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"Some people don't have whatever it needs to go to this level. Well that's fine. But don't spank us because we can." — Bono

Power outage: Bono lacks energy, drains U2 concert

- April 04, 2001

by Thor Christensen

U2's mission on its week-old U.S. tour is crystal clear: Reclaim the title of best band in rock.

"This is our 'Reapplying for the Job Tour,'" Bono said midway through the band's two-hour show at Reunion Arena.

"Did we get the job?"

Um ... we'll have to get back to you after we interview the other applicants. Coming from a band known for its transcendent concerts, Tuesday's performance was underwhelming at best.

The blame goes squarely on the shoulders of Bono, who was singing way below his usual capacity. Though he never complained about being sick, his voice was tired and raspy as he spoke to the capacity crowd between songs, and the results weren't much better once the band kicked into gear.

His missed high notes gave "Sweetest Thing" a slightly sour taste. "With or Without You" was a washout. And he shot nothing but blanks in "Bullet the Blue Sky" -- his ol' vocal showpiece from The Joshua Tree.

Just as disappointing as his voice was his showmanship. He started off his charismatic self -- doing Elvis-like karate kicks and charging the Edge like a bull attacking a toreador.

But as the show progressed, you could practically see his lights starting to dim. Instead of his usual prowling and leaping and sprinting, he mostly sauntered around the heart-shaped runway that jutted out into the main floor. When he did muster up the energy to dash around the runway, he had to spend the next two minutes lying on his back while singing "Mysterious Ways."

Musically, the show was a mixed bag as well. New tunes such as "Elevation" and "Beautiful Day" were every bit as tight and potent as sure-fire classics such as "I Will Follow" and "Bad." And the band's country-folk overhaul of "Desire" was narcotic.

Yet other newly arranged older songs were filled with kinks, such as the toothless versions of "Discotheque," "Gone" and "Staring at the Sun" -- three songs from Pop, the hit-and-miss 1997 CD that caused the Irish quartet to fall off the best-band perch.

U2's current tour has loads more going for it than its overblown PopMart tour -- the spotlight this time is back on the music, not 40-foot-high mirrored lemons and 150-foot-wide video screens. But before it makes good on the promise, U2 needs a few more rehearsals and a re-energized lead singer.

PJ Harvey was the rare opening act actually worth ending your parking-lot drinking early to go see. The English singer might have looked like a Vegas lounge act in her glittery low-cut red dress, but her music didn't sparkle -- it seethed.

Rock 'n' roll doesn't get much more galvanizing than the wrist-slitting blues-punk of "Rid of Me" and "This Is Love." And the key was Ms. Harvey's opera-strength howl, which was a big question mark before showtime. Last week the singer was so sick she had to cancel several shows with U2, but Tuesday night she was moaning and caterwauling at 110 percent.

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