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Our fans aren't looking for a seamless show. They want it in its rawest state. -- Larry


U2 gets back to the music

- May 10, 2001

by Natasha Kassulke

MILWAUKEE - U2 shed the safety of the 40-foot moving mirrored lemon that
carried them to fans on their last tour, "PopMart," and got to the heart of what
makes them one of the most adored rock bands in the world.
   
In fact, U2 arrived on stage at the Bradley Center on Wednesday with the
house lights up, waving to fans and featuring a set list that was more about
love and life than fruit and fancy props.
   
"We miss our lemon," Bono, the group's lead singer, teased. "I'd just like to
say that. But it's been amazing - especially this arena - a great arena for music
and the Bucks."
   
Unlike PopMart, which was over-the-top from a prop perspective, U2's 130-
minute sold-out show on the eve of Bono's 41st birthday focused on the music,
reconnecting with the fans, and being a rock band that matters.
   
U2 - Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry
Mullen Jr. - were well rehearsed. They opened their set setting the bar high
with "Elevation" from their latest album, "All That You Can't Leave Behind."
   
The stage was genius - a lighted catwalk in the shape of a heart. Fans filled
the heart inside and out and were allowed to bounce their way closer to stage
because it was general admission on the floor. Some fans held posters with
birthday wishes for Bono. One sign simply said, "Thank You!"
   
The second song was their Grammy Award-winning single, "Beautiful Day,"
followed by "End of the World," which featured Bono disco-dancing in strobes
and wiggling an index finger at a photographer as if to say, "Bring it on." Fans
saw other evidence of Bono's feisty side when he took on The Edge in playful
head-butting.
   
But Bono is as much a lover as a fighter. Tender moments included dedicating
"Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" to the late INXS lead singer Michael
Hutchence, and "In a Little While" to Joey Ramone, who recently died of cancer.
   
Sheer screened panels dropped in front of the stage and captured the band's
shadows on songs such as "New York." There were no costume changes, belly
dancers or calls to the White House this time.
   
Bono dressed all in black and ran laps around the heart during "Where the
Streets Have No Name." The Edge wore a T-shirt and faded jeans and broke
out some wild riffs on "I Will Follow." His playing was as sharp as his name and
he joined in on background vocals and even played keyboard on "New Year's
Day." Mullen wore a powder blue shirt and cracked a boyish smile. Clayton was
dressed in a maroon shirt and funky blotched pants, looking more like George
Clooney as he ages.
   
It felt intimate, partly because it was a chance to see U2 in an arena after years
of spying on them through binoculars at stadiums. Bono touched fans' hands
and was serenaded with "Happy Birthday."
   
He dedicated "Desire" to others in the crowd in bands. Those included members
of Garbage, who watched the show from the soundboard.
   
Bono told the crowd to dream out loud and make it loud before launching "Sunday
Bloody Sunday," a song that still gives goose bumps.
   
"The Fly" was a highlight and featured Bono throwing his body against a video
screen like a fly in a bug zapper. He ended the song stuck to the screen like a fly
on flypaper.
   
Bono stroked a screen that showed a silhouette of a woman dancing during
"Mysterious Ways." At times the lighting was elaborate. Other times there was
little more than studio-style spotlights.
   
The encore featured a video on gun violence and songs such as "With or Without
You," "Pride (In the Name of Love)," "One," "Walk On" and "Bullet the Blue Sky,"
during which Bono carried a floodlight and played flashlight tag.
   
During the encore, Bono thanked fans for spending their "hard-earned dough"
on them and for giving the band "a great life." Thankfully, the show was a thrill -
some paid $130 or more for a seat.
   
As her sister recapped the show for a friend on a phone outside the Bradley
Center, Jessica DeJong, 19, a UW-Madison student, compared the show to
PopMart.
   
"I think they sounded better tonight and seemed more energetic and practiced,"
DeJong critiqued.
   
She said that she had been so eager to get tickets to the show that she hadn't
bothered to dress and wore pajamas to a Ticketmaster outlet the morning tickets
went on sale.
   
The show was extra special for her since she shares a birthday with Bono.
   
"I think we are soulmates," DeJong said. "He just doesn't know it. ... yet."
   
P.J. Harvey opened the show with 45 minutes of songs that spanned the last
decade from "Down By the Water" and her siren-like whispering ("little fish, little
fish"), to more recent material like "Sky Lit Up" from 1998's "Is This Desire," and
"This Is Love" from last year's "Stories From The City, Stories From the Sea."
   
Harvey was backed by a band and wore a see-through sequined gown and
high-heeled black boots. She was alluring, poetic, funny, raw and downright
brazen. Her voice was reminiscent of Patti Smith. Catch her in a nightclub,
and you could fall in love.

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