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The people we'd choose to describe the condition of the world are not often the people God would choose. The chosen may be punk rockers or hip-hop people. But nonetheless, the state of the world will be described.-- Bono, 2004


U2 revel in reclaiming their rock roots

- April 08, 2003

by JOHN WILLIAMSON

IT may be their reaction to the current Glasgow climate, but U2's Elevation tour sees them on an ambitious mission to destroy their own corporate brand, in the process reclaiming their back catalogue and reconnecting with their audience on a base, emotional level. It succeeds in a direct and convincing manner.

For starters, U2 are possibly the only band in the world who can make the SECC in Glasgow feel like an intimate arena.

It is close on 15 years since their production last fitted such relatively modest surroundings, and though the ticket price has increased by a factor of four, U2's longevity means that they are a much more multidimensional outfit than at the time of The Joshua Tree.

In many ways and in spite of the high production values it is a simple and largely monochromatic show that spans their entire career from I Will Follow to Elevation and Beautiful Day.

The screens above the stage pan closely on the four musicians' earnest faces, and few of the songs extend beyond their welcome. U2 are best when ripping into basic rock and roll songs like Where The Streets Have No Name and Mysterious Ways.

When U2 became too self-knowing and ironic around the early 90s, it may have gained them respect, but it never sat entirely comfortably with a band known for their seriousness, pomposity and popularity.

It would appear on the evidence of both their most recent recordings and this show that they have now accepted that the Zooropa period failed to achieve its intended outcome.

Tellingly, Faraway So Close gained poignancy by being stripped down to some acoustic and vocal sparring between Bono and The Edge, but the two most moving moments are personal and political: Kite which Bono uses to celebrate his late father, and One which is preambled by a message of support for the Drop The Debt campaign and the arguments of the G8 protesters.

The essence of U2, however, is their ability to distil the best bits of their past and to recognise, appropriate and in some instances improve the ideas of their peers from Nirvana to Radiohead, but most of all that the foursome still care when, in their position, it would be far easier not to.

The irony is, that in destroying their own brand identity, they are simultaneously increasing their own wealth and value.

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