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"He is a brainy man and he thinks extreme poverty is stupid." — Bono, on Bill Gates




by David

To paraphrase the famous statement coined by Roman emperor Julius Caesar: U2 came, U2 saw, U2 conquered. Their first show of a sold-out four night stand at the Fleet Center in Boston was a roaring success. Bono, Larry Mullen, Adam Clayton, and the Edge showed themselves for the veteran road warriors they are. After over two decades of touring, U2 have nailed the art of the live performance to a science. Gone are the huge multimedia and visual spectacles at huge outdoor football stadiums, tonights performance was about the music and a straight up live show, with the images and media playing second fiddle. In comparison to the Popmart or Zoo TV tours, the show seemed intimate, especially if you were one of the lucky 300 people who got to be in the heart close to the front of the stage.

Opener PJ Harvey was fairly well received by the audience, many of whom danced or jumped around to the edgier, more rocking numbers in her one hour set. Once she finished, the fans anxiously awaited almost 45 minutes for their heroes during the change of set. Then, a loop of the beginning of Elevation is played over the PA as the band calmly walks onstage and then kick into the song. The audience down in front of the stage looked like they were on pogo sticks as they jumped around in conjunction with the Hooooo hoo! shouts in the song. The band then goes straight into Beautiful Day which got a very warm response from the twenty thousand fans who had packed the arena tonight.

Until the End of the World, one of the hidden gems from Achtung Baby, got a very lively performance from the band. Bono and the Edge walked out on opposite ends of the catwalk and met at the bottom tip of the heart and did some mock jousting and bullfighting, much to the amusement of the crowd.

After the ode to belly dancers Mysterious Ways, a mellow sequence of three songs followed. First, Bono showed off his vocal prowess by singing a solo a capella version of the Beatles In My Life before the rest of the band joined him in Stuck in a Moment That You Cant Get Out Of. They followed that up with Kite and Gone.

Lulling the audience into a false sense of serenity, the band kicks the adrenaline factor into high gear during New York. New York got a surprisingly vibrant response from the audience, especially those up in front of the stage, who again proceeded to jump up and down as much as their legs could allow. The audience enthusiastically cheered when Bono sang The Irish have been coming here for years / Feels like they own the place.

The first old song was I Will Follow, the bands first ever single released almost two decades ago and got a very enthusiastic response. The excitement was turned up a few notches when they followed it up with their classic peace anthem Sunday Bloody Sunday which was the first big singalong song of the night. As soon as Mullen began the song by playing the familiar marching beat on his drum kit, the audience began crooning the opening chants with great excitement. Towards the end of the song, Bono injected some lyrics from the Bob Marley classic rebel anthem Get Up Stand Up and the crowd didnt miss a beat and sang with him the whole time.
They calmed things down a bit with a rousing performance of In a Little While, which has suddenly taken on a new meaning to the band in the wake of Joey Ramones passing a few months ago.

After that, the entire band walked out onto the catwalk towards the bottom of the heart. Bono introduced Edge, Larry, and Adam as they met up and performed Desire flawlessly, and injected a little bit of their old hit Gloria at the end. They looked like a much simpler street band, Larry setting the beat on his single snare drum while Edge and Adam played their respective instruments and Bono sang his heart out. After the song finished, Larry and Adam headed back for the main stage as Bono and The Edge stuck around on the tip of the heart for a solo duet acoustic performance of Stay, which was one of the standout moments of the night.

One of the liveliest moments of the night was the Bad/40 / Where the Streets Have No Name / Pride (In the Name of Love) triumvirate. During Bad, Bono teased a female member of the audience in front of him at the barricade by keeping his hand just barely beyond her reach as she climbed over people and the barricade to try to hold Bonos hand. (See the picture I took, I was about 5 feet away from all this) After a few strangely amusing seconds of this, Bono finally put his hand down and held hands with her for a few seconds. Adam and Larry ferociously played their instruments to keep up with Edges delay-driven guitar that dominates throughout Where the Streets Have No Name. They broke out Pride and damn near brought the house down with that number. The crowd erupted and sang along to each of these classic tunes while the band worked the stage, the cameras, and the audience as though they were suddenly rejuvenated by a decade or two.

After a brief break, the band kicked off the first encore with one of the few multimedia elements reminding fans of the past 90s tours such as Zoo TV and Popmart. A huge monitor came out on the back of the stage and showed NRA chief Charlton Hestons credo on the possession and accessibility of guns. Edge pulled out a slide and made his guitar scream and wail throughout this song, one of the best from The Joshua Tree. Bono got a hand held spotlight and wandered out onto the catwalk and behind the stage, singing the lyrics while pointing the light into the audience. Staying on the same album, the band belted out one of their biggest hits With or Without You while some massive banners were raised and decorated by what appeared to be stellar constellations from a projector. They reintroduced the multimedia spectacle for the final song in the encore, The Fly. Bono energetically ran around the catwalk twice like he were a track and field athlete and ended the song by sprawling himself all over one of the monitors like Wile E. Coyote after another fruitless attempt at trying to catch the roadrunner. Suddenly, the lyric Like a fly on a wall takes on a whole new literal interpretation.

The band left the stage again and returned for a second encore, beginning with their singalong anthem One, during which many lighters were pulled out by the audience members. Bono gave a brief speech on human rights while the Edge played an extended version of the opening riff of the song. As the song ended, the band went straight into the final number, Walk On. They stuck around on stage for a bit after they finished to wave to the appreciative audience, who gave them a standing ovation. They said their thank yous, and promptly dashed through a corridor behind the stage to effectively end the first show of the Boston leg of the tour.

On a personal note: I am a huge fan of Rage Against the Machine and had the opportunity to see them live before Zack de la Rocha left the band last fall. Their live performance blew my mind and was unlike anything Id ever seen before. As much as I love their music and as much as it pains me to say this, tonights performance by U2 was the most amazing show I had ever seen, even more special considering the fact that I have been a fan of their music for 14 years and this was my first show. I have nothing but the utmost reverence for Rage and wish all of their members past and present the very best of luck in their future endeavors, but U2 just took the art of the live show to a whole other level. I will most definitely be seeing these guys again (and again, and again) whenever they decide to come anywhere near me on tour.

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