that goes over possible changes. The majority seem to agree that “Kite” and “Gone” are from June 5, though some folks believe “Where the Streets Have No Name” came from that show as well.
They’re wrong, but I can understand the confusion, for in addition to some of these switches, Elevation deftly edits some small bits. The June 6 performance of “Streets” went out live during halftime of an NBA finals game, and toward the end of the song, Bono tosses a basketball into the crowd and shouts, “Going out live to the NBA!” You can see those parts of the number at the end of the DVD’s documentary, but they’re absent from the main show. Because of this, some think that “Streets” came from June 5, but a close look at the two indicates that this isn’t true. The editing’s different, but some of the shots are the same; one briefly out-of-focus image of Bono proves that they’re from June 6. Elevation simply cut Bono’s statement and avoided shots of him as he threw the ball.
Elevation also removed a variety of references to non-U2 songs. During actual U2 shows, Bono often sings snippets of other tunes. Virtually none of these remain on the DVD. “Stuck In a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” loses its intro of the Beatles’ “In My Life”, while “Desire” lacks its coda of Them’s “Gloria”. Undoubtedly, rights questions caused the changes, though strangely, excerpts of Bob Marley’s “Get Up Stand Up” remain. Perhaps the band felt strongly enough about its inclusion that they were willing to pay for it.
Speaking of omissions, Elevation totally drops some songs for reasons essentially unknown. One of these may have been affected by the same rights issues I mentioned, for we lose a semi-impromptu version of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready”. That one was a double whammy; it was a non-U2 song and it also involved a non-U2 performer; as they did frequently during the Elevation tour, the band brought a crowd member on stage to play guitar for that track. It’s possible his presence made it impossible for the song to make the cut as well as any possible musical rights problems.
I find it harder to understand the omission of the other three absent songs. “Mysterious Ways” came between “Until the End of the World” and “Stuck In a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” during the concert but it’s totally gone here, and the cut seems very obvious. The same goes for “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, which closed the set after “Where the Streets Have No Name”, and for “One”, which opened the second encore and preceded “Walk On”. (The DVD’s inclusion of “Wake Up Dead Man” is somewhat misleading; the song acts as little more than a brief introduction to “Walk On” and isn’t a full performance.)
Why were these songs dropped? I have no idea. Some believe it’s because of technical problems, but with two concerts from which to choose, that seems unlikely. Obviously the DVD’s producers were willing to drop in parts of June 5, and it’s very hard to believe that these songs were messed up during both nights.
Whatever the reason may be, it’s bothersome. Clearly there’s enough room for the whole show; this is a two-DVD set, for God’s sake! Because of these omissions, Elevation loses some of its luster. (By the way, “Mysterious Ways” would have been another rights problem, as Bono briefly quoted Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”. However, that can’t be the reason for its omission, since it’s a very quick snippet, and obviously similar issues didn’t affect the inclusion of other songs.)
Concert videos with complete - or nearly - shows exist for the last three U2 tours. Zoo TV Live from Sydney came from near the end of that particular - and particularly long - trek, and it picked a good performance to display. Zoo TV was a well-oiled machine by that time, and the video offered a nice mix of then-current tunes and classics for a very satisfying piece. The presentation helped focus the scope of the show, and this stands as the best of the video bunch. Unfortunately, it omitted one song - “Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World” - but it still felt like a satisfying program.
The PopMart video also came from close to the end of the tour, but it should have offered an earlier performance. The PopMart show didn’t change a ton from the opening days, though it lost a few songs from Pop and added some older tunes; for example, “New Year’s Day” didn’t hit the playlist until some Chicago dates two months into the tour. However, I thought one of these omissions was extremely significant. The Mexico City concert displayed on the video was part of the third leg, and during that portion, one Pop song - “Miami” - lost its spot for almost all of those shows. During the first leg, the band would play for roughly 45 minutes and then we’d get a bizarre escapade: the Edge would do a Karaoke number. Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” were the usual suspects, but a couple of others fell into that spot as well.
After that, U2 launched a four-song segment that I felt was the heart of the show. They did Pop’s “Miami” which viciously segued into “Bullet the Blue Sky” from The Joshua Tree. Once it finished, they eased into Pop’s “Please”, one of that album’s numbers - along with “Miami” - that most improved from record to stage, and they finished this mini-set with a rousing rendition of “Where the Streets Have No Name”. That ended the main part of the show with a bang before they eventually came out for a fine encore, and I think the four-song bit was as good as it gets for U2; the tunes worked fantastically well together.
