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"I didn't know I was Irish till I left Ireland. I didn't realize that what was unique about U2 was us." — Bono

U2 is ''back'' as world''s best band

- April 07, 2001

by Tim Adams

U2 is 'back' as world's best band
by Tim Adams
Special to the Express-News

Musician and producer T-Bone Burnett once remarked, "A U2 concert is what church should be."
That statement was mad during the crest of the Irish supergroup's late 1980's "Joshua Tree" popularity, and anyone who experienced a U2 show during that decade knows Burnett was onto something. The sheer ecstasy of unrestrained joy as well as genuine angst communicated through the unmistakable U2 sound often gave their concerts the spiritual and emotional fervor of a revival meeting.
Based on U2's performances in Houston and Dallas this week, it appears Bono and the boys have reconnected with that part of their past. Both Texas shows were unapologetically heart on the sleeve U2. For those who prefer Bono without the shades and horns, these shows proved that U2 is 'back.'
As with previous stops on the Elevation Tour, the setlist for both shows included six songs off the new album "All That You Can't Leave Behind," as well as 15 others that spanned the U2 catalog, from 1980s "I Will Follow" to "Gone," off of 1997s "Pop."
But this is no greatest hits tour by a bunch of middle-aged rockers content that people will show up for nostalgia's sake. Such U2 standards as "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "New Year's Day," and "With or Without You" were performed with as much passion as polish. Throughout each two, the Edge's infinite guitar and keyboards, Adam Clayton's throbbing bass and Larry Mullen Jr's. precision drumming never showed any signs of coasting. All four band members gave the impression they had something to prove.
No one who witnessed either sold-out Texas performance - at Houston's Compaq Center on Monday and Dallas' Reunion Arena on Tuesday - could complain about a lack of intimacy. As one caller to a Dallas radio station said, "Bono is the only singer in rock music who when he screams can get 20,000 people to scream along with him, and when he whispers make 20,000 people go silent so they can hear what he has to say."
Often running like a man possessed around the runway that encircled the stage - and 300 or so of the 20,000 fans in attendance - he hardly looked like who's about to turn 41 and, with his wife Ali, welcome his fourth child.
Like few other singers in the history of rock 'n' roll, Bono still has the ability to create sexual tension that is straightforwardly spiritual. The song "Mysterious Ways," sung while the silhouette of a woman danced on a nearby video screen, brought sexual/spiritual tension to its peak.
One of the most uplifting moments of each show was the song "Where the Streets Have No Name." The transcendent introductory chiming of The Edge's guitar, was blended with Bono reading a portion of Psalm 116, which was taped to the floor of the heart-shaped runway at the point where it extended farthest out into the audience. Add the atmospheric organ-like quality of the keyboards, and each venue took on the feel of a cathedral.
Bono closed each night's show with "Walk On," from "All That You Can't Leave Behind." An extra chorus of "Hallelujahs" was added each night, once again showing that U2 is not afraid to blur the line between the sacred and the secular.
As Bono put it at the close of the Dallas show, the Elevation Tour could also be called the "Reapplying for the Job Tour," the "job" being that of best rock 'n' roll band in the world. One fan standing near Bono in front of the runway then held up a sign that read, "You're Hired!" You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who attended either show who would disagree.

Tim Adams is an ordained Baptist minister, free-lance writer and stay-at-home father of four

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