U2 / PJ Harvey
May 9, 2001
Bono and The Edge get comfy.
Story by Tony BonyataWith the majority of their Euro-Vegas techno glitz stripped away from their last two tours, U2's Elevation tour quietly descended on the Bradley Center last Wednesday (their first Milwaukee show since 1981). Without the high-tech props clamoring for attention, U2 proved to be one of the handful of rock acts that can make a stadium show feel intimate. With a clean, sleek stage guitarist The Edge, drummer Larry Mullen, bassist Adam Clayton and vocalist Bono casually walked out looking like, respectively, a skullcap garbed stoner, gas station attendant, Josie & The Pussycats' roadie and a biker / porn star.
Photos by Phil Bonyata
With the entire house lights on, they opened with an uplifting rendition of "Elevation," from their latest album All That You Can't Leave Behind, before a crotch-grabbing Bono sprinted around the large heart-shaped catwalk that jutted out a third of the way into the arena. With the circuses of their Pop Mart and ZooTV tours toned down the emphasis was rightfully shifted back to these four talented artists, and more importantly their music.
Despite the fact that Bono is one of the most charismatic frontmen in rock - as he proved during the song "New York," in which he strutted in black leather and dark shades in front of large translucent scrims like a runway model turned southern pimp - U2 really is a band effort. The four large projection screens helped drive home this concept as each screen featured individual shots of each member.
While the show weighed heavily on material from their latest album, with wonderful takes of "Kite," "Walk On" and the indelible pop of "Beautiful Day," they also managed to revisit a number of older songs without sounding pious or sentimental. Whereas "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "New Years Day" may have smacked of self-righteousness earlier in their career, their more direct takes gave them a fresh new honesty. On the latter number, which saw The Edge alternating between meaningful keys and slicing guitar, the audience flexed and clenched every muscle as they pounded their fists in the air as if Springsteen was in the house. Convulsing amid pulsating strobes Bono proceeded to walk from the stage and onto the hands of his faithful following on "Until The End Of The World," before sparring with The Edge and his guitar like a bull to a matador's cape.
Before finishing a stirring rendition of "One," Bono cheekily sang "Happy Birthday" to himself - as he was about to turn 41 the next day. On a more somber note he introduced "Stuck in A Moment," as "a song for Michael Hutchinson [the late singer from INXS]. We lost him along the way," he explained, later following it up with yet another eulogy on the song "A Little While" as a tribute to the recently departed Joey Ramone.
As the rightful heirs to the Rolling Stones' title of 'The World's Greatest Rock n Roll Band,' U2 proved that while still having the power to elevate with Biblical proportions, they can still move mountains on a much simpler and more direct level.
PJ Harvey, who opened for U2, treated the largely unaffected crowd to a brief set that was steeped in sexual tension and bombastic rock dynamics. Looking like a gypsy showgirl - in a slinky silver sequined dress - she and her taut four-piece band broke into numbers that ran back to her early '90s catalog and up to her latest album Stories From the City, Stories From The Sea.
A loose organic feel permeated "The Sky Lit Up," while PJ traded her guitar for a set of maracas on "Down By The Water," and shimmied her gaunt, angular frame to the squalling guitars and junkyard keys. "I just want to sit here and watch you undress," she shouted from her song "This Is Love," as her angst-ridden guitar had enough power to rip flesh from bone. And you've just got to love a girl who has the verve to use as many pedal effects for her voice as Hendrix did for his guitar.
The most harrowing and hypnotizing part or her performance, however, was when she stood alone on stage with just her guitar for a raw take of "Rid Of Me." "Lick my legs, I'm on fire! Lick my legs of desire!" she pleaded at the top of her lungs as her naked power chords echoed through the stadium.
Even though it was apparent that the majority of the audience wasn't familiar with her music, PJ's stirring performance made a lasting, if not jarring, impression.
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