from the bootlegs and it proved to be the case in the flesh. To quote Bono during UTEOW on ZooTV, COME ON!! TURN IT UP!!. Quite a few cheerless losers leaving at this point. For Christs sake, people, it takes all of ten minutes to get out of the car park!

Overall 8.99/10

A *shade* behind Manchester 1 as the atmosphere wasnt as good, plus they didnt play Bad or The Fly which I much prefer to AIWIY and Pride. Thought Bonos voice was superb tonight cant understand how it can be awful after a days rest and then imperious the day after a show!

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