U2 101 – Elevation

U2101Its funny, but I still tend to think of All That You Can’t Leave Behind as “new”, even though it’ll celebrate its 14th anniversary this year. I still remember that, back before that album came out, “Beautiful Day” was being played on the radio, and it was getting plenty of love – rightfully so – but the other song that the band were making a big deal of was “Stuck in a Moment”, so of course, it was the song that I was most excited to hear as I was riding home from the midnight release at which I’d purchased my copy of the record. As soon as I got home, I sat down on the floor in front of my stereo system, popped the CD in, and pressed play. I already knew that I loved Beautiful Day, so I was tempted to skip it, but I was patient, and I wanted to hear the album in its entirety on my first listen, so even though my dearest desire was to get to the stuff I hadn’t heard yet, I dutifully let the opening track play, before at last arriving at the long awaited “Stuck in a Moment”. Of course, I loved “Stuck…”, but I didn’t find it to be their best song since “With or Without You”, which was how Brian Eno had been referring to it in interviews. I was mildly disappointed, due more to the hyperbole that had preceded the album than any fault in the song itself, but still – I was hoping for something more. I let the disc continue to play, and as soon as the next track began, I knew that this – this “Elevation” – was just what I was looking for. Aggressive, loose and funky, with a sly little lyrical wink to reggae music and an ecstatic “Woo-Hoo!” chorus that reminded me of nothing so much as the “joyful noise” that the Bible talks about. I confess that I was head-over-heels in love with this song, nevermind the fact that the some of lyrics are a little on the simple side – “a mole, digging in a hole” and so on.

1-67529-size2“Elevation” would go on to lend its name to the tour which supported “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”, and seemed to be embraced as warmly by concert-goers as it had been by me, that night on my living room floor, trying not to wake the neighbors. One of those moments that’s burned indelibly into the film reel in my mind is that moment at the beginning of the Elevation Live From Boston DVD. As the “trippy” remix of Elevation (AKA Influx mix – “trippy” was how it was labeled on the set-lists that the band had on stage) played over the loud speakers, the band took the stage with little fanfare, house lights still up, wearing their every day street clothes, and take command of the audience like no other rock band on the planet. I kept a picture of that moment at the start of the song, with Bono leaping into the air, on my desk at work for many years. Because the song’s performances on this tour were introduced by the remix, it lacked the gradual buildup of the album version and also varied from that version by changing the structure so that it had more in common with the “Tomb Raider remix” by Chris Vrenna, with an additional “Woo-Hoo!” chorus between the first and second verses.

Elevation continued to be played regularly on the Vertigo tour, and began with a prolonged “wah-wah” guitar part from Edge, much like the beginning of the song its original album version, while Bono bantered with the crowd and sang a chorus or two along with the first verse. I have to mention that it was on this tour, during the prolonged “Woo-Hoo” sing-alongs, that I began to notice that audiences regularly get the cadence of the chorus wrong. I hate to do it, but I’ve been living with this pain for too long, so I must ask my readers to please excuse the following interruption in your regularly scheduled U2101 analysis. If you’re one of those who just sings “Woo-Hoo, woo-hoo!” over and over, please listen carefully to the recordings below. The proper rhythm is “Woo-Hoo! Woo-hoo-oo!”, with a third syllable on every second “Woo-Hoo!”. Please, please, please, try to get it right.

sing048-14Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, back to the business at hand. After the Vertigo tour, I didn’t expect to see “Elevation” pop-up on a regular basis again, due solely to the fact that the chorus was obviously difficult for Bono to sing on some nights. Still, its so obviously a huge fan-favorite that I imagine that the band couldn’t bear to drop it altogether and it did make semi-regular appearances on the 360 tour, in an arrangement very similar to that which featured on the Vertigo tour. As for the song’s chances of making it into future setlists, if I had to guess, the regularity with which it will be performed in the future is likely going to be based exclusively on how often Bono feels he can hit those high notes. The fans obviously love it, and the band  are always looking for up-tempo songs, so I think that the band will play the song as often as they feel that they can do it justice.


2001-05-03 (Elevation Tour)


2005-03-28 (Vertigo Tour)


2009-08-20 (360 Tour)

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Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.

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