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"Let's just say he's on the border between something and nothing." — Bono, on Edge's nickname

U2 Touches N.J. Hearts

Band plays music with a message
The Bergen (NJ) Record
To attend a U2 concert is to have your heart, mind, and soul touched.

The Irish band's sweeping, anthemic music first hits you on a purely emotional level. But once the emotions are stirred, the message behind songs such as "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (the strife in Northern Ireland), "New Year's Day" (the Polish Solidarity Movement), and "Bad" (the horrors of heroin addiction) slowly seep into the thought process.

The cycle is completed when your spirit is overtaken by the cause, be it a fight against injustice or prejudice, just two of the topics U2 tackles.

That U2 touched the hearts of the 21,000 who attended last night's show at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, the first of five sold-out performances, was obvious from the opening song, "Where the Streets Have No Name," right through to the closer, "40."

U2 will perform again tonight, tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday.

The largely youthful audience cheered every note, sang choruses with no prompting, and raised banners that read "U2 Shed Light on Darkness."

But many of the fans did more than that. They stopped by the Amnesty International tables set up in the arena lobby, proving part of U2's message was getting through.

(Amnesty International is one of the groups that U2 has aligned itself with, and it was U2 that helped get last year's Conspiracy of Hope tour on behalf of the human-rights organization on the road. The six-city tour resulted in the organization doubling its American membership.). Led by charismatic lead singer Paul Hewson, better known by his nickname, Bono, U2's nearly two-hour concert, in addition to being chock full of music that matters, showed the growth of the entire band and the direction future music may take.

Bono is singing with more passion than ever, Dave (the Edge) Evans's guitar play is skillful and imaginative, while drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and bassist Adam Clayton combine for a propulsive rhythm section.

"Bullet the Blue Sky," from U2's No. 1 album, The Joshua Tree, was the perfect example of the group's burgeoning musical and vocal power. The song rails against American involvement in foreign lands, and its caustic commentary was fueled by Bono's gutsy vocals.

It was with almost evangelical fervor that Bono spit out the lyrics decrying money as power: "And he's peeling off those dollar bills/Slapping them down, one hundred, two hundred."

The screaming antiwar message of "Bullet the Blue Sky" was underscored by Edge's raw, howling solo, laced with Jimi Hendrix-like feedback.

The United States holds a certain attraction for the band. The Joshua Tree is named for a tree indigenous to the Southwest, and U2 songs such as "In God's Country" and "Pride (In the Name of Love)" have distinctly American topics. "In God's Country" looks at America's role as the "promised land"; "Pride (In the Name of Love)" is dedicated to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.. This attraction has carried over into an interest in music that is uniquely American, blues, country, and gospel.

"Running to Stand Still" began with some bluesy piano play from the Edge, before Mullen's thunderous drums kicked in to drive home the message that heroin is a dead-end choice. Bono's howling gospel-like delivery of the line "She will suffer the needle chill" brought the song to a spine-tingling close.

Bono began "Trip Through Your Wires" with some searing harmonica play, but the beat shifted to country-western as the Edge's jangly guitar rhythms carried the tune along.

While U2 has gained a reputation as a "serious" band, the quartet is not above having a little good ol' rock-and-roll fun. They combined for a rave-up rendition of the Eddie Cochran classic, "C'mon Everybody."

© 1987 The Record. All rights reserved.