Bizarrely, they dropped “Miami” for almost all of the third (and fourth) legs, and that negatively affected the flow of the performance. “Bullet” is my favorite U2 song, but it works best with a strong lead-in number. The Zoo TV Aussie show provided a nice segue from “Dirty Day”, but “Miami” really kicked off “Bullet” with a bang. During the Mexico City show, it started cold, and while the performance still worked well, it lacked the sparkle found in the earlier concerts.
While the PopMart video should have come from the earlier part of the tour, I felt the opposite about Elevation. All of the third leg concerts came after the events of September 11, and that tragedy added depth and meaning to the tour where none had previously existed. The sets largely remained the same. That opening South Bend show more strongly altered the original list, but after that they returned to the old basic program. However, some of the lighter songs - such as “The Fly” - got the boot, and “With or Without You” also disappeared. Some tunes that showed up sporadically in the past - like “Out of Control” - became more common, and tracks like “I Still Can’t Find What I’m Looking For” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” now made the game regularly.
The variations don’t sound like much on paper, but they added weight to the concert and made it both a moving and rousing reflection on current events. The October 19 Baltimore show was quite possibly the finest U2 concert I’ve seen. It built slowly to the tremendously emotional release of “Please”. Played with a full band for the only time this tour, the song used the spot usually reserved for “Bad”. Bono introduced the tune simply: “This song is about… well, you know what this song is about.” Originally intended to address the situation in Northern Ireland, “Please” fit 9/11 perfectly and created a cathartic way to lament those events. (U2 continued to play “Please” in subsequent shows, but they did it as an acoustic number between Bono and Edge; Baltimore appears to have been its sole full-band performance in 2001.)
After that, the normal segue into “Where the Streets Have No Name” seemed more glorious than usual, and “Pride (In the Name of Love)” possessed a stronger impact as well. (“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” added a nice interlude between those two numbers.) With that, the main set finished, and the band soon returned for “Bullet the Blue Sky”. During the first leg shows, this opening encore number started with an anti-gun video - shown during Elevation - but now renditions dropped this clip and used a gently wailing female vocal instead. Following “Bullet”, we got Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and a defiant version of “New York”; moved from its original spot in the main set, its placement in the encore makes it both an elegy and a statement of resolve.
“One” remained in the normal place as the first tune of the second encore, but the visual presentation altered. On the video screens at the rear of the stage, the list of those who died on the planes during the 9/11 attacks scrolled past, and this added a classy and moving touch of remembrance. (Later in the third leg, they added the names of New York rescue workers and firemen who perished in the line of duty as well.) Finally, after a few bars of “Peace on Earth”, “Walk On” - the traditional set closer - finished the show with a note of strength and affirmation.
It’s too bad that U2 didn’t prep one of the third leg shows for the Elevation video, as it much better represents the band closer to the top of their game. Not that there was anything wrong with the first leg of the 2001 tour, but the performances on the third leg seemed so much more meaningful that it’s hard to go back to the less powerful notions from earlier in the year.
Nonetheless, Elevation is a good document to have, and the DVD seems like a nice piece of work. Yes, there were many more “special” shows on this tour that would have been better choices; the DVD’s documentary actually acknowledges that. But things don’t always work out so perfectly. In defense of the band’s choice, I’m sure this DVD’s creation was well underway long before it became clear how much more substantial the third leg shows would be. This was clearly an elaborate and expensive undertaking, so it wouldn’t have made sense for them to scrap the original plan.
As a representation of most of the Elevation tour, Elevation works pretty well. One negative comes from Bono’s voice. He had some concerns in that department throughout the tour, and at times during the show, you can hear the strain. Actually, he starts somewhat poorly, as “Elevation” presents some of the weakest singing of the night - check out the second verse in particular - but he improves over time. Elevation doesn’t represent Bono at - or anywhere near - his best, but overall, his work seems acceptable.
