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I think God gets annoyed with the gifted. We should know that our work is no more important than a plumber's or a carpenter's. -- Bono, 2004



by Mike Gentile (yes, really :)

U2
National Car Rental Center
Sunrise, Florida
March 24, 2001

Wow! What can be said that hasn't already been posted? This show was absolutely incredible! This was my first "opening night" U2 show, and my 8th U2 concert overall.

The Corrs were great as an opening band and really got the crowd "in the mood" for U2. It might have been the heavy "Irish sound" that got the crowd all worked up, but most likely, it was could have been the loose-fitting (or tight-fitting, depending on which sister you were staring at) clothes that the Corrs sisters were wearing. Whatever it was, it worked. The Corrs were a perfect segue into U2.

Since my friend and I had seats behind the stage (my first tickets of this type for any concert) hopefully, I can offer some insight from my vantage point. We were in the last row of section 125, and the lowest row of spotlights (back of the stage) was at eye level. This was the only row that ever so slightly obstructed our view of the entire stage. The only portions that we couldn't see were the very "tip of the heart" (in the middle of the arena) and about 20 feet or so on either side of it. Besides that, we saw basically the entire stage.

Here is my song-by-song recap of the night. The "highlights" and "lowlights" have already been covered, so I'll just stick to a few comments about each song.

Here goes...

*Elevation
With the HOUSE LIGHTS STILL ON (and very bright, at that), U2 completely shocked the entire house by simply walking on stage. No introduction and no "big over-produced opening montage," nothing but the band simply walking up the back stairs and taking the stage. Since we could clearly see the bottom of the staircase and the walkway leading up to it, we clearly spotted U2 a few seconds before the ticket holders who were in front of the stage. I couldn't believe my eyes! I think it too a minute or two for it to completely sink in but as soon as they took the stage (to the deafening roar of the crowd) and after a few simple waves from the band, they launched right into 'Elevation.' The crowd was ecstatic, plain and simple. There wasn't a single person there who was not jumping up and down and waving their arms around and screaming at the top of their lungs. U2 really whipped the crowd into frenzy.

*Beautiful Day
With 'Elevation' under their belt, the band immediately follows up with 'Beautiful Day,' another heavy favorite with the crowd. Since U2 has already played both 'Elevation' and 'Beautiful Day' in the months leading up to the tour, they perform both of them here flawlessly.

*Until the End of the World
The crowd roared once again when the opening bars of the third song started. Perhaps it might be that most of them never saw it performed on the Zoo TV tour or something, but most seemed pleasantly surprised to hear it. (Personally, I think it's time to put this puppy to bed, but I can't say that I was disappointed to hear it played, either.) Nothing new or notable here about the delivery. It was highly charged and very reminiscent of the Zoo TV/Zooropa style that we have all become accustomed to (complete with Bono and The Edge taunting/teasing each other around the heart for the second half of the song). We had no idea that Bono fell during this song until we read it in the newspaper later at about 1am. It must have been just out of our view. Since we had a relatively clear view of the band for most of the song and one of the giant black and white monitors was almost entirely focused on Bono for most of the concert, I am really surprised that we missed it. (Personally, I think that WAY too much attention is being paid to the fact that Bono "fell off the stage." I saw some footage of it today and the entire incident only lasted about 5 seconds. I'd venture to guess that more than 50 percent of the people there even knew about it. Get over it, folks. Enough said.) The song was not interrupted in the least bit by the "incident," and the band went right into the next number, with Bono still not "officially" addressing the crowd.


*New Years Day
Not one of my favorites, but again, I was really happy to hear something "out of the 80s" again. A real crowd-pleaser and the crowd really let the band know how much they love it, singing, waving and chanting along, as can always be expected. The band has still not let up, here four numbers into the highly charged set. One thing I did notice (before the concert) was "Edge's piano," but it seemed to be a bit larger than I had remembered in the past. It also had a stool sitting behind it that I was puzzled about (until a little later in the show). I figured that they would be playing 'New Years Day' but the stool seemed a bit out of place (until later).

*Stuck in a Moment
Bono addresses the crowd before the song starts and dedicates it to Michael Hutchence. This song was really powerful live, and much better than I had expected it to be. Again, since this is one that they have performed many times leading up to opening night, it is very tight and flawless as far as I could tell. Bono spent some time leaning on Adam (and later leaning on The Edge) while he sang. The "theatrics" seemed genuine and the performance was "solid."


