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Can we have some sycophants, is what I'd like to know? Even the people who work for us are rough. -- Bono

U2 mixes new, old in 2-hour Fleet launch

- June 06, 2001

by Scott McLennan

BOSTON -- As far as U2 and its fans are concerned, Boston is a second home to these rock stalwarts from Dublin.

During the course of the band's two-hour show at The FleetCenter last night, U2 singer Bono took every opportunity to remind one and all of the band's 25-year history of performing in this city. And he played up the city's rich Celtic history, singing of immigrants becoming "cops, priests and Kennedys."

All this warm interplay was possible in part because U2 has scaled back to arenas after spending much of the 90s playing football stadiums. It also helps that U2 is touring behind the immensely endearing "All That You Can't Leave Behind" CD.

U2 pealed seven tracks off the new CD, opening the concert with "Elevation" and its Grammy-winning smash "Beautiful Day." Those tunes set the mood for the show as Bono and guitarist The Edge freely roamed the ramps of a heart-shaped structure built down from the stage and into the general-admission floor section of the arena.

The band that said at the Grammys that it was re-applying for the job of greatest rock band in the world looked more like a ragtag troupe of true believers for the start of the show. Bono sported a stylized soldier-of-peace look; The Edge was in jeans and a T; bassist Adam Clayton looked laid-back in red camouflage fatigues; and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. kept the beat without a hint of flash.

But from that humble base, U2 strategically built its set with a mix of new numbers and classics. The one-two shot from the new record, for example, was met by two songs off "Achtung Baby," namely "Until the End of the World," which ended with Bono giving the The Edge a smooch on the cheek, followed by sensuous "Mysterious Ways."

Bono turned the corner from big and powerful numbers to more tender ones with an a cappella reading of Lennon and McCartney's "In my Life" that seamlessly bled into the band's new "Stuck in A Moment You Can't Get Out."

If there were any faults to be had, they came with the mid- portion of the show after the band convinced the sold-out house of 18,403 that the song "Kite" should be its next single. From there lulls dragged down the show before the group kicked into the old- school fare of "I Will Follow" and the war-and-remembrance ballad "Sunday Bloody Sunday" spiced last night with snippets of reggae rally cries "`Johnny Was a Good Man" and "Get Up, Stand, Up."

Bono's energy lagged toward the end of the show in terms of chatting up the house. But he and the rest of the band brought the show to a dramatic climax with "Where the Streets Have No Name." A heartfelt "Pride (In The Name of Love)" sealed the deal that U2 is still a band with heart, mind and soul in place some 21 years after the release of its first album.

To end the concert, U2 came out for two sets of encores, starting out first with a strong anti-gun political message flaunted in "Bullet the Blue Sky." U2 closed it all with spiritual matters with the gorgeous pairing of "One" and "Walk On."

U2 can be seen nationally tonight when a segment of its FleetCenter show is aired during halftime of the NBA finals game. The band also has sold-out dates at the Fleet on Friday and Saturday.

PJ Harvey opened the night with her five-piece band cooking through a short but satisfying set of her patented seductive rock.

Telegram and Gazette, 2001.

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