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U2 - Elevate the Astoria
The Astoria Theatre, London
7th February 2001
By James Stewart

Bono described U2's smallest gig in London for a decade as their re-application for "the job ... best band in the world". They certainly produced a comprehensive show, running the full length of their career, from the first Island single, "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" all the way through to three tracks from All That You Can't Leave Behind.

The atmosphere outside the venue was tangible from early afternoon, with competition winners slipping in to collect their tickets amid high security while celebrity watchers hung around the stage door hoping to catch a glimpse of a band member or members of the star-studded guest list. That atmosphere just kept building throughout the warmup DJ's set till at 9.30 the band calmly slipped on to the stage.

After the pyrotechnics of their last few tours, U2 kept this gig remarkably stripped down, with fairly basic colored lights occasionally supplemented with strobes, and very little use of electronic backing. In that context, the strength of the songs really shone and the live energy injected into everything, particularly "Discotheque" and the tracks from the new album certainly dispelled any notion that U2 have lost their passion. The reception of "Beautiful Day" was as enthusiastic as any other track.

The band mostly let the music do the talking, segueing between tracks flawlessly (the move from "Discotheque" to "Staring at the Sun" was fantastic), but Bono did stop a couple of times to do some talking, breaking with tradition by introducing the band for what he claimed was only the second time ever. The crowd's response to each member was thunderous and it was clear that all involved were having a lot of fun. It's difficult to pick out highlights, but the encore rendition of "40" would probably take that award were it not that it sadly marked the end of the show. The chiming guitar intro to "I Will Follow" was another highlight, but the whole set raced past with no songs dragging.

Perhaps, as some audience members pointed out, U2 weren't quite at their peak energy-wise, but that was certainly compensated for by the small venue and crowd response. They didn't quite knock out all opposition, but U2's application has certainly made me eager to be at the interview.

Set list:

Until The End of the World
Beautiful Day
Elevation (with a bit of the Monkees' Stepping Stone)
Stuck In A Moment
Staring at the Sun
New York
11 O'Clock Tick Tock
I Will Follow
The Ground Beneath Her Feet
Mysterious Ways
Unchained Melody
All I Want Is You

James Stewart is a writer, web-designer and student based near London, UK. He co-ordinates the Greenbelt Festival's website and runs the Britlinks website, dedicated to Christian involvement in British and Irish music.

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