*Gone
Being one of my favorites, I was happy to hear Gone included in the set. I've heard them perform it better (and worse) in the past, but I could hardly complain about the band's delivery here. It could have used a little more practice I think (mainly to speed it up just a tad) but it still was a very good performance, and the crowd loved it.

*Discothque / Staring at the Sun
This "medley" tuned out to be pretty good, though when I realized at first that I was "Discotheque" I have to admit that I probably let out a sigh. It got much better, however, when I realized the lighted panels raising out of the floor behind the main stage and it seemed that almost as soon as it had started, Bono started singing some bars of "Staring at the Sun" and then The Edge followed along on guitar. The transition between the two was barely noticeable. The "Staring at the Sun" portion of the medley ended up reminding me of the version the band had performed in DC on the Pop Mart tour, the full band version (and not the acoustic version that we are all accustomed to). All in all, I would have to give the medley a pretty favorable rating. The medley seemed to work here (eventually) and I think that the band just needs to polish this medley up a bit to really make it stick out.

*New York
This was the first song that featured the "transparent curtain panels" that drop down from the rafters. There's about 4-6 of these panels and the main purpose of them is to project images and (in the case of "New York") high shadows of Bono and the rest of the band (Except for the spot lights and/or projectors, it is almost completely dark in the arena when they use these curtains). As I've said on some of the other new songs, since U2 has already performed this song a lot since the album was released, they really nailed it. I was looking forward to hearing this one, and I wasn't disappointed at all.

*I Will Follow
Another highly charged performance (albeit abrupt). Bono basically forgot the entire last half of the song and it sort of just ended too soon. As with the other "minor errors" during the show, the band was able to quickly overcome it and finished out the song very well. I would venture to say that most of the people there never even noticed this error (or any of the rest of them).

*Sunday Bloody Sunday / Get Up, Stand up
Full band version, nothing acoustic here. Definitely one of the best performances of the night. It was the entire version, extended outtro and all (al la 'Rattle and Hum,' but without the big speech in the middle). Bono threw in a little Bob Marley near the end and it seemed to work well. Bono really worked the crowd and the crowd really enjoyed this one (hands waving in unison, etc.). Second only to "Bad" this was one of the highlights of the night for me. (One funny thing I noticed was that I think the Edge was sort of unsure when to end the song. Bono motioned to Larry to keep drumming (as everyone was clapping along) but I think the Edge was under the impression that his work was done. He almost forgot to play the last few notes, because he had completely slipped his guitar off over his head and started to had it to Dallas, when he realized he still had a few notes to play, so he quickly slipped it back on, and finished the song.) U2 performed this one extremely well (except The Edge kind of played the opening part in the wrong key or something; I'm still not sure of exactly what he was playing). Overall the crow went ballistic and, the performance was FANTASTIC!

*Sweetest Thing
Before the song, Bono introduced the entire band and made a joke that there was only four people in the band (because he knew "they had problems counting Florida," etc. Each member of the band walked out all the way to the end of the catwalk (to the tip of the heart) before returning his spots. (Adam even ran up the ramp on his side, as if to mimic Bono, in much the same way Bono runs up the ramp in the middle of "God Part II" in 'Rattle and Hum.' He only did it jokingly, for a few seconds, and made his way out to the heart, cigarette and all. Then all the band members made their way back to their "spots." All except for Bono, who made his way to the PIANO, which was just to the right of The Edge (and slightly elevated) because...

Bono actually PLAYED THE PIANO on this number, and not just a few notes, he played the entire song (this was where the stool came into play). I'm still in shock over this (not so much that he was playing the piano, but that he played it so well!). You could tell that a LOT of practice went into this one. Also, Bono and The Edge were sort of smirking at each other throughout the song. Must have been some joke from rehearsals or something. Very well done.

*In A little While
After explaining the story behind "The Sweetest Thing" and dedicating it to his wife Ali, Bono went on to dedicate "In A Little While" to her as well. This was fabulous live, and it sounded almost identical to the album version. No complaints here.

*The Ground Beneath her Feet
Larry and Adam left the stage to leave just Bono and The Edge, an acoustic guitar and a lone spotlight on them. It was OK, I guess. I like the studio version a lot more, so this "stripped down" version left me kind of disappointed. My disappointment was about to end however...

