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"I think that love stands out when set against struggle. That's probably the power of [War] in a nutshell." — Bono



U2 rocks the Astoria

- February 08, 2001

by John Aizlewood

Outside, Tottenham Court Road had ground to a halt. Those who had
failed to secure tickets for U2's most intimate show in over a decade
were offering pounds 800 for a pair of tickets distributed free to
hardcore fans and competition winners.

By the close, pounds 800 seemed almost worth it.

It is easy to forget just how essential U2 are. They were simply
magnificent.

Madonna recently tried much the same tack with her show at Brixton
Academy and she got away with half an hour of waffle, merely because
her audience were delighted to be there.

Last night, U2 eschewed irony and cleverness. Ever aware of a chance
to grandstand, they showcased their superlative new album All That You
Can't Leave Behind.

Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of epitomised all that remains
right about them: a beautiful song kept away from the number one slot
by the band Atomic Kitten, of all people, it was a languid, elegiac
singalong.

By contrast, Beautiful Day was an upbeat shoutalong - even John Hurt
at the front of the circle clapped along - and the rumbling New York,
all heroic backlighting, was evidence that they can stimulate mind as
well as body.

Some of the hits were there too: the opening Until The End of the
World, a swashbuckling Mysterious Ways and even 11 O'Clock Tick Tock
and I Will Follow, songs older than many of the fans in the audience.

Bono, part Elvis Presley, part Joe Strummer, part Dublin urchin, still
has charisma.

He is over-familiar by default, but close-up, when he steps into the
crowd, giving all appearances of walking on water, he is mesmerising,
interspersing snatches of the Pogues' A Rainy Night in Soho, Craig
David's Walking Away, the Monkees' Stepping Stone and a
hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck a cappella Unchained Melody. When he is
sincere, there are none better.

Behind him, guitarist The Edge resembled the Village People's
construction worker and sang high on Beautiful Day.

Bassist Adam Clayton seemed to be faintly amused and Larry Mullen
bashed his drum kit, the largest since Keith Moon's, as if possessed.

U2 have been parodied, sneered at, mocked and misunderstood.

However, when they are on this form, they are unstoppable. As good as
they ought to have been.

© 2001, The Guardian.

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