Music fans are split on tribute bands. Some see the phenomenon as leeching off the success of bigger bands, other see it as a completely worthy way of celebrating good music. I fall in the second camp for sure. U2 will come around once every few years, but why deprive ourselves of the live music experience in the meantime? I caught Elevation’s show at the Centre Culturel in Beloeil, QC, as a “day 3” celebration of my wife’s birthday. She’s a major U2 fan and had a blast. If “Elevation” got her approval, believe me, it means they’re good.
Toronto’s Elevation has been doing their show, dubbed “The International U2 Tribute Show” for the last 16 years, and just like U2, it’s been the same four guys all along. They make an effort to look like the musicians they emulate, but aren’t pushing it to extremes and that’s a good thing. It’s a dangerous line to cross for a tribute band because once you enter imitation territory, it has to be spot on or the differences will just annoy me. Singer Shawn Brady’s Bono act is great but sometimes came a little too close to parody for my taste, but musically is where it matters, and Elevation delivers completely on that front.
The band’s song selection (split in two sets) of course draws heavily from “The Joshua Tree” and “Achtung Baby”, but never ventures past 2001’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”. The band wisely focuses on reproducing live versions of these songs, and “Rattle & Hum” is used as a blueprint for most of the classic material.
I liked that Elevation will throw in snippets of cover songs integrated into the material, just like U2 does. The band renders the material very faithfully and with a passion that’s contagious. All the musicians were up to the task: guitarist Kevin Strome has mastered all the tricks from The Edge’s arsenal, Brady’s vocals are on point, bassist Mick Barnard has mastered Adam Clayton’s cool yet slightly bored look to perfection, while locking in with drummer John Johnstone to make the band groove.
As the show went on, the audience rose more and more from their seats, and the show ended in a massive party. Kudos to the band for responding to a shouted request for the deep cut “One Tree Hill”, which they played brilliantly.
As legendary bands grow older, tribute bands ensure these timeless songs live on in a live setting. Elevation certainly honours U2’s music very well, and I heartily recommend them to anyone looking for a night of great music.