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The Patriot Ledger
JUNE 8.2004

Elevation has found what they're looking for - U2 tribute band is coming to Boston club
June 8, 2004
For The Patriot Ledger

Shawn Brady had been in several rock bands during his youth and college years around his hometown of Sudbury, Ontario.  But while the original music produced by his bands, called 41 Barrington and Press X, often struggled to find a consistent audience, Brady's current gig is so popular it has brought him all around the world, playing before packed houses.

Brady became a hot commodity when he decided to musically assume the identity of Bono, fronting a U2 tribute band. That band, Elevation, one
of the hottest on the Toronto club scene, will be making its New England debut Saturday at Club Odyssey in Boston.

''All of us had been doing original rock things before this,'' Brady said by phone from his Toronto home. ''But it had become frustrating getting gigs, and then often not having many show up for those gigs. Since we're doing this tribute, we play before lots and lots of people every weekend. It's much more satisfying as a performer.''

Brady decided back in 2002 that he'd try to launch a U2 tribute, so he put some ads on the Internet. ''I was always a big U2 fan, and there seemed like there was a void in Toronto, with nothing like this,'' he said. ''U2 is definitely worthy of a tribute, with a career of better than 20 years and many hits.''

The audition process resulted in a final lineup of Kevin Strom on guitar as The Edge, John Johnstone on drums as Larry Mullen Jr., and Mick Barnard on bass as Adam Clayton. All had been performing in various Canadian rock bands, and all were serious U2 aficionados.

''I have been to just three U2 concerts,'' Brady noted, ''but our bassist has seen more than 10. We did a lot of studying their videos, going all the way back to their start. We've based our show more on the live U2 concert experience than on the studio versions. We also have our own light show similar to theirs, and wear costumes based on their clothing from all eras, from the early 1980s to the '90s right through to today.''

More than the superficial cosmetics of the act, it was necessary to get the right feel, he said. ''We all think the musical aspect of what we do is much more important,'' Brady said. ''You must perform well technically to be able to do U2 justice. That's especially difficult with The Edge, because he creates a very distinctive sound with a lot of extra effects like delay and texturing. I think Kevin Strom really does an outstanding job of capturing the sound of The Edge.

Last winter the band did a 12-day tour of Italy, Bosnia and Kosovo. Their first gig on the tour was as opening act for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts in Venice, before a military audience.

''An agency that had seen us perform in San Francisco set up that European tour,'' Brady said. ''It was a whole series of shows before crowds consisting mostly of NATO troops. That first show in Italy was a homecoming concert for 5,000 soldiers who were returning from Iraq, and realizing what they went through made it a very humbling experience for us. Joan Jett and her band were also all very nice to us. ''Later on we played through Bosnia and Kosovo. One very special date for us was in Sarajevo, which is an especially beautiful city. U2 themselves had played the first concert there after the war ended, in 1997, so it felt like revisiting history - and the city had many U2 fans.''

Another recent reward for Elevation was being able to play at the first Into the Heart festival in their hometown of Toronto. That celebration was essentially a fanfest for U2 fans, so Elevation got to play for some serious diehards.

''People came from all over the world, literally, to attend that festival,'' Brady said. ''We got to play before 500 of the biggest U2 fans from everywhere, from England to Los Angeles, all in one room.'' Naturally, Elevation will play most if not all of the major U2 hits, but they also are unique in playing an eclectic selection of rarities. Some previous shows have included album cuts or forgotten concert numbers like ''The Electric Company,'' ''Lady with the Spinning Head,'' and ''Ultraviolet (Light My Way).''

''Obviously we have to do a lot of the hits, like 'Beautiful Day' and 'Sunday Bloody Sunday,''' Brady noted. ''But we also try to provide a treat for the dedicated diehards, by playing some rare songs that people don't get to hear nowadays. Most of these are songs we enjoy that U2, for one reason or another, doesn't commonly perform anymore. We balance those with the more familiar hits, over a three-hour show.''

Brady's been getting accolades for his part in that lengthy parade of U2 tunes, and if it sounds like he works hard at it, don't worry. This is a guy who runs marathons for fun. Brady finished last year's Chicago Marathon in a most respectable 2:27.

''Chicago was my first marathon ever, so I was happy with that time,'' he said. ''I'm hoping to maybe do better at the Toronto Marathon in September.

''Running is fun from a physical perspective, and we need to be in shape for this show,'' he said. ''I believe the singer and the drummer have the hardest jobs doing U2, because we do over a three-hour show. Keeping myself in that kind of shape allows me to perform at a high level all the way through.''

If Brady wears himself out after a concert or a marathon run, he can prescribe his own remedy. By day, he's a physiotherapist, who graduated from Queens University in 1999. He's now in graduate school at the University of Toronto.

All of the Elevation musicians have day jobs, and the band is a weekend sideline most of the time. Their Canadian pals in the Blushing Brides, the premier Rolling Stones tribute, tipped them off to the Odyssey as a cool venue.

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