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"To me the songs feel like conversations." — Bono

U2 brings powerful music and message to Mellon Arena

- October 23, 2005

by Ed Masley

U2 lead singer Bono, at center, acknowledges fans during their sold-out concert last night at Mellon Arena.
Long before he'd sprayed the crowd down front with the foam from a bottle of champagne during a spirited encore performance of "Party Girl," with an audience member joining The Edge on acoustic guitar, it was clear that Bono had come to Mellon Arena last night in the mood to celebrate.

This is the year of U2's Hall of Fame induction after all, not to mention the 25th anniversary of "Boy," the band's debut.

But Bono was clearly more thrilled at the thought of the quarter of a million Africans he said were still alive this year because of U.S. aid, more thrilled that 2 million people and counting have joined the ranks of "One," a Bono-led campaign "to make poverty history." By 2008, he said, those numbers should grow to 5 million. "And that's bigger than the NRA, ladies and gentlemen," he announced with a grin.

Throughout the concert, he offset impassioned performances of U2's greatest hits and new material with a message of hope while advancing a social agenda based in human rights and bringing an end to not just poverty but war. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was scrolled across the giant screen above the stage at the end of a moving rendition of "Miss Sarajevo," in which he asked "Is there a time for human rights? Is this the time?" And in the most dramatic gesture of the night, after singing a line of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" in the middle of "Bullet The Blue Sky," he dropped to his knees, arms raised above his head, a blindfold covering his eyes.

It's rare to see a pop star work so hard at advancing a social agenda in the context of a big arena show. Not even Springsteen goes to these extremes. But it made for a natural fit with the music -- at times on an obvious level (an electrifying "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and an anthemic "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" in particular).

They dug as deep as "I Will Follow," which sounded as fresh as ever, and blew the dust off "The Electric Co.," going on to touch on many of the early songs that still in many ways define their legacy -- "With Or Without You," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," "Where The Streets Have No Name."

But this was not an oldies show. They set the stage with two songs from their latest album -- "City of Blinding Lights" and "Vertigo" -- and a third from their previous effort, "Elevation." And even after "I Will Follow," it didn't hurt the show's momentum any when they kept coming back to those two latest albums. In fact, if anything, they spawned a number of the concert's highlights, from an anthemic "Beautiful Day" and a stripped-down, soulful performance of at least one critic's pick for U2's finest hour, "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of," to such lesser-known treasures as "Miracle Drug" and "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own," which Bono sent to his dad in a moving elegy.

That speech about his dad was merely one of several very human moments in a huge arena show. And that human connection more than likely has as much to do with all those bodies they keep packing into the Mellon Arena as all the millions they sold of "The Joshua Tree."

(c) Post-Gazette, 2005.

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