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[P]eople get a clearer glimpse of who you are through the music than through any interview you may do. -- Bono

A beautiful night for a concert

- November 06, 2001

by Michael Corcoran

A beautiful night for a concert
By Michael Corcoran

American-Statesman Staff

Tuesday, November 6, 2001

Gone were the banks of screens flashing messages, the giant lemoncraft, the multimillion-dollar lighting rigs and the phone calls to world leaders.

Instead, Monday's Erwin Center crowd of 16,925 witnessed a back-to-basics, stripped-down affair that found U2 with something left to prove, if only that grandiosity of the human spirit is the most special effect of all.

The crowd came for a love fest, for uplifting messages to go with the rattle and hum, and U2 provided it from a heart-shaped stage. "What you don't have, you don't need," Bono sang on "Beautiful Day," the concert's second song. Also pared down on this "Elevation" tour were Bono's sociopolitical ramblings, leaving his actions and movements to carry a more organic message early in the set.

When the band launched into "Sunday Bloody Sunday," a 20-year-old song with renewed relevance, the frontman in black reached into the crowd and pulled out an Irish flag. Then he found an American flag and held the two together to his chest, with his head bowed as the Edge struck notes both sharp and fuzzy.

With the recurring themes of compassion, humanity and politics, U2 has long had the power to turn musical events into spiritual awakenings. But recent tragic events have given wings to the Irish group's sweeping anthems.

These days it's almost impossible to be corny, and when the audience shaded certain songs with impromptu "wooh-oohs," you couldn't help but feel that something special was going on. That the name "U2" visually resembled the "11/5" date seemed to have significance.

Monday's concert, the Erwin Center's first major rock show of the year, grossed almost $1.1 million, an amount that doesn't include the money made by scalpers. They were asking up to $200 a ticket on the sidewalks outside the Erwin Center, filled with spur-of-the-moment fans who tried to buy their way into a show that sold out in less than an hour when tickets went on sale in late September.

Many fans started waiting in line Sunday night, more than 24 hours before U2 hit the stage after an opening set from No Doubt, as this was a rare concert where general admission tickets were prime. In an effort to maximize the band's relationship with its audience, the floor was without seats, giving 1,200 the chance to stand around and in the middle of the heart-shaped catwalk that Bono turned into his own hike-and-psych trail.

The lucky ringsiders reached up to touch the infinitely watchable Bono as if that were the only thing that could top what they'd been seeing and hearing. At the end of "Until the End of the World," he fell into their arms and relaxed into that hammock of humanity.

"You changed me -- and I thank you for that," Bono announced during an interlude in "I Will Follow." The fans, by this time fanatics, went nuts for his ability to read their minds.

The next night U2 would be on to another town, but nobody thought of the next night or the previous night. For just over two hours on Monday, U2 belonged to us.

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