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I'm a guy with no mid-range. I'm all bottom and all top, emotionally. -- Bono

U2 performs with precision in Boston

- June 06, 2001

by Vaughn Watson

BOSTON - U2's revolutionist days of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" rest in another era. But that's OK.

The band's latter-day mood thrives instead on the subtleties of being nice: Love me, this band says, and even its stage in last night's sold-out concert before 18,403 at the FleetCenter was shaped like a heart.

All That You Can't Leave Behind, the album from which last night's songs were pulled, isn't the greatest sonic challenge. It's sensible, reassuring rock, engaging and not indulgent. The Edge on guitar, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen play as pillars, evenly spaced and reliable, without whom you wouldn't call Bono, the frontman, U2. And Bono and the band sang "Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of," from the new album, as anti-rock in doo-wop harmony.

But most potently, U2 restores a pulse to rock in this new-old way: its recent songs strip down rock to a few core elements, guitar that gets your feet tapping and lyrics that tell a story. Bono sang the lyrics to "Kite" with full accompaniment. Then he did it again with nothing but an acoustic guitar. "Life should be fragrant, rooftop to the basement, the last of the rock stars, when hip-hop drove the big car, in the time when new media, was the big idea, that was the big idea."

All that sweet stuff and yet, midway through the show, a listener anticipated and hoped for more. That's U2's burden. It is a band for whom it takes a platinum night just to match the memories a high school sophomore back in '87 holds of listening in his bedroom to cassette tapes of his idols.

A band whose members transcended rock stardom as they performed anthemic rock with the precision of an art-rock band painting in an intimate pointillist style: They made you see the forest for the trees.

The potency of the older songs served as a reminder of U2's evolution revolutionists, frontier balladeers, electronica experimentalists and now full-tilt melodic rockers (a revolutionist turn indeed, considering mod-rock's current aggressiveness).

But when U2 reached its hits, anthemic "I Will Follow," then "Sunday Bloody Sunday," the progressive socio-ballad, the gentleness it brought to rock made an old-school fan misty-eyed and left to wonder where have all the great rock bands gone?

© Journal-Bulletin, 2001.

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