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"We still make music for virgins. That is the most powerful moment, the discovery." -- Bono, 2005

U2 Focuses on Music, Less Theatrics

- March 25, 2001

by Alex Veiga

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) - U2 say they're reapplying for the job of biggest band in the world, and have taken their pitch on the road with a show that focuses on the group's two decades of music instead of the big themes and theatrics of past tours.

The Irish rock veterans opened their ''Elevation'' tour Saturday night before about 20,000 fans to support their latest album, ''All That You Can't Leave Behind.''

''Thanks for following us around over the years and giving us a great life,'' frontman Bono told the crowd. ''How was the first night for you?''

Well-rehearsed from playing a string of small venues since the fall, U2 - Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. - skated through a two-hour, 22-song set, sounding in mid-tour form on most songs.

The band started the night by walking unannounced onto its heart-shaped stage with the house lights on. They waved to the crowd before taking their instruments and bursting into the songs ''Elevation,'' and the triple-Grammy Award-winning single ''Beautiful Day.''

Midway through the fourth song of the night, ''Until the End of the World,'' Bono, wearing a black leather jacket and black pants, stepped backward and fell off a walkway at least 5 feet high, landing on his back. The singer, who has a history of injuries from falls, climbed back up after a few moments and resumed singing, apparently unharmed.

At the end of the first act, he leaped deliberately into the crowd and walked, still singing, out of the arena.

The concert began U2's first arena tour after a decade of stadium shows, and a departure from the tone and scope of past tours.

Gone Saturday were the 40-foot mirrored lemons, belly dancers, calls to the White House, and frequent costume changes the band included in concerts during the 1990s.

In their place were no-fuss deliveries of songs from a stage that allowed the band to walk into the general-admission section of the audience. Several video screens provided close-up views of the band.

Missing also was any of Bono's social commentary on the troubles in Northern Ireland or Third World debt reduction, a project that made him a regular on Capitol Hill in the past year.

The closest he came was a reference to the Florida presidential election recount.

''There's four members of U2,'' Bono said before introducing the band. ''I know you've got some problems counting here.''

U2 have said they're plucking their nightly set lists from about 30 songs. Saturday, they played classics like ''I Will Follow,'' ''Bad,'' and ''New Year's Day,'' and radio hits like ''With or Without You,'' ''Mysterious Ways,'' and ''One.'' They performed six songs from their latest record.

Among the reworked songs, a slow, trance-like reworking of ''The Fly'' stood out, growing into a pounding wall of funk led by The Edge's guitar. Another reworked gem, 1987's B-side ''The Sweetest Thing,'' featured Bono on piano and showcased strong harmonies between the singer and guitarist.

''That was for the missus,'' Bono said afterward. ''Many years ago I wrote that song for my beautiful wife, having forgotten her birthday.''

U2 closed the night with a stirring version of ''Walk On,'' with Bono adding at the end a lyric from ''Sunday Bloody Sunday'': ''How long must we sing this song?''

''A little while longer,'' he said, and walked off stage asking, ''Have we got the job?''

AP, 2001.

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