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"I'm not on this trip as a tourist, and if I thought that this was just show business from the White House, then I'd be out of that plane." — Bono, on his 2002 trip to Africa with U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill

U2 mystifies Fleet Center audience ...

- June 07, 2001

by Dean Johnson

U2 mystifies Fleet Center audience with jaw-dropping performance

U2 and PJ Harvey at the FleetCenter, Boston, last night.

Now that they've saved rock 'n' roll with a hit album, award-winning songs and a smash tour, the members of the Irish supergroup U2 are rescuing the NBA.

During the second of four sold-out FleetCenter shows last night, the band seamlessly launched into a pair of tunes near the end of their resplendent set that were carried live on NBC during halftime of the first NBA championship game in Los Angeles. The move was obviously made to juice NBC's ratings. Nevertheless, it turned into a spectacular piece of local rock 'n' roll folklore. ''Where the Streets Have No Name'' was full of startling power and passion and electric guitars, with nearly 20,000 people connected to the band in every conceivable way.

The jaw-dropping performance smothered any doubts about the band's unique bond to this city. Bono opened his jacket in front of 45 million TV viewers to reveal the stars and stripes. He dribbled a basketball (um, like a girl) and then tossed it into the crowd. The next song, an inspired ''Pride (In the Name of Love)'' was nearly its riveting match.

In U2's quest, it seems, to give these Boston shows the widest possible exposure, last night's gig was also taped for future broadcast on HBO. It was the kind of performance that should be recorded to preserve the band's magic . . . and now it is. ''Don't tell anyone,'' Bono admonished the crowd early in the lengthy set. ''But we were just warming up last night.''

He wasn't bluffing. Bono filled his tunes with inside references to the area. He charged guitarist the Edge like a mad Spanish bull. He plucked a fan out of the crowd to play guitar on ''Desire.'' He smooched a very willing female fan during the encores.

The band's nationally televised mini-set also did the Hub another favor. It's likely the last time Boston will be part of the NBA finals any time soon.

© Boston Herald, 2001.

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