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"The last one had a kind of poet's head on him. This guy looks more like a bouncer." — Bono, on the birth of his second son, 2001


- February 08, 2001

by James McNair

WHEN U2 WON the NME's Godlike Genius award last week for services to
music, their guitarist The Edge joked that having God in the band

He was, of course, referring to Bono. If U2's singer has a messianic
complex, though, you'd have to admit that he channels it positively.
Could Marilyn Manson convince US congressman Jesse Helms to return $
435m in cancelled Third World debt? Not even with a hand-gun and a
fresh coat of lippy.

The Edge has also conceded that Bono's philanthropy has eaten into
band- time recently, but with the US premiere of the Bono and Wim
Wenders-produced movie The Million Dollar Hotel just gone, last
night's gig marked the start of an intense period promoting the latest
U2 album, All That You Can't Leave Behind.

The intimacy of the venue certainly added to the opening-night cachet.
Punters keen to see the group in an environment where they wouldn't
need binoculars had reportedly paid up to pounds 3,000 for a ticket.
But for most fans, this was obviously something of a pilgrim's
regress. Almost all of us were in our 30s, and some of us even wore
Boy T-shirts dating from 1980. Even so, it was hard not to feel a
frisson of excitement when Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back In Town"
signalled both the end of the DJ's set and the imminent arrival of U2.

Though the black leather-clad Bono was already crowd-surfing during
the opener, "The End Of The World", for a time it seemed that the
party would fail to ignite. "Beautiful Day" aside, much of the new
material which crowded the front of the set sounded formulaic and

Fortunately, Bono soon decided to have a chat, and this instantly
established some much-needed camaraderie. As well as describing The
Edge as a "Zen Presbyterian", and telling us that drummer Larry
Mullen's wife was so hard she was attending the gig just days after
giving birth, Mr Vox announced that U2 were "re- applying for the job
of best band in the world". Huge cheer. Raised eyebrow from Mr Vox.

With the crowd now fully on board, what ensued was an intimate
greatest hits set taking in such golden oldies as "11 O'Clock Tick
Tock" - U2's first ever single for Island Records - and "I Will
Follow", a song which reminded us that the adjective "chiming" might
have been coined to describe The Edge's harmonic-rich guitar -playing.

Oddly touching as these songs were, the best was yet to come. Bono
dedicated a delicate guitar and vocal-only version of "The Ground
Beneath Her Feet" to Salman Rushdie, and "One", recently given Johnny
Cash's seal of approval, was a timeless-sounding reminder of Bono's
finest hour as a songwriter.

© Independent. 2001.

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