"Elevation" started with a guitar sound that The Edge got with a vintage pedal that Daniel Lanois had brought to the sessions. Afterwards, The Edge hit on a guitar part and programmed a quick beat box rhythm and the band started playing against it, and Bono improvized. The song has a hip-hop rhythm.[dubious– discuss] The Edge stated that "Elevation" was a light relief in a heavy sequence of songs, unlike "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of", "Kite" and "Walk On" that "are farewell songs of one kind of another."
Bono and The Edge in Kansas City during Elevation Tour in 2001
The song was played at all 113 concerts in Elevation Tour. Shows would traditionally open under the venue house lights with the Influx Mix of "Elevation" playing as the band's intro music. During live shows during the Vertigo Tour, it was played without drums and bass for the first verse and chorus before the rest of the band joins in. It has been played at almost every U2 concert since it was debuted until the Innocence + Experience Tour where it was only played sporadically during the B-stage set.
"Elevation" received positive reviews. When reviewing the album, Adam Sweeting from The Guardian praised the song, calling it an "irresistible mix of crude techno and raw guitar-swagger."New Zealand Herald editor Russell Baillie called it a "grand surge" noting the song's guitar and vocals which he described as "churning" and "giddy", respectively.NME was positive toward the song for "the well-exercised U2 template." Along with "Wild Honey" and "Walk On," Entertainment Weekly contributor David Browne called the song "lusty" and stated it has "the charging-horse feel of U2's youth, with a bumpy-noise upgrade courtesy of producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois."
Brent DiCrescenzo of Drowned in Sound gave a negative review of the song, labelling Bono's lyrics as: "slaughters hope with reckless chops of the hackneyed sword."
U2 (as "Evil U2") in the music video for "Elevation".
The music video for "Elevation" was directed by Joseph Kahn and is one of the most expensive music videos ever filmed. It is set around Lara Croft along with Bono and a rescue of The Edge from his "evil twin brother" (The Edge has been inserted into footage from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider). The video begins with Bono receiving a phonecall from his evil counterpart known as "evil Bono," who says: "This is 'evil Bono.' We have The Edge. We want the key. You are surrounded and not even Lara Croft can help you now." After escaping several of the "evil U2's" murder attempts, the band reunites and performs a "rock-off" against their evil counterparts, which ends with the "good U2" emerging victorious. The video ends with the "good U2" walking with Lara from the scene to a place with levitating cars and a pachyderm, ending with a Boeing 747-400 flying overhead before fading to black (the plane is also seen at the very beginning of the video). It was shot at the backlot area of Universal Studios Hollywood better known as Studio Tour.
The video was released as a digital DVD ("Version 7" below), the band's first, on 16 July 2001. It was later featured on the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider DVD, as a special feature. The making of the video was shown on MTV's "Making the Video."