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Don't spend too much on the box and the wrapping paper. No matter how big the occasion, your loved ones just want what's inside.-- Bono, on what's he learned from being in U2, 2002


U2 comes full circle on New Jersey leg of ''360°'' tour

- July 21, 2011

by Jim Farber

"Spider-Man" wasn't the only project U2 needed to retool this year. They also had to perform surgery on their latest tour.

The new version of its "360°" show - which sprawled over the New Meadowlands Stadium Wednesday night - greatly improved the incarnation that lumbered into the defunct Giants Stadium two summers ago. Wednesday night's event doubled as a makeup for a local stop on the second stretch of shows U2 planned for last summer but had to cancel due to back surgery on Bono.

The long lag away seems to have given the band a perspective on "360" it put to good use. The 2009 run of the tour got off to a listless start with three songs in a row taken from U2's new CD of the time, "No Line on the Horizon," the first sustained studio stumble of its 30-year career.

Thankfully, this time U2 trimmed back the songs from that rambling work, playing up songs fans pine to hear. The group didn't feature a new song until half an hour in, and even then they picked the brightest one, "Get On Your Boots," which smartly refigures Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues."

Opening with "Even Better Than the Real Thing," the foursome leaned into the song's chugging rhythm and ticklish guitar hook, which slyly references the classic one in the Chambers Brothers' "Time Has Come Today."

The band front-loaded the show with hits, from their fastest, the early "I Will Follow," to their most searching, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," during which Bono quoted Bruce Springsteen's "Promised Land," and thanked him for the use of a Jersey stadium. Later, he threw in references to both Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" and "Life During Wartime," the latter leading, appropriately, into "Sunday Bloody Sunday."

As always, the angularity of U2's riffs played easily off the fluidity of the melodies. In "Mysterious Ways" the quaver of The Edge's guitar kept the rhythm funky, while Bono delivered the words with far more deliberation than usual.

During "Until the End of the World," Bono quoted Leonard Cohen to acknowledge the inspiration for its broad sense of romance. They dedicated "Beautiful Day" to Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and even featured video of her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, speaking some of its key lyrics from his mission in outer space. They continued the skybound theme with an especially charged take on "Elevation."

The galactic gestures suited the behemoth scale of the event. Its very gigantitude, and insectlike design, drew its own risky Spider-Man connection. But, then, at their best U2 has always made the grandest moves work for them. And, now - at the tail end of what has become the top-grossing tour in history - they proved it really is better the second time around.

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