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"As a soloist, I'm average at best. But with the band? There's nothing better, I promise you." — Bono

With grand designs, U2 soars in Coliseum confines

- November 19, 1987

by Divina Infusino

It wasn't a spiritual experience like U2's first show at the San Diego Sports Arena in April.

But the most popular rock 'n' roll band in the world right now did overcome the obvious drawbacks of the Los Angeles Coliseum and uplifted a sellout crowd of approximately 75,000 Tuesday night despite some intermittent rain.

Of all the groups that have headlined stadiums in recent years -- Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Madonna, Michael Jackson -- U2's ability to succeed in an environment better-suited to gladiators than musical groups was greater than most. The grand sweep of its songs, the windswept atmosphere created by its ringing guitar and galloping rhythms, and Bono's flair for the dramatic in his lead vocals and stage presence are actually enhanced by a large venue.

Still, U2 took steps to adjust to the stadiums it has been playing since the band returned to tour America this fall. The concert, which, as always, included songs from the band's first album to its current megahit, "The Joshua Tree," ran tighter than previous shows. There was less talking by Bono, and no real surprises in choice of material. (During "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," Bono did break into a brief excerpt of Bob Marley's "Exodus," but that was about it.)

The band's arrangements were tightly structured, relying on the often overlooked dynamics of volume. Several numbers began with just Bono's vocal and one background instrument, then burst into full accompaniment. Every instrumental solo, The Edge's charging guitar, Adam Clayton's nimble bass playing, Larry Mullen's menacing drums, were contained and, it seemed, pre-determined, at least compared to previous shows. lights. Bright white lights lining the stage lit up the crowd. The encore kicked off with a recording of the Jimi Hendrix version of the "Star-Spangled Banner," while fireworks crackled over head. U2 returned to the stage and launched into a forceful rendition of "Bullet The Blue Sky."

As always, the show's most spontaneous moments were the highlights. There was Bono catching one of the balloons sailing around the stadium and letting it float skyward during "Bad," and a guitarist chosen from the audience to perform with the band on Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready." (The guy, of course, slipped Bono a demo tape of his band.)

But the performance hit its peak when Bono and the group lost themselves in the music. The ability to dig deep inside themselves while performing before thousands may be the key to U2's success as a live act. And it worked again, even in the Coliseum.

With its thoughtful music and committed singing by leader Chrissie Hynde, The Pretenders were a perfect opener for U2 and gave an inspired performance. Former Sex Pistol Steve Jones opened the three-band bill.

Last night's show was kicked off by the Bodeans.

The San Diego Union-Tribune. All rights reserved.

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