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"The [music] industry is in a slump because it's boring and people aren't taking risks." — Bono



U2''s heart of hearts emerges during Sunrise show

- March 26, 2001

by Evelyn McDonnell

U2 has a fondness for grand gestures. Halfway through the band's show Saturday at the National Car Rental Center in Sunrise, singer Bono ran out on the heart-shaped ramp that wrapped around the group and into the audience. In a well-acted display of the striving-and-strife theme of the 1984 song Bad, Bono reached out to fans' outstretched hands and softly chanted: ``desperation, dislocation, separation, condemnation, revelation, in temptation, isolation, desolation.''

He reached and reached but failed to touch, then dropped his hand and backed away. ``Let it go,'' he sang to the disappointed fans, and to himself. The lyrics, with their message of spiritual reconciliation over earthly greed, fit with those from the band's latest album, All That You Can't Leave Behind. And it was a quintessential U2 moment, as the singer simultaneously acted out his messianic tendencies and disavowed them.

Almost 19,000 fans -- including Elvis Costello, Lenny Kravitz, Rick James, and boxer Roy Jones -- packed NatCar, some of them coming from overseas for the launch of the Irish quartet's Elevation tour, many paying $131 for tickets.

Anticipation was thick as the band took the stage a half-hour late with no fanfare, not even a dimming of the house lights, just a bunch of casually dressed blokes -- guitarist The Edge (in a Miami Dolphins T-shirt), drummer Larry Mullen, and bassist Adam Clayton plus Bono, decked out in black leather.

Paring down after the digital pyrotechnics of U2's recent tours, they've made the set for Elevation spare. Still, for a few songs, translucent canvases unfurled from the floor to the ceiling, acting as screens for slides, videos and, on the song New York, Bono's shadow figures. During other tunes, panels behind the band displayed psychedelic electric light patterns. On Mysterious Ways, shadow boxes showing women dancing rose from the stage floor and descended again.

But the main prop was the ramp. As on TLC's FanMail tour, the set allowed a few hundred fans to be in the middle of the action, in the heart's heart. The narrow ramp brought Bono, and less often The Edge, precariously close to the crowd.

During his first foray onto it, Bono was shaking fans' hands (which was, in fact, easy for him to do) when, in a curious public display of affection, someone sprayed water on him. Bono, an old-time punk, replied with a gob of spit. Shortly after, Bono slipped and fell off the ramp. For a moment it seemed he might be down for the count, but he slowly got back up, apparently unharmed. But by the end of the night he was running laps around the heart and, for the finale, he jumped into the crowd and exited out the back of the arena floor.

Bono recently said that it may be U2's job, as pop stars, to be ``embarrassable.'' Heroes must risk falling on their butts as they explore new territories. The singer is definitely the brave clown of U2 while Clayton and Mullen are solid and steady. In many ways, The Edge is the band's mind and heart, playing keyboards, singing backup, and even breaking into an angelic falsetto on one song. He does it all while making the electric guitar seem like an instrument whose limits haven't even begun to be realized.

But whether he's channeling Jim Morrison or Van Morrison, singing to his wife or feigning sexual moans, Bono is simultaneously U2's romantic lead and its fool. Unfortunately, his usually achingly authoritative voice was not in great shape Saturday. He let the audience take over some of the songs for him. Since the band played many of its two decades worth of hits (I Will Follow, Sunday Bloody Sunday), people knew all the words.

It's debatable whether any two-hour show is worth $131. But if you traveled across the Atlantic for it, this one probably was.


U2 and the Corrs play the National Car Rental Center, 2555 Panther Parkway, in Sunrise again tonight at 7:30. For information, call Ticketmaster at (305) 358-5885 (Miami-Dade), 954-523-3309 (Broward) or 561-966-3309 (Palm Beach).

© Miami Herald, 2001.

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