Zootopia – New Hampshire’s tribute to U2

Note from Joe V – Robert A. Boyd is in New Orleans the weekend of May 2 & 3, but he sent us a review of the brilliant ZOOTOPIA group.  They are appearing in concert during May, June and July (dates below)

By Robert Boyd

Zootopia U2 Tribute
November 8th 2008 at the Timberlane Performing Arts Center in Plaistow, NH

I have some trepidation when attending a band “tribute” show, as I always  expect a band that is nothing more than a living “jukebox” playing some other band’s music, note for note. That seems to be the rule. Not that these shows aren’t fun,  they can be, but the “real” experience, the emotion is usually missing. And the mere thought of a band trying to capture the emotion, passion and musical nuances of Bono and U2 is a daunting one.

New Hampshire-based Zootopia, however, is a band of seasoned performers and musicians, and they were pretty near astounding at a Pelham, NH performance. Not only did they play the music extremely well, they delivered the emotion of a U2 concert directly and personally to the audience.  A very rare treat indeed.

As if to make their point immediately, Zootopia kicked off the show with one of U2’s most beloved songs, “Where The Streets Have No Name.”  Mess that one up and the U2 fans would be streaming for the exits.  Lead singer Brian Downes appearance as “Bono” was startling, immediately commanding the stage and captivating the audience. His vocals captured Bono’s subtleties and inflections, and he sounds exactly like U2’s lead singer. Dead-on perfect!  A great beginning for a two hour show covering U2’s entire career through 25 songs.

But the music is just part of a U2 live concert as anyone who has seen U2 knows.  Zootopia took excellent advantage of Timbelane’s superb auditorium and facilities. An extensive light show with rear screen graphics and live video completed the total U2 concert environment.  When another U2 classic, “Gloria” enthralled the audience the band was joined on stage by the Timberlane Select Ensemble Choir, dubbed the “New Voices of Freedom,” for the refrain and then brought the house down with “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

U2, of course, is much more than just Bono. It’s a band of superb musicians who let their instruments do their “singing.” From The Edge’s stinging and searing lead guitar, to Adam Clayton’s steady, thundering bass lines and Larry Mullen Jr.’s powerful drumming, U2’s music is always instantly recognizable to the listener.  Zootopia clearly understands this and has assembled a group of musicians who individually pay homage to their Irish counterparts. Richard Cowdrey as The Edge, plays with a similar fiery passion, hitting all the right notes and cues.  Tom Elliot as Adam Clayton consistently provided a solid musical bass line so important to the “anthem-like” presentation of many U2 classics.  Rod McCarthy as Larry Mullen, Jr. provides the power and subtlety of a classic rock drummer.  As the concert progressed one could easily close their eyes and “believe” they were at a real U2 show.

The second set opened with a stirring rendition of “Elevation” leading right into “The Fly,” but the best was yet to come.  After lead singer Brian Downes returned to the stage from his wireless prowl throughout the auditorium, the opening notes of “Mysterious Ways” began to thunderous applause.  As Brian came to the front of the stage a beautiful belly dancer- Mariem Ericson – joined him to the delight of the audience.  A true U2 moment!  Throughout the set, Downes continued with is magic, inviting some lucky concert-goers to join him on stage, dance and sing a chorus. “Game, set and match.”

I came to the concert expecting a living “jukebox” and got instead one of the best shows I have seen in years.  Who are these guys?  They are Zootopia, U2 Tribute and you can find them at http://www.zootopiau2.com/

May 9 2009 9:00P
Bad Abbott’s Quincy, Massachusetts
Jun 5 2009 9:00P
The Improper Bostonian Dennisport, Massachusetts
Jul 11 2009 8:00P
Cu Na Mara Irish Festival Bristol, New Hampshire
Jul 17 2009 8:00P
The Improper Bostonian Dennisport, Massachusetts

the MySpace is www.myspace.com/zootopiau2