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"You hold onto religion, you know, rules, regulations, traditions. I think what God is interested in is people's hearts, and that's hard enough." — Bono



U2, The Astoria, London, 7 February 2001

- February 09, 2001

by Stuart Bailie

It's almost a statement of cool these days to play somewhere small, moody and
sold out. Madonna did fine at the Brixton Academy, and now here's U2 causing an awful ruckus along Charing Cross Road in London's West End, as 1500 fortunate punters check out their Astoria bash.

Ticket touts are everywhere, and somebody has apparently paid 1000 quid to get
in. Many poor fans are standing dejected, holding up signs that plead for a cheap entrance. They can only hope.

Inside, it's a different prospect. Up on the balcony, the ATL massive is getting enthused alongside Mick Jagger, Elvis Costello, Roy Keane, Kylie, John Hurt, Eddie Jordan, Skinner and Baddiel and many other notables. DJ Jon Carter plays Thin Lizzy's 'The Boys Are Back In Town,' and the fun is considerable.

U2 stumble on, looking a shade nervous, and commence the swirling intro on 'Until The End Of The World'. In U2 terms, this is basic rock and roll, with powerful white lights, and no discernible stage set. The chaps are casual in blacks and greys. Adam is probably relieved that he's left the ski mask and orange boiler suit at home.

'Beautiful Day' is just fine, with a bit of The Pogues' 'Rainy Night In Soho' thrown in at the end. The confidence is back, and so the guys clip through 'Elevation' and 'Stuck In A Moment...', the latter so obviously dedicated to Michael Hutchence and supremely passionate.

Thereafter, it's a case of great hits and a few oddities from the back catalogue, such as the early singles 'Eleven O' Clock Tick Tock' and 'I Will Follow'. Bono is throwing in snippets of other people's songs -- everything from Joy Division and The Teardrop Explodes, to Oasis and Craig David.

It's a bit rough around the edges, but the thrill is certainly back in the gig. Bono officially announces that they want to be the Best Band In The World and the audience howls back an affirmative.

They sign off with 'All I Want Is You' and a roaringly nostaligic 'Bad' and '40'. By the end, Adam is playing guitar and Edge is thunking at the bass. Bono is shagged but elated. Mission accomplished. A great PR event, some choice music and reminder that in the midst of this awful personality recession, there are still a few certifiable stars out there.

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