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I'm not afraid to be ugly or to be myself. -- Bono, 1981

by Sean King

This was my first-ever U2 concert, and I was disappointed. Having been weaned on pre-Joshua Tree U2, I was not fully prepared for the robust Americana of this tour. Covers of “Help” and “Helter Skelter” only further emphasized the “return to rock’s roots” tone of the entire show. What’s more, I had just returned from a year in Sweden and my mind was still stuck somewhere in the eerie, etched landscapes of The Unforgettable Fire.

I never thought I would ever attend a U2 concert that did not include “Gloria.” But, the renditions this night of “Party Girl” and “40” were both memorable. “40” was especially good, as Larry (left alone on stage after all other members had departed) looked up at the crowd from his drum kit as if almost to think, “…how big have we become?”

“Bullet the Blue Sky” was a noteworthy opener. It was after all the band’s first night back in the U.S. and the song was an appropriate choice (even if its message did not sit well those of us who know there were never any U.S. fighter planes in El Salvador). The steady momentum of the song “The Unforgettable Fire” hit me more than usual tonight and I remember jumping up for “New Year’s Day” after having been pleasantly lulled by “Running to Stand Still.” Bono ran behind the stage to fully involve that part of the crowd on “Silver & Gold.” This hands-free movement of his only underscores the inconsequentiality of his guitar-playing on the “Rattle & Hum” version of the song.

All in all, a U2 show is a U2 show. But, I expected more. Better nights in future years were to follow, however.

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