The same goes for the band themselves. Amusingly, Edge goes uncharacteristically ballistic at the end of “Gone”; we see him angrily fling and kick his guitar. During on online chat, he stated he did this because he thought the band “murdered” the song. Hmm… that statement could sound good or bad, but in this context, I’ll assume Edge expressed his discontent. I don’t know why, as “Gone” sounds fine here, and I’ve heard no fan contempt toward this number; Bono hits some sour notes, but otherwise it works well. In any case, it’s an entertaining bit.
The main set comes across fine, but it seems fairly average. I have no complaints about the first 14 numbers, but little about them stands out significantly either. Where the show really starts to fire, however, occurs during the encore. “Bullet the Blue Sky” has long been my favorite U2 song, and obviously the band like it a lot as well; they’ve played it at almost every show they’ve done since “Bullet” first came into existence in 1987. I didn’t do exhaustive research, but I think they’ve performed it at every show since 1987 with the exception of the Elevation third leg opener in South Bend.
Anyway, “Bullet” has always been a killer tune live, and while I prefer the Zoo TV and PopMart versions, the one found on Elevation nonetheless works exceedingly well. Toward the end of the first leg, Bono added lyrics that revolved around Mark David Chapman, the assassin of John Lennon. These remain eerie and intense, and they add power to this rendition.
“With or Without You” has been more hit or miss live. I love the Rattle and Hum version, but subsequent renditions seem less stellar. The Elevation track works well primarily because of the visual element. Bono brings a female fan on stage and makes the performance a sweetly intimate moment.
“The Fly” was a regular on the Zoo TV trek but made no PopMart shows. It appeared periodically during Elevation and didn’t do much for me. I love the album rendition of the tune, but it seemed to lose something live. Happily, it gets it back at this concert, as the song really cranks in this environment. The tune seems more focused than usual, and the band bring a particular energy to it that brings it to life.
After a verse or two of “Wake Up Dead Man”, the show ends with “Walk On”. At this point, it’s impossible for me to hear the song and remove it from its post-9/11 context, so some of my warm feelings may relate from that factor. Whatever the case, this version wraps up the show nicely. “Walk On” is one of the many U2 tunes that gains power live - I’ll never listen to it and not inject Bono’s cry of “U-S-A!” as the band kicks into the first verse - and it ends the DVD on a positive note.
Well, mainly positive, at least, for some production decisions mar the presentation. Stupidly, the powers that be decided to run the end credits over the last parts of the song. From the omission of three songs to this move, I’ve never seen a DVD so obsessed with conserving space! Hey guys - it’s a two-disc set; there’s plenty of room to run the credits after the show ends!
This mars an otherwise fairly solid presentation. Readers of my other concert video reviews may have noted my extreme disdain for gimmicky techniques. These attempt to “spice up” the presentation but they rarely do more than distract the viewer.
Elevation includes few of those issues. Some excessively rapid cutting does occur, but those examples match with particular songs. Aggressive songs like “New York” get more aggressive visual treatments. At times this seems a little busy and forced, but as a whole, it fits the music.
Actually, Elevation is one of those concert videos for which it looks like the producers consciously tried to go for a documentary feel. There are lots of rocky handheld shots, and you’ll see more than a few bits in which the cameraman searches for focus. These also seem a little distracting at times, especially because they feel like artificial attempts to make the concert seem “real”, but for the most part, I think Elevation offers a reasonably accurate and involving presentation of the show. U2 are a rough-hewn band live, and the DVD communicates that reasonably well.
I won’t call Elevation one of the great concert presentations, but it works nicely as a whole. Unquestionably, the DVD has some flaws, primarily due to the omission of three songs. Nonetheless, it offers a nearly complete concert performance and communicates the positive aspects of a U2 show during a good but unexceptional tour. Now when will we see the Zoo TV and PopMart shows on DVD?
Elevation 2001 Live In Boston appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. From now on, I’ll feel frightened if I see that Hamish Hamilton has directed a concert DVD. While he seems to create a good representation of the event itself, the products I’ve observed have offered surprisingly weak picture quality. While Elevation wasn’t quite as bad as the other Hamilton effort I watched - Madonna’s Drowned World Tour - it was close; the concert appeared disappointingly flawed much of the time.
Sharpness was often a definite issue. I consider this a concern above and beyond the murky focusing seen at times. Elevation included so many shots during which the cameraman actively searched for precision that I’m sure they were intentional; they occur too frequently for them to be accidents. However, even when the image was supposed to be crisp, it often lacked detail and definition. Many close-ups and medium shots appeared reasonably accurate, but otherwise a lot of the show came across as soft and fuzzy.
