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All my favorite words are stolen. . . . They're all gone, meaningless. Like 'born again.' . . . Now it means nothing, because some very dangerous people got a hold of the word. -- Bono

Bono''s applicants for world''s best band show they qualify

- May 04, 2001

by John Soeder

A few months ago at the Grammy Awards, U2 lead singer Bono said his group was applying for the position of "best band in the world." Performing last night at Gund Arena, the Irish quartet flaunted all the necessary qualifications, including a charisma-dripping frontman and a sterling repertoire of enduring rock anthems.

The job interview - er, concert - got under way when Bono, guitarist the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. strolled onstage with the lights up and launched into "Elevation," a rousing new tune.

This was their first Northeast Ohio appearance since 1992, when the Zoo TV tour rolled into the Richfield Coliseum. Five years later, the PopMart tour passed us by because the demolition of Cleveland Municipal Stadium left no local venue large enough to accommodate U2's most elaborate production.

Now U2 has gone back to basics, ditching the sensory overload of its '90s shows in favor of a more intimate arena-rocking experience. Nobody missed the giant lemon or other props.

Much of the action last night took place on a heart-shaped runway that extended into the sea of humanity on the arena floor. The unique setup virtually eliminated the barrier between band and audience.

During "Until the End of the World," Bono stooped to kiss a female fan. He spent the rest of the night making a noble effort to touch every last one of the concertgoers who reached out to him as if he were a faith healer.

The show drew heavily from U2's latest album, "All That You Can't Leave Behind," with a few '80s gems scattered throughout the set. Bono slipped a few bars of Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up" into "Sunday Bloody Sunday," the Edge's guitar rang out like a bell during "I Will Follow" and the familiar groove of "New Year's Day," propelled by Clayton and Mullen, drew a roar of approval.

Bono projected his powerful voice to every corner of the packed venue. He's not as breathy as he used to be, although he still looks as if he's riding an invisible surfboard up there.

Surely Bono was referring to himself during "Kite" when he sang: "The last of the rock stars / When hip-hop drove the big cars."

He dedicated the latter tune to the old-timers who caught U2 in concert 20 years ago at the Agora in Cleveland. The gospel-tinged "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" was offered up on behalf of the late Micheal Hutchence of INXS.

Bono paid tribute to another fallen hero, Joey Ramone, before "In a Little While," which Bono sang with only the Edge's acoustic guitar as accompaniment. The unplugged interlude also included "Desire" and the breathtaking ballad "Stay."

Congratulations, lads. By the final encore, a soul-stirring version of "Walk On," it was clear: You got the job.

Opening act PJ Harvey got everyone's attention with a solo rendition of "Rid of Me," an unhinged love song. Her growls and caterwauls scared the daylights out of the gathering throng.

The riveting British singer-guitarist was joined by a four-piece band for "This Is Love," "Man-Size" and other raw rock outbursts that packed a cathartic punch.

© Plain-Dealer, 2001.

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