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"It's always confused people — quoting scriptures and then swearing at them." — Bono

A Beautiful Night With U2

- June 06, 2001

by Austin O''Connor

A beautiful night with U2


June 06, 2001
U2, FleetCenter, Boston, last night.

Sun Staff

BOSTON -- Bono sometimes boasts that he and his U2 bandmates are the "greatest rock band in the world." After last night's spectacular show at the sold-out Fleetcenter -- the first of a four-night stand there -- it's very easy to believe him.

From the moment the 41-year-old Bono strode onto the stage and genuflected to the crowd before bursting into "Elevation," the Irish rockers pushed the needle to full throttle through a 21-song, two-hour-plus set, thrilling a crowd that ran the gamut from teenagers to those nearing mid-life crises.

It's a testament to the talents of U2 -- Bono, lead guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. -- that younger fans, some just discovering the band through their latest album All That You Can't Leave Behind, are just as fervent and inspired as older fans, who first clutched early records like War and Boy nearly two decades ago.

The current Elevation Tour sees the quartet stepping away from the excesses that accompanied their most recent shows, stadium tours with eye-popping effects and spectacles catered to please the eyes as much as the ears. This time around, the focus is squarely on the music -- and happily so.

Last night's show included seven songs from the newest album, including hit single "Beautiful Day." But there were certainly times, during their passionate, letter perfect versions of classics such as the urgent "Bad" or the heartbreaking "One," when it was easy to forget the band was pushing a new release.

Nostalgia was in the air right from the start, with the show marking the 25th Boston date of the band's career, dating back to their first shows at the old Paradise in the early 1980s. And with dozens of cameras in the house filming the concert for an upcoming HBO concert special, it was obvious that America's most Irish city summons the best out of Ireland's greatest rockers.

The heart-shaped catwalk, which fed out from the main stage (with some lucky ticketholders
dancing in the heart's center), gave a surprisingly intimate atmosphere, as Bono stalked its every inch for most of the night. He's still a consummate, energetic showman and fully in command of every facet of the band's performance. And almost every song featured thrashing, piercing solos by The Edge, and seeing U2 in person only increases an appreciation for his other-worldly riffs.

The Edge shone brightest on main set closer "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" when the dark stage was suddenly illuminated by a shock of light as he ripped into that song's unmistakable opening and sent the crowd in a fist-pumping frenzy.

Thankfully, U2 still plays with the urgency of a band with something to prove, even if the evangelistic Bono now preaches to the converted. For the faithful, last night's greatest reward came midway through, when the band ripped through back-to-back, epic versions of anthems "I Will Follow" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday." The latter is still the band's signature triumph -- a bottled-anger paean to the Irish Troubles -- and still hits the gut like a shot of Jameson's without a chaser.

Of course, it's also a great rock song, and last night, as Bono threw his arms toward the heavens and The Edge's chords sliced through the night, it provided a fitting end to another beautiful day for U2 in Boston.

Austin O'Connor's e-mail address is aoconnor@lowellsun.com.

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