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"What happened to all those rock dinosaurs of the 1970s was that they got loaded, they got their fancy cars and they started owning fish farms in Wales." — Bono

U2 comes through at Dome

- April 21, 1992

by Marty Hughley

A bumper sticker on a car in the Tacoma Dome parking lot echoed the opening line from U2's latest album: "We're ready for the laughing gas."

What the capacity crowd at the dome on Monday night really was ready for, however, was giddiness of another sort - the exhilaration of a rock 'n' roll show by one of the best-loved bands on the planet. And it didn't take any gas, just passionately innovative music and state-of-the-art staging, to give the fans what they wanted in the first of U2's two sold-out Tacoma concerts.

Were U2 not such a magnetic force on its own, the band might have been overshadowed by the show's high-tech fantasyland backdrop. A perpetual image barrage from dozens of video screens, cars hanging from the ceiling, even a bellydancer undulating languidly during the hit single "Mysterious Ways" - it was the sort of multimedia feast demanded by the sensory glutton of the MTV era.

U2 led its set with material from its latest multimillion seller, Achtung Baby, a seductive, darkly dazzling album that trades in the misty grandeur of earlier U2 records for a sound like gritty film noir futurism. And the new songs are danceable, to boot. The band hasn't lost the dramatic power of its old martial approach, but the sinuous rhythms it displayed Monday make its penchant for the Big Message much more personable.

Bono, the group's charismatic lyricist and frontman, danced and prowled around the stage like someone who'd finally realized that searching for personal and global truths might actually be fun.

The rest of the Irish supergroup - bassist Adam Clayton, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and guitarist the Edge (so named for the shape of his head, though it describes his twinning, modal guitar style, as well) - played brilliantly, proving that the recent stylistic shift wasn't just a studio concoction.

And there was no lack of the crowd-bonding that helped make the band such an object of worship. Venturing out on a runway to a small stage in the middle of the crowd, the band performed a folksy, low-key set that included such surprise gems as Abba's "Dancing Queen" and Lou Reed's "Settle Down Angel."

The crowd, of course, was ready for such intimate gestures. It was ready for anything.

The Oregonian, 1992. All rights reserved.

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