Elevation: The BandApril 5, 2002
Not quite better than the real thing, but the band Elevation is the next best thing to the real U2. This Toronto-based U2 cover band effortlessly captures the spirit and charisma of the Dublin quartet. I remember the first time I saw Elevation perform. It was in Failte, an Irish pub in Mississauga where U2 fans from the Greater Toronto Area had gathered to watch the Grammy Awards. We were hoping for U2 to capitalize on their eight nominations. U2 won some but lost in the coveted "Album Of The Year" category, but it was hard to complain about the boys taking home another four Grammys home. The chatter amongst the fans was still about how disappointed they were about U2 being beaten by "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", at least until Elevation took to the stage.
There was talk before show about some U2 tribute band that would play after the Grammys, but no one really knew much more. I don't know about everyone else there, but I was expecting a really raw garage band sound. Instead, as soon as I heard a familiar distorted guitar riff and then some screaming "woo-hoo's", I knew we were in for a treat. Elevation had launched into 'Elevation', the song of their namesake and also the name of U2's latest tour. It took little imagination to believe that we were no longer in a pub in a Toronto suburb but were actually in the Air Canada Centre, inside the heart. Perhaps the only thing that made it seem unlike a real U2 concert was the group of teenage punks sitting the corner. They had started by making cynical smiles at each other as we sang along to every song the band played, but in the end, even they were converted as I caught one of them singing "It's alright, it's alright" to 'Mysterious Ways' as they were leaving the pub. Just like U2, Elevation's live presence was so enormous that they could convert unseeming people into fans. One incredible hour after the first "woo-hoo", the set was over and the crowd was obviously Elevated.
Since the band was so incredible, I inquired into their history, expecting them to have been performing for about a year or so. To my surprise, I learned this was their first ever gig. I don't even think U2 sounded this good on their 'Three' promo single. I would miss their next show for a St. Patrick's Day event as it was in Sudbury, but I was excited about April 5 when they were slated to play at Heads or Tails in Toronto, which seemed ages away.
April 5 finally arrives. After battling a rare April snowstorm on the QEW, I arrived with at 8pm with fellow GTA fans Kelly, Lila, Steve, and two very special guests: Jessica, and Arun. Both Jessica and Arun have had the opportunity to be a fifth member of U2, sort of. Arun was the lucky fan pulled up on stage to play guitar and sing 'People Get Ready' with the band in Hamilton. He came all the way from Buffalo to see Elevation play. As for Jessica, her magic moment was yet to come.
At 9:30, Elevation takes the stage and teases us with soundcheck, performing the first half of 'Kite' twice. Even so, it doesn't stop the people from flocking on the dance floor. The band promises to be back in an hour where they will perform the song in its entirety. I'm getting even more excited. Just like a real U2 concert, I make sure to go to the washroom before the show starts so that I don't miss a single second of the magic. In there, I run into Brady, the lead singer for Elevation. I ask him if he's going to play 'Stories For Boys', a song that U2 hasn't performed since the early 1980s. Being a showman, Brady doesn't let out any secrets of the setlist, but does tell me that there will be three or four songs that U2 has not played since the 'War' and 'Joshua Tree' days. I'm even more excited 'Stories For Boys' could be on the setlist.
Time passes painfully slow. The DJ tries to calm the crowd by playing some older classic rock songs, but was refraining from playing any U2 song. And then the magic song starts, The Beatles' 'All You Need Is Love'. The U2 fans know it, Elevation will take the stage soon. There was a magic combination during U2's Elevation Tour that unlocked the dressing room doors and allowed U2 on to the stage. It started with 'All You Need Is Love', followed by 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' and ending with 'Elevation (Influx Remix)'. It was time. The band coolly took the stage under the bright lights and launched straight into 'Elevation'.
From that point on, there was no turning back. Head or Tails was no longer a sports bar, it was an intimate concert with U2. Obviously, the U2 GTA fans are enjoying the music, but so are the men and women over 40, especially the women over 40 who seemed magnetically drawn to the dance floor. Elevation front man Brady, does the impossible and performs with a near flawless impression of Bono. Obviously a huge U2 fan himself, Brady knows what the U2 fan likes. He chooses the best live versions and delivers these to the audience. And during 'Mysterious Ways', our special guest Jess becomes a fifth member of the band. In a full belly-dancing outfit, she continues where Morleigh left off in ZooTV and bedazzles the audience with her sensuous movements. Her performance is riveting and draws wild cheers as she exits the stage.
But Elevation takes us beyond ZooTV. They gave us what we all wanted, the desire to scream "this song is not a rebel song, this song is Sunday, Bloody, Sunday", the desire to sing "good-bye Ruby Tuesday", the desire to sing "we'll shine like stars in the summer night", the desire to sing "do you hear us coming lord?", the deisre to sing 'Desire', '11 O'Clock Tick Tock' and 'The Electric Co.', and of course, the desire to sing '40' for ten minutes after the band leaves the stage. They tooks us from ZooTV to Lovetown to Joshua Tree to Elevation to Red Rocks, spanning all of U2's history. Too bad for me, they didn't play 'Stories For Boys' but I was still Elevated, as were the rest of the people in the bar who probably had no idea that they were going to see the best free concert in their lives.
It is now the day after the show. After every U2 concert I've been to, the world is simply bland in comparison. The only albums I will put on my CD player are of course from U2. Even though it was not actually U2 I saw perform last night, the feeling today is still the same as though it was. The world is bland, no music other than U2 will suffice. It may be some years before Elevation applies for the job of the best band in the world, but until that day, they will continue with their day job as the best U2 tribute band.