Despite that lack of focus, I still saw a lot of problems related to jagged edges, as they popped up pretty frequently. I also noticed periodic examples of edge enhancement. Other source flaws seemed absent, though the image occasionally had a somewhat blocky and “digital” look to it.
Elevation wasn’t the most colorful show ever, and Elevation represented that. However, I must note it seemed duller than expected. The presentation had a pervasively brownish tone to it and when we did see colors, they tended to look somewhat drab. I also found the red lighting during “Gone” and “Bullet the Blue Sky” to appear overly thick and heavy.
Black levels were affected by the brownish nature of the program, as they seemed a bit flat. The program appeared to have trouble with contrast, as the heavy white lighting used at times tended to wash out the image to a degree. Overall, Elevation remained consistently watchable, but it was a definite disappointment in the picture department, especially after recent treats like Bruce Springsteen’s Live In New York City and Sting’s …All This Time.
Happily, the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio of Elevation offered a totally different story. Put simply, this was a terrific mix that sounded better than any of the 14 shows I saw live. The sound field remained pretty heavily anchored toward the front spectrum, but that seemed appropriate for the presentation. Vocals were well placed in the center, while instrumentation spread cleanly and accurately across the forward channels. The rears mainly added a little musical atmosphere as well as crowd noise, but they kicked in some modest split-surround information on a few occasions. The Edge’s guitar gronks as the lights kick out during “Elevation” popped up from the rear, and after “The Fly”, we heard reverberations of Bono’s “gotta go” refrain spin from speaker to speaker.
Audio quality sounded excellent. Bono’s vocals maintained terrific presence and they always sounded warm and natural. Edge’s guitar displayed fine clarity and precision, while Adam’s bass received good support and depth. Larry’s drumming was clean and distinct and showed none of the “boxiness” that often affects concert percussion. Overall, this was a vivid and robust presentation that nearly compensated for the program’s visual weaknesses.
2001 really was a great year for music DVDs. Not only did we get fine programs like Springsteen’s Live In New York City, but also these packages have finally started to embrace supplements to a better degree. Elevation gives us a nice two-DVD set with a good roster of extras.
Most of these appear on disc two, but one excellent piece shows up on the first DVD. The Making of the Filming of Elevation 2001 U2 Live In Boston may have an extremely awkward title, but it’s a fine documentary. Narrated by Tom Dunne, the 23-minute and 45-second program gives us a very solid look behind the scenes at the shoot. We hear from participants like director Hamish Hamilton, music producer Steve Lillywhite, and tour director Willie Williams and get many good glimpses of the process. These include snippets of soundchecks as well as many other aspects. We even get a few clips of other U2 performances like PopMart, Zoo TV, their famous 1983 “Red Rocks” show, and their appearance at the 2001 “Brits” awards show.
I can’t call this a “warts and all” documentary, but it does seem surprisingly open and honest. Dunne’s narration reveals the various issues that plagued the filming, such as the natural animosity between roadies and the video crew. We also hear about band-related concerns and problems that cropped up along the way. It’s quite informative and compelling.
Onto DVD Two we move, and there we discover a mix of additional features. Most significant of these is Another Perspective, a multiangle presentation of many songs. We find three possibilities: a fan camera from inside the heart, a director’s view that shows Hamilton at work in a production booth, and the same material found on the main DVD. We get versions of these songs: “Elevation”, “Stuck In a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of”, “Gone”, “I Will Follow”, “In a Little While”, “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)”, “Bad”, “Where the Streets Have No Name”, “Bullet the Blue Sky”, “With or Without You”, “Wake Up Dead Man” and “Walk On”.
This is a fun feature, but it’s not a great use of the multiangle technology. To be sure, the two new options are entertaining. The fan cam doesn’t look terribly good, and the sound is somewhat weak as well; each of the variations uses its native sound, not the final mix heard on the main DVD, so the fan cam seems thin and a little harsh. Still, it’s a cool first-person viewpoint that captures the event in a crude but compelling manner. Hamilton’s viewpoint looks even worse, but it’s also interesting, if just to see a director at work during a show. There’s even a little controversy during “Stay” as the onstage cameraman gets the boot!
