U2 Elevates the Music, Tones Down the Stage in Chicago
'Traditionally, politicians and rock stars are like oil and water', writes Mark Guarino, Daily Herald Music Critic. 'But there was Bono pressing the flesh and posing for photos on Saturday like a candidate motivated by fear of hanging chads.
A band strident about politics in the past, the major issue on this current "Elevation" tour - including three more nights in Chicago - is just the music. Strange that should be big news for a group of musicians, but what happens when a band makes its best albums and becomes the biggest band in the world, and its members are only in their early thirties?
If that band is U2 over 10 years ago, it plows on, attempts to reinvent itself numerous times and embarks on high-concept stadium tours that grow more and more elaborate until irony-inducing stage props like giant mirrorball lemons and hanging Volkswagens take over - literally and figuratively - the music.
With U2 entering its third decade, it became time to reassess, which is what this current tour, and its accompanying album, is all about.
Like Bruce Springsteen, who last hit the road touting just his glory days without draped flags and fist-pumping patriotism, U2 stuck to the basics. The only stage novelties were two ramps that curved into the floor, creating a heart-shaped pit for about 350 fans to cram into and for Bono and band to walk out on top of.
That simple device became an essential part of the show. A larger-than-life stage prop himself, Bono strode through the crowd striking poses, stepping out onto security barricades and playing the raging bull to guitarist The Edge's bullfighter. The entire floor was general admission, which, while making security watchdogs antsy, provided handy visuals - like the sea of hands clapping out the Bo Diddley beat on "Desire."
Crafty manipulation like that was not necessary when the band performed classic anthems early in the set including "New Year's Day" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday," often with the house lights thrown up. "I Will Follow," recorded when they were still teens, sounded cranked out of a garage as each of the foursome, including bassist Adam Clayton, huddled around drummer Larry Mullen Jr.