U2 Elevation Tour
Elevation Tour 3rd leg: North America
: Madison Square Garden - New York, New York, USA
CONCERT REVIEW - Madison Square Garden, New YorkKen Micallef (published on 2001-10-25)
In a city beleaguered by recent terrorist events, entering Madison Square Garden on a beautiful fall night had the feeling of, er, um, imminent peril. It's like the New York Lotto slogan: "Hey, you never know." This is a city where burning rubble and something else still stinks, where everyone has a tale to tell. Given U2's anthemic arena rock and Bono's fondness for pronouncements, everyone was expecting the mouthy wonder to weigh in on the tragedy.
Show openers Garbage were anything but serious, performing both old and new material (from the exceptional Beautifulgarbage). Sounding neither techno-driven nor (as their new album suggests) Phil Spector-driven, but brawny, ballsy, and almost punkish, Mssrs. Steve Marker, Duke Erickson, and a very sick Butch Vig laid it down fast, loud, and sludgy while vocalist Shirley Manson pranced and prowled like a Broadway diva with an itch. With her shaven platinum 'do and white T-shirt with clownish suspenders and black jeans, she was all kitsch, except for her voice, which was ripe and powerful. Her look was all androgyny; however, Garbage didn't launch the show with their first single of the same name, but with "Paranoid." Garbage were decidedly mellow on "Drive You Home," then blew it up for "Stupid Girl," offered a record-perfect performance of "Till The Day I Die," and took a gravely, Ramones-y approach for "Happy When It Rains" and "Cherry Lips." Shirley closed by giving thanks to U2, particularly to drummer Larry Mullen Jr. for "offering what he didn't need to offer."
Bono took a U.S. flag from a fan and hugged it silently for a couple of minutes; though there was no direct mention of the tragedy, many of U2's lyrics suited the occasion nonetheless.
Walking onstage to their own canned music, U2 entered the Garden slowly, grandly, like omnipotent rock gods. Bono wasted no time working the large, heart-shaped stage that also enclosed a couple hundred fans. "You'd have to come back, wouldn't you?" he called out to the diehard U2 audience. Bono was wearing a black leather coat with a red star over the heart; the Edge sported a Yankees T-shirt. And they were just getting started.
U2 raved through "Beautiful Day," Bono singing, "Ya got any soul? Goal is soul. New York City--soul city." U2 were surely melodramatic, even precious, Bono paroling the heart's edge slowly during "End Of The World" and singing like a corny circus barker. They performed their upcoming single, with the lyrics, "Big ideas/Out of control"; with its boogaloo beat, it sounded like the Police.
Introducing the band (" Debbie Harry on drums..."), Bono launched into a brief history of U2 before Mullen kicked in the sledgehammer beat to "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and the Garden erupted. Bono took a U.S. flag from a fan and hugged it silently for a couple of minutes; though there was no direct mention of the tragedy, many of U2's lyrics suited the occasion nonetheless.
A high point in the show occurred when "Ruth from New York" came onstage from the audience to perform "Knocking On Heaven's Door" on guitar. She seemed like a plant, but she wasn't; she even stole Bono's thunder when she sang, "I'm so tired of this war/New York is the best place to be/Feel like I am knocking on heavens door." After a big hug, she was lead offstage--then it was time for "Staring At The Sun," "Where The Streets Have No Name," "Surrender," and "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," which brought up two large video screens playing an excerpt from Martin Luther King's "Promised Land" speech. Weird.
A Hendrix-y "Bullet The Blue Sky" is the first encore, followed by "What's Goin' On" and "One." Bono declared, "New York is place where "muggers, rock stars, megalomaniacs, and peanut-sellers" can all get along. Finally, the video screens came up again for "Peace On Earth," this time running a long, slow roll call of the names of the World Trade Center casualties. Then the names were projected on the audience, uniting the living with the deceased while Bono sang, "Walk on, walk on." There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Tonight, Bono brought the church of U2 into, as he called it, "the sacred heart of Madison Square Garden."
Often plagiarised, never matched.