U2 Elevation Tour
Elevation Tour 1st leg: North America
: Reunion Arena - Dallas, Texas, USA
Back to the basics with U2...and P.J. HarveyDave Ferman (published on 2001-03-29)
By Dave Ferman
Star-Telegram staff writer
U2 was playing the Cotton Bowl on a warm spring night in 1997 to a large, if not capacity, audience, booming out `I Will Follow' and the new `Mofo' and plenty of the hits.
Over the band soared an enormous, McDonald's-inspired yellow arch, and behind them, filling nearly the entire width of the stadium, was the world's largest video screen, sending up images of the four band members.
This was Total Stadium Rock -- `big' sound, `big' props, `big' visuals, `big' moments, played to a `biiiiiig' horde of people, some more than 100 yards away. For one of the encores, the band members emerged from a huge mirror-ball lemon to sing `Discotheque.'
As we said, `BIG.' But, somehow, a tad hollow. The PopMart tour was U2's bridge too far, the moment when their reach exceeded their grasp and they seemed dwarfed by the trappings. It was a good show, but it didn't feel right.
Three reasons: One -- the less-than-blockbuster sales for the `Pop' CD meant they played to thousands of empty seats around the world.
Two -- the sometimes so-so `Pop' material didn't translate as well to stadiums as that of `Achtung Baby' and `The Joshua Tree.'
And three -- the PopMart presentation did not have the conceptual heft of the `Achtung Baby
ooropa' megatour, which passed through America twice and included more than 150 shows.
A good, hard rethink was in order, and U2 has done it. In keeping with their back-to-basics latest CD, last fall's `All That You Can't Leave Behind,' the band's Elevation world tour is, with a few exceptions, going back indoors, to arenas seating generally no more than 20,000 people.
Just as important, for the first time ever the band is playing in the round, with no reserved seats on the floor. There will be no arches, no mega-mega video screen. Just four guys on a round stage, with a catwalk, and no bad seats in the house.
And what will they be playing? Well, if recent pre-tour small-hall shows in London and New York are any indication, it sounds like a pretty interesting set.
As well as `Follow,' two other early favorites -- `40' and `11 O'Clock Tick Tock' were played, as was `Bad,' which was the finest moment at their Dallas show during the `Unforgettable Fire' tour back in 1984-'85.
Sound good? Add to this `Until the End of the World' (which opened the London show), `Desire,' `Discotheque,' `One,' the relatively rare-to-the-stage `All I Want Is You' from `Rattle and Hum,' and a brace of songs from `Behind,' including `Beautiful Day,' `Walk On,' `Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of' and `Elevation.'
Other possibilities: The Ramones' `I Remember You' and an encore of the Who's `Won't Get Fooled Again.' As well as snippets of songs by the Rolling Stones `(Ruby Tuesday' and `Sympathy for the Devil),' and Marvin Gaye's `Sexual Healing.'
What we may `not' hear are all the big singalong hits. The London show, for example, included nothing from `The Joshua Tree;' no `Where the Streets Have No Name,' no `With or Without You.' And don't expect much from `Zooropa,' either.
Pre-tour small-hall shows are usually decent road maps to what a band will do when it gets on the road, and if these two shows say anything, they say that U2 is toning down the grand gestures of the past.
Which, considering everything, makes perfect sense: They've proven they can do the Biggest Band in the World thing. Now they're trying to reinvestigate whether or not they can be the best.
7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Provided they were all still together, the acts that have opened for U2 over the years would make for a pretty exciting music festival. Imagine a show featuring B.B. King, the Pixies, the BoDeans and B.A.D., `and' Oasis, `and' Lone Justice, and Pearl Jam.
Oh, yeah, and Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine.
We'd pay to be there.
English singer/songwriter/oddity P.J. Harvey most definitely deserves a place at this table, even though most of the 17,000 or so people going to U2's almost instantly sold-out show at Reunion Arena on Tuesday night have no earthly idea who she is.
After nine years and six CDs, Harvey (the P.J. stands for Polly Jean) long ago became one of those performers whom rock critics love and who have built a small but fiercely dedicated fan base.
With her whip-thin frame, huge eyes, full lips and fantastic taste in clothes, she projects an air of detached, knowing urban cool -- even though she's a country girl raised in a tiny village in southwest England and lives far from London's hustle and bustle.
So here's some advice: If you've got U2 tickets, get there by 7:30 p.m., in time for Harvey's set.
Her music -- at different times corrosively guitar-propelled, sweet and bluesy -- is usually interesting enough, but it's her lyrics and delivery that sets Harvey apart. Her lyrics are often extremely direct, wonderfully so, and now-and-then carnal -- she writes of the push and pull of love and lust, and whether to trust one's instincts and feelings. Or just wanting to undress a lover.
Released on Halloween 2000, Harvey's CD, `Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea,' pulses with the influence of soaking up New York City for six months in the spring and summer of 1999. The scenes are different -- one song mentions Brooklyn, another watching prostitutes and pimps. Harvey seems fascinated by -- and at home in -- the city's grit, noise and shadows, and Stories is a fine CD.
And should she pique your interest and make you want to hear more than 45 minutes, Stories and 1995's CD `To Bring You My Love' might be the ideal places to start. After that, you're probably ready to go back to her first CD, 1992's `Dry,' as interesting and sometimes startling a first effort as that of, well, U2.
-- Dave Ferman
Often plagiarised, never matched.