While these options are cool, I’d have preferred a more standard multiangle presentation. The Elevation shows all offered four video screens, one per band member. That would have been more satisfying. Nonetheless, I liked this feature, although I don’t expect I’ll revisit it too often.
Note that all three options aren’t always available. The standard production view runs throughout the entire piece, but at times, we’re not able to access the fan or director viewpoints. The dropouts are brief, but they do occur.
Road Movie offers a tribute to the roadies who keep shows like this going. In a six-minute and 10-second time-lapse piece accompanied by a live version of “Walk On”, we see the entire Elevation stage set put up right before our eyes. We also watch the punters arrive in the arena, parts of the show, and then check out the roadies as they deconstruct the whole thing. I find it amazing that folks can assemble such huge productions once much less almost daily for months. It’s very cool to see the incredible work behind the scenes of this kind of production. And think about it - this was scaled-down for U2! Imagine what it would have looked like for PopMart or (especially) Zoo TV!
In the Additional Tracks area, we find… uh… additional tracks. For historical purposes we get “Elevation” from Miami in March 2001. The first song from the first show… sort of. Actually, we mostly see “Elevation”, but other snippets from the concert also are intercut with it; this makes it feel like a trailer at times. In addition, the audio’s apparently from the second night, while the video’s from the debut! I think some of the intercutting intended to hide this, but it’s still clear at times. Toward the end, we hear a little Bono wailing but he’s clearly not singing in the video. I don’t understand why they included a “first show souvenir” that’s been doctored.
More confusion accompanies the version of “Beautiful Day” found here. The DVD claims it’s from a May 2001 Toronto show. Nope, unless they’ve moved Toronto to Ireland. Instead, it’s a rooftop performance from the Clarence Hotel in Dublin. It looks like part of a video shoot, actually. Bono’s vocals seem to be live, but it sounds like the band might be canned. Oddly, some crowd noise is added to the package. It’s interesting but nothing special. That Toronto titling sure seems odd, though.
Smaller typographical woes accompany “Stuck In a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of”. This clip mixes 2000 studio and local footage from “Dubin” Ireland with more from France. The audio comes from the standard version of the song, and the whole thing’s pretty blah.
More tantalizing are teasers for Zoo TV Live from Sydney and PopMart Live From Mexico City. Unfortunately, these are nothing more than brief clips from each show’s start. We get the first 100 seconds of “Zoo Station” - my second-favorite U2 song, if anyone cares - and 142 seconds of “Mofo”. Both titles were once formally announced for DVD release, but both were cancelled. Let’s hope their inclusion here signals that we’ll finally see them on DVD soon.
In an unusual - but pleasant - step, Elevation includes a nice little booklet with some solid notes from Q Magazine editor Danny Eccleston. He adds perspective to the set and offers brief but interesting remarks.
Two Easter eggs pop up on Elevation. We get one per disc, though both use the same format. At the end of the “Making of” program, you can highlight Bono’s head in the “Dreamchaser” logo. Click on it and enter “1976” with your remote and you can see a “Bonocam” version of “Elevation”.
That’s the theory, at least. Unfortunately, despite repeated attempts on both my standard player and my DVD-ROM drive, I couldn’t get the stupid thing to work! I was more successful with the Bonocam version of “Until the End of the World” on DVD Two. Here’s how to get it: go to the “Additional Tracks” area and click “7” immediately. This returns you to the main menu. Press the “menu” button on your remote and you’ll see “End of the World” in all its color Bonocam glory! I can’t imagine I’d want to watch a whole show from this angle, but it’s cool in small doses, especially since the audio is very Bonocentric as well.
Lastly, Elevation tosses in some DVD-ROM features. We find Weblinks to U2’s homepage as well as some for causes they support; we get connections to Drop the Debt, Free (Leonard) Peltier, Greenpeace, the Burma Project, and Amnesty International. In addition, we discover a screensaver and wallpaper in the “Resources” area. Both seem decent but pedestrian.
As a die-hard U2 fan, I can’t say I’m totally pleased with their Elevation 2001 Live In Boston DVD. It’s a good package, but it falls short of being a complete success. On the positive side, it represents a fairly typical 2001 U2 concert well, and the audio sounds absolutely terrific. Negatively, the picture often looks drab at best, and the package omits four tracks from the original concert. The roster of extras is pretty good, however, and the overall release is strong enough to warrant recommendation.