Opening Act(s): Die Soehne Mannheims
Elevation, Beautiful Day, Until The End Of The World, New Year’s Day, Kite, New York, I Will Follow-Ring Those Bells, Sunday Bloody Sunday, In My Life-Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of, In A Little While, Hawkmoon 269-Desire-Running To Stand Still, Stay (Faraway, So Close!), Bad-Wild Horses-40, Where The Streets Have No Name, Mysterious Ways-Sexual Healing, The Fly. Encore: Bullet The Blue Sky, With Or Without You, One, Walk On.
Hawkmoon 269 and Running To Stand Still are played in a medley with Desire. ‘Hawkmoon 269’ hasn’t been played since December 1989 and ‘Running To Stand Still’ not since December 1993. ‘In A Little While’ is dedicated to Dutch artist Herman Brood who committed suicide yesterday.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Still Haven’t Found What They’re Looking For
by Robert J. Mudge
COLOGNE. Those of us who thought rock music had been contaminated by a perfidious, soul-ravaging, coma-inducing disease can breathe again: If Thursday night’s performance by the Irish band U2 in the sold-out Cologne Arena is anything to go by, rock ‘n’ roll is very much alive.
Of course, the Greatest Band in the World, as they like to refer to themselves without the slightest trace of irony or self-effacement, has gone through various forms of reincarnation. Never one to shy away from a challenge, the band has managed with an almost chameleon-like quality to assimilate pop music’s varying styles and forms and turn them into something fresh. And, against the odds, they have done so successfully and without losing their credibility.
And although they have gone off on all these different tangents, their fans have remained faithful to them. One of their very first gigs in their hometown of Dublin was performed in front of a grand total of four people. Thursday saw them enthralling an 18,000-strong adoring crowd, and so far almost every stop on this arena tour has been sold out. Indeed, the sales figures for the album “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” are also impressive. Before its release, the band had not had a No. 1 in over three years. This album shot to the top in 32 countries and has now sold in excess of seven million copies worldwide.
The tour has poignantly been named the “Elevation” tour (after one of the tracks on the latest album). U2 has that rare quality of being able to sound up-lifting while remaining down-to-earth at the same time. Granted, lead singer Bono has been called many things, pompous, overbearing and overblown being some of the more pleasant terms used to describe him. And although he likes to see himself as the thinking man’s rock musician, his lyrics and mannerisms, thankfully, have not so far turned into some uncontrollable, excessively cerebral animal.
Despite their various musical incarnations, U2 will always have their trademarks: The swirling, cascading guitar riffs produced by The Edge (so dubbed because of his edgy, clipped way of playing enhanced by multiple effects); Bono’s voice, which can go from a yearning, soul-wrenching yelp to a crooning, caressing whisper; and the raw, driving rhythm work provided by drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and bass player Adam Clayton.
Instead of turning the house lights off as is customary, they remained on until halfway through the first song, giving the occasion a slightly surreal feel. The show featured almost all the material from the latest album, and while songs like “Elevation” and “Beautiful Day” were greeted joyously like long-lost friends and belted out by the audience word for word, the reaction to the piano intro to one of their biggest hits, “New Year’s Day” almost tore the roof off.
Somewhat surprisingly, they also played “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” a song about the infamous 1972 incident when British soldiers shot at unharmed protesters in Derry. Surprising, because they have not played the tune for quite some time and it had been rumored that they would not be playing it on this tour. However, in light of the recent escalation of violence in Northern Ireland, the band obviously wanted to make a statement.
Thankfully it remained a musical one. Never one to shirk a political argument, Bono has been known to insist on airing his views on anything remotely in the political spectrum. Not necessarily a bad thing, as he has acted as an untiring campaigner on the issue of human rights and debt cancellation, but too much of a good thing can also sometimes leave a bitter taste.
In what was a radical departure for the band from the last tour’s stage production, which featured giant blown-up lemons and a stage resembling a spaceship, the focus this time was entirely on the music. Or as Bono told the audience, “the last time we played with lemons, this time we’re playing with heart.” Indeed, the only concession to a production normally associated with major league rock stars was a heart-shaped catwalk that stretched out into the first few rows of fans. In line with the no-frills show, they performed a stripped-down, acoustic sing-along version of “Desire” on the catwalk.
The two-hour-plus show ended with “Walk On,” not only a nice way of telling the audience to go home, but more importantly a track dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the Burmese opposition who is under house arrest in Myanmar.
The gig proved that U2, as Larry Mullen recently put when asked whether he could envisage the band breaking up, is a band with a mission. “We still feel that there is something to be accomplished out there, unfinished work if you like. As long as that feeling persists, we will carry on.”
U2 plays the Olympiahalle in Munich on Sunday and Berlin Waldbühne on July 29. The album “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” is out on Island Records.
All images are © Associated Press; © Jens Hartmann