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Larry . . . bears the burden of being the band's requisite good-looking member, something we somehow overlooked in the E Street Band. -- Bruce Springsteen, at U2's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction


Irish group heats Stadium

- October 07, 1987

by Michael Heaton, Music Critic

Current sensation U2 took the stage at the Stadium Tuesday night in familiar cold, wet Irish weather before a fanatical crowd of 52,000. Neither the weather nor a separated shoulder daunted lead singer Bono, who performed dance-impaired but in full voice during an hour-and-a-half set.

The band opened with "Where the Streets Have No Name," a song from its fifth and current album, "The Joshua Tree." The song, a morose ballad about longing for love and unfulfilled spiritual desire, is typical of the band's repertoire. The group - led by the charismatic singer Bono, who's backed by a lead guitarist who calls himself Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. - has tapped into an international political and spiritual consciousness among the young.

Relying on hits from its current and previous albums, U2 had little trouble engaging members of the crowd, who stood on their chairs throughout the set.

Leaning heavily on Bono's strong, appealing vocals and poetic lyrics, the other members of the band never really distinguished themselves. Their strength lies in the collective, quilted sound that has an electric-folk feel underpinned by Mullen's pounding drums. This is sad music about lost love and political strife - but you can dance to it.

Wearing a cowboy hat (the band's recent album expresses a fascination with the Southwest) and nursing his enslinged arm, Bono made up for his inability to play the guitar by playing the harmonica on "I Trip Through Your Wire." He further excited his fans by singing his current hit single, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

"Out of Control," one of the band's first original songs, was the night's only real rocker. Edge had his only opportunity of the evening to let rip with a hight, hard guitar solo. Bono had a short monologue midsong, talking about the band's meteoric rise to superstardom. Althought the members began talking about Ireland and the world's troubles, it's apparent now they're attempting to come to grips with their own astronomical popularity.

The band ran through a medley of its most popular tunes, including "Unforgettable Fire," "In God's Country," "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "Bullet The Blue Sky," "Exit" and "Pride (In The Name of Love)."

Several times the band attempted a little spontaneity by winding into the songs of other performers, such as the Beatles' "Help," fellow countryman Van Morrison's "Gloria," and - oddly enough - Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" (which the crowd was either too young to recognize, or just did not care to sing along to), but it could never really get much momentum going while away from its tried-and-true hits.

In the end it was really not necessary as the crowd was willing to stand, clap and sing along to whatever U2 cared to play, even as the rain came blowing in off the lake. A crowd need not show its devotion in any other way, especially to a group of Irishmen.

Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul opened the program, appropriately with a short set of liberal political rockers. Looking like he'd been mugged by a ladies used-clothing store, Bruce Springsteen's former lead guitarist led his five-piece band through five or six songs dealing with apartheid, the sanctuary movement, and even a few choice comments on Oliver North's relationship with his mother. While Steve is a fine guitarist, songwriter, and singer, his blanket liberal political beliefs render him rather knee-jerk. One or two causes, OK. But the guy has a song about every political action group except Save the Whales. Look for that one on his next album.

Los Lobos was the perfect break between all the rhetoric of the opening and closing acts. The five-piece band from East L.A. took the stage and flooded the Stadium with its own mestizo brand of cholo rock. They opened with "With the Wolf Survive?" the title track from their last album, and ripped right through rockers like "Angeline," Richie Valens' "Let's Go," and even dedicated a Mexican polka to our own Frankie Yankovic the Polka King. David Hidalgo excelled on lead guitar, vocals and accordion. All of the band's vocal harmonies were excellent and of the three groups, Los Lobos had the cleanest, clearest sound. As expected, they brought down the house with "La Bamba."

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