*Bad
Larry and Adam re-emerged from beneath the stage to join Bono and Edge. Without a doubt, this was the BEST VERSION of the song that I (personally) have witnessed them play (seeing them perform it about 5 or 6 times)!!! When I say that the only versions I think sounded better (even the ones I wasn't there for) I can honestly tell you that only two come to mind: Live Aid and the version from Denver that is in 'Rattle and Hum.' This was the defining moment of the night for me. This version was phenomenal!!! Bono even threw in a few lines from Lou Reed's 'Walk on the Wild' near the end. Overall, this was the highlight of the night for me. I still cannot get over how great this performance was.

*Where the Streets Have no Name
This, too, was FANTASTIC! During the opening part, Bono said something over and over. I couldn't quite make out what it was he was saying, but it kind of reminded me of the intros to the 1989 Lovetown shows in Dublin (Samuel Beckett, Jack Kerouac's 'On The Road,' etc.) so perhaps it was one of these types of intros. Also in the beginning, the lighted screens rose up out of the floor near the rear of the stage behind Larry, all glowing red. The crowd went ballistic when the red glow was replaced with an explosion of white light all around and Bono launched into the lyrics. Near the end, Bono literally ran two laps abound the heart as fast as he could, almost sprinting, and made it back to sing the last few lyrics before collapsing onto one of the tops of the lighted screens (they had descended back into the floor by this point). Overall, this version was great! It sounded a LOT like it did in 'Rattle and Hum' and not at all like the version played on Pop Mart (no extended outtro or anything like that).

*Mysterious Ways
As soon as this started up, it was clear why Bono laid down on the screen... He was suddenly lifted on his back and performed the first half of the song there, on his back, but now he was about 8 feet in the air! Just the screen he was laying on was elevated at first. For the second half of the song, the screen descended and the rest of the screens alternated up and down, with silhouettes of belly dancers on them. Bono even mimicked one at one point, standing in from of the screen. It was during the beginning of the song that Bono first put on his "camouflage fishing cap."

*The Fly
You are either going to love it or hate it, but any way you look at it, this song has been completely re-worked. Just imagine them playing the Fly with the Edge stomping on every single one of his effects pedals at once and you will pretty much get the idea of what this sounds like. Oddly enough, I found myself REALLY liking it (after reflecting on it a bit). The highlight of the song was the very end, when Bono jumps into the middle of a huddle of (waiting) security guards situated near the tip of the heart in the middle of the arena and is escorted THROUGH THE CROUD and one of the side, back exits (the whole time while singing the last lines, "Look, I gotta go, yeah I'm running outta change... There's a lot of things, if I could I'd rearrange...") while Larry, Adam and The Edge finish up the song. I like it, some people didn't. The screens feature sort of psychedelic colors rather than the flashing montage of words that we have all become accustomed to. This is the last song before the encore. With a little more work, I think it will be polished enough to appease even the harshest critics.

*Bullet the Blue Sky
This was performed in a unique, yet familiar way. It was pretty much a mixture of styles from Pop Mart and Zoo TV, with more emphasis on Zoo TV. One interesting note: Bono walks around the heart with a portable spotlight (a la 'Rattle and Hum') and shines it in all directions into the crowd and the crowd when crazy. Everyone really seemed to enjoy this song. (Personally, I've heard them do it 8 times, and I think they should also put this song to bed. Still, I liked what I saw, and at least they change it up a bit whenever they perform it, so again, no real complaints.)


*With or Without You
A fantastic version, much like version performed on the Zoo TV tour. The screens came down again for this one, and some graphics were projected onto them. One note on this one: I think Edge's guitar suddenly became unplugged during this or something, because Bono had to repeat a verse, and there was no sound coming out of Edge's guitar at one point. It was soon cleared up, so Bono continued on with the next verse. A casual listener might not have noticed this. It was really no big deal. Overall, it was really good.

*One
Nothing new or exciting here, but it certainly was emotional, even for Bono. A friend of mine said he noticed Bono crying during the end of it, apparently overcome with emotion, but I didn't notice this. Maybe I just missed it. It sounded the same as it ever does, excellent.

*Walk On
I was really looking forward to hearing this one live (it's my favorite song on the album) and I was not disappointed. They did a great job on this. Bono thanked everyone for coming out to the show just before the last few lyrics, and Bono even sang the chorus to "40" (very briefly, but I noticed) before the end of the song and U2's departure from the stage.


That's it. See you all in Philly on June 12!

-Mike


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