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We want to do better; we want to compete on the highest level, and that means competing on radio. -- Larry

U2 chemistry so good, it''s an element

- April 21, 2005

by Mark Brown

So many bands on the superstar level have taken to going out on the road with a bunch of backing musicians to help fill out the sound, so in a way, it's puzzling that U2 hasn't followed suit.

The reason was recently pointed out to me: They want nothing onstage that could possibly distract from the chemistry the four Irish musicians have had since their very first days.

So with the help of a minimum of backing tracks, Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. go out there and do it themselves every night.

And man, what a payoff.

Wednesday night's concert was yet another triumph in a string of memorable Denver shows dating back nearly a quarter century - a heritage Bono himself recalled onstage, introducing the early song Electric Co. with the comment, "We played this in a club called The Rainbow a few years ago."

The fact that those older songs can sound so consistent with the newer material, yet not sound formulaic, is astounding - and a reaffirmation of that decision to keep the chemistry alive.

The highlights tumbled one after another, but the new material was even more of a revelation live than it is on album.

It's extremely rare these days when a band of U2's longevity is producing new music as good as its old, but while the older stuff was extremely well-received, the feeling in the room was "Play the new stuff!"

U2 did - in spades - opening with the album cut Love and Peace or Else from their latest, How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, before crashing right into the lead-off single from the album, Vertigo.

Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own took its place with the best of U2's soaring ballads. The rush from the coupling of the newer songs City of Blinding Lights with Beautiful Day was only exceeded by the crushing midset oldies combo of New Year's Day/Sunday Bloody Sunday/Bullet the Blue Sky.

Yet it had nothing like the feeling of greatest hits, as The Edge managed to find new ways to chop at his guitar strings in Sunday Bloody Sunday and stood the guitar solo on its head in a deconstructed Bullet the Blue Sky.

The things that drive U2 detractors crazy were all there. Bono hammed it up, at times on all fours, then moments later, pleaded for human rights.

No matter. There's so little true magic left in rock music these days that a bit of excess is a small price to pay.

Copyright 2005, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.

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