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"I just keep the bottom end moving." — Adam

For a gimmicky U2 -- only dance is advanced

- June 05, 1983

by Linda Hamilton

U2 is a paradox. It may some day become a great paradox. Right now, it's not that far.
The four-man Irish band enjoying heady popularity from its third album, "War," is an odd hybrid: It wrote its songs because it wasn't good enough to play the songs of Talking Heads or the Patti Smith Group but, at the same time, U2 proclaimed itself of the same "spark" and "chemistry" as the Beatles, Sones and Who. "I feel we are meant to be one of the great groups," said singer Bono Vox (nee Paul Hewson) two years ago upon the realease of his first album.
U2's lyrics are its showpiece. On "Boy" they talked of growing up; on "October," they talked of things spiritual; on "War," their focus is Ireland's Catholic/Protestant troubles, which U2 -- made up of a Catholic, a Protestant, a Catholic-Protestant and a Not-Sure -- views as a senseless struggle without winners. U2 is out to change the world with its lyrics, but of only the lyrics to 10 of the 23 songs on their three albums are printed.
The band played a gimmicky 1-1/2 hours at the Salt Palace Assembly Hall Friday night, drawing perhaps 1,500 who all seemed delighted with U2's never-changing drum/bass throbs, spearing guitar from The Edge (Dave Evans) and Vox's sometimes-patronizing microphone mugging. The kids who wanted to attract Vox's attention with upraised fists, the kids who wanted to dance in their baggies and skinny ties were most certainly entertained. And parents were probably pleased when the kids came home unbruised -- U2, for all its sleeveless black costuming, is a group of boys who go to church and still live at home except for Vox, who married last August.
But for the stark textures of "Boy," or for something different in staging, you had to go elsewhere. There was none of that. Drummer Larry Mullin has little repertoire, and that showed painfully as he started what appeared to be a solo but instead got up and left the stage while a prerecorded tape bid goodbye for him. The U2 ending was tacky. Bassist Adam Clayton -- a sort of Celtic Sea surfer -- seemed more interested in grinnin' than pickin'. And when Vox pulled a Chevy Chase fall into the audience, U2's credibility sank.
He quickly rebuilt, carrying the white flag from "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" to the ceiling as he scaled the bank of speakers and teetered 20 feet above the audience as the highlight of the 1-1/2-hour, 16-song show that included "Out of Control," "Surrender," "Refugee," "New Year's Day," "Two Hearts Beat as One" and "Drowning Man" off "War."

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