Sports Arena, San Diego, April 17 2001
It is so silly, all this talk of U2 "going back to basics" and "rejecting their 90's excesses". They are developing artists. That's what they were doing then, this is what they are doing now. Continuing to develop as vital artists does not automatically require a repudiation of their past artistic phases.
I remember when Achtung Baby came out, the critics wetting themselves in excitement because U2 had moved away from their 80's self-righteousness and moral conviction in favor of sex and irony. This was much easier for critics to write about than songs about God or torture or war.
Well the small-minded critical circle has come 'round once again. Now the 80's U2 is back in, the 90's U2 is out. Silly.
The April 17 San Diego show was a wonderful affirmation, again showing me how far ahead of the pundits the U2 boys are. All of the talk of the bare bones staging is just wrong. There are just as many bells and whistles here as there were on the Pop Mart tour, only this time they are really classy instead of gaudy. The lighting, props, and accompanying visual art are all used to great effect. They all support the music as the center of attention, as opposed to the musicians.
It seemed to me that the theatrics intentionally provided a "bigger picture" to focus on, instead of teenybopper hero worship ("Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust", remember?). This made the show more about the audience, instead of about the four players.
This is as it should be. Bono spoke several times about the late Joey Ramone and the Punk influence on the Dublin teenagers that were THE HYPE/FEEDBACK/U2. Their honesty, commitment, and devotion to their audience come from that, and it is proven in every minute of this show.
Once again they are asking us to think bigger, to ignore the trite black and white crap from the pundits, and to think and judge for ourselves. That's why they remain vital. They were vital on ZOO TV, on POP MART, and remain so now. They challenge us to keep up with them.
One highlight was the use of "Bullet the Blue Sky" to attack the gun nuts in America. This was especially uncomfortable and meaningful in conservative San Diego, where we are having a rash of teenage white schoolboys using Daddy's gun to slaughter their classmates. Pop art making us look in the mirror and think; that's a good thing.
The feeling of joy, which the U2 boys have been talking about lately, was the overriding emotion of the show. The howling that Bono begins "Elevation" (and the show) with pretty much sums up the whole thing. Communal joy.
p.s. Kudos' for the thematic (elevation) pre-show music: "Higher Ground", "I Want to Take You Higher", etc.
Derision for the $85-$130 price tag for the American tour, as opposed to the $40--$55 price tag for the European shows. What the hell's up with that?
Set list in San Diego:
Until the End of the World
New Year's Day
Stuck In A Moment
Even Better Than the Real Thing
I Will Follow
Sunday Bloody Sunday
The Sweetest Thing
In A Little While
The Ground Beneath Her Feet
Where The Streets Have No Name
Bullet the Blue Sky
With or Without You
I Remember You