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"I am 'David Evans' to customs officials, policemen and sales assistants." — Edge

Night Melbourne belonged to U2

- November 20, 2006

by Andrew Murfett

MUSIC REVIEW: U2 Telstra Dome, November 18

THAT U2 drew 120,000 fans to two shows in Melbourne at the weekend attests to 25 years of producing brilliant pop music.

That is what this tour comes down to: amid all the distractions of the spectacular stage's vast scope and dimension, and Bono's political preaching, it's still about the songs.

Some things about stadium rock shows simply cannot be avoided. Up in the nosebleeds, the sound will be variable and the sheer scale means there is little spontaneity.

At U2's mostly excellent but occasionally flawed show on Saturday, Bono tried to counter this with adlibs: Melbourne suburbs St Kilda and Fitzroy were inserted into lyrics, the Bali bombings referenced and tribute paid to various local heroes.

As they had for the band's five previous Australian shows, The Edge's signature guitar riffs on City of Blinding Lights opened proceedings. After a smoking Vertigo, then a flat-sounding Elevation, U2 launched into the first of several well-received classic 1980s pop hits, I Will Follow and New Year's Day.

During Beautiful Day, Bono worked in lines from the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Here Comes the Sun.

Though the other band members performed admirably, they remained largely in the shadows of Bono's on-stage dominance. During an impassioned Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own, dedicated to his late father Bob, he removed his omnipresent sunglasses and sang with startling passion and gravitas.

Similarly, Miss Sarajevo realised a surprisingly strong vocal performance, replicating the tenor Pavarotti's role in the original recording.

There were occasional flat spots. Love and Peace felt positively mediocre stacked up against the fervent Sunday Bloody Sunday and Bullet the Blue Sky it preceded.

Outside the stadium, a few hundred unable to acquire tickets gathered to peer through the gates, glimpse the show and soak up the atmosphere. A handful of diehards even set up tents and sleeping bags to stake their claim for a spot at last night's show. It takes a special sort of band to inspire that sort of devotion.

Masterful readings of Pride, Where the Streets Have No Name and One concluded the hectic main set. The choices for the two encores were inspired too: The Fly, Mysterious Ways, With or Without You followed by their current No. 1 hit with Green Day, The