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"[W]e called it Achtung Baby and dressed up like pop stars to get people away from that because there was just so much melancholy in it. With U2, the packaging is often disinformation." — Bono

U2 on fire at warm-up gig

- February 08, 2001

by Darren Waters

U2 warmed up for their world tour on Wednesday night with a boldness and a swagger of old.

Bono, to the delight of the 2,000 fans packed into the Astoria in London, said U2 was re-applying for the job of best band in the world.

And after a two-hour performance that blistered the paint from the sweaty walls of the London venue, few would argue the band do not have the credentials for the job.

"There are a few people who could qualify for the job... on their night," he said.


"But this is our night," he added to jubilant roars from the crowd, many of whom had won tickets to be present at the venue.

The concert showed off the full extent of U2's curriculum vitae.

It opened with Until The End of the World, from Achtung Baby - Bono in rabble-rousing mood, beckoning to the crowd, and at one point sitting on the hands, arms and heads of the devoted fans, who were quite willing to carry him aloft.

The Edge, described by Bono when he "introduced the family" as the "scientist of the band", kept the mix tight and sharp with controlled guitar work.

Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, on bass and drums, were the construction workers of the band, hammering out the punctuated rhythms of U2 classics such as I Will Follow and Desire.

Word perfect

The first half of the concert took a sizeable chunk out of the band's latest album, All That You Can't Leave Behind.

Elevation, predictably, lifted the crowd, who sang word perfect along with the Irish singer.

Stuck In A Moment (You Can't Get Out Of), written in the wake of the suicide of INXS star Michael Hutchence, was dedicated to "one of the friends we lost".

It was a night of dedications - The Ground Beneath Her Feet was dedicated to "great lyricist" Salman Rushdie, who was sat in the crowd, while Mysterious Ways was sung in honour of Bono's wife, Alison.

Bono was relishing his return to London, parodying the Sinatra version of New York, New York during the band's own take on the great American city, snarling with pleasure throughout many of the songs.

The complex, sometimes convoluted, structure of much of U2's later work, from albums Achtung Baby and Pop, were stripped back to the rare essentials during the live performance.

Bono was content to let the crowd take up the strain on Staring at the Sun, while Discotheque was gutted of its artificial production and reborn as a rock and roll classic.

More than 18 tracks were paraded, a far cry from the extended music video-style concert Madonna gave in London last year.

After years of toiling with the backing of giant screens and inflatable lemons, in front of crowds of more than 50,000, U2 proved once again that all you need for a great concert are accomplished musicians and a scatter of amplifiers.

U2 bowed out with 40, from the album War, and the crowd was left, quite simply, floored.

2001, BBC.

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