April 19th 2001 was a Thursday night, grey and raining as I recall. I had been working at my first job out of college for about four months and was still getting used to not being a student anymore. Living in a tiny tiny apartment right in the heart of the ghetto next to an Asian karaoke bar, it was downwind from a fish market, with the occasional crazy person attacking the lobby door with a crowbar. Home sweet home.
Upon getting home from work that ordinary Thursday night, I retrieved a phone message from KFOG radio, letting me know that instead of Friends & ER that night, I was going to be seeing U2 in San Jose — winning a contest I forgot I’d entered. Not a bad exchange. On such short notice, everything feels more exciting and more wonderful because you’ve had absolutely no time in your mind to build it up or form any sort of anticipations, you’re just grabbing your coat and heading to Will Call for a night that stuns you in its intimacy despite being shared with 20,000 other people.
The Thursday night show was incredible, U2 are probably the best stadium showmen alive, and I say that having not yet seen Bruce Springsteen. Everything from the into-the-crowd peninsula of the heart-stage setup on that tour, to the surprising range of material they pulled out — all seemed crafted to transcend the artificiality of the arena show and feel, surprisingly, much more like a smaller venue. I was struck by how personal it felt. I left the show much more engaged and blown-away than I had during the fantastic orgy of the Oakland PopMart tour in 1997 with Oasis opening. That was glitz and sparkle, swagger and neon; this was something altogether different.
Thursday night’s set didn’t have a single song that I wish they’d left out; even the radio hits that I’ve heard so many bajillions of times that I (admit it) will often flip the station when they come on, those tunes were invigorated as if they hadn’t been sung over and over for the last twenty+ years. 2001 U2 was a band at the very top of their ever-heightening game. Just listen (for example) to the rev and tug of the guitar breakdown that the Edge inserts into Friday night’s “Where The Streets Have No Name” shortly after the 4 minute mark. It’s like an engine turning over, still ready to tear out of there.
However, the night I was there didn’t include the unique gem that came Friday, one of the reasons that I love this 4/20/01 boot instead: U2 played a wistful acoustic version of “Stay (Faraway So Close)” for the first time ever in the U.S. that night. In fact, they tell me that it was the first time a song from Zooropa had been performed on U.S. soil.
“Stay” is such a different song without the clattery drum beat and the Zooropa-era sheen to it, but I honestly savor the perfect simplicity of this rendition and the way Bono wraps up all the late-night longing with just an acoustic guitar. Similar to the first time Pearl Jam played “Leash” in over 12 years (in Boston, May ’06), I especially get a thrill listening as the crowd catches on to the moment.
Favorite moments on this boot also include a sweetly heartfelt acoustic version of “In A Little While,” performed on the edge of the heart and dedicated to Joey Ramone (who had died 5 days before) saying, “This is a song Joey Ramone loved, and we loved him, so…” Starting from there and going through that 4-song lineup of In A Little While/Angel of Harlem/Stay (Faraway So Close)/All I Want Is You, finishing with the crowd singing along with all that was in them — whew. That’s a pretty unstoppable 15 minutes. And then since I am a complete Achtung Baby pushover, the one-two punch of “Mysterious Ways” and “The Fly” did me in as well. The buoyant “Kite” also saw its live debut this night.
The quality of this boot is excellent; this is the audience recording rather than the soundboard one that is also floating around out there, because I like hearing the crowd noise. Thursday’s setlist had many similarities to this boot below (but I got to see “Even Better Than The Real Thing” and thought I might die of happiness). Since contest winners can’t be choosers, and since it would have set me back $85 to actually *pay* for my ticket to Friday’s show, I’ll have to satiate myself with this fantastic boot. Easy to do.
U2 IN SAN JOSE
Elevation / Creep (snippet)
Until The End Of The World
New Year’s Day
Kite (live debut)
I Will Follow
Sunday Bloody Sunday / Get Up Stand Up (snippet)
Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
In A Little While (for Joey Ramone)
Angel Of Harlem
Stay (Faraway, So Close) (U.S. debut)
All I Want Is You
Psalm 116 (snippet) / Where The Streets Have No Name
Mysterious Ways / Sexual Healing (snippet)
Bullet The Blue Sky / Whole Lotta Love (snippet)
With Or Without You
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Walk On (halle, hallelujah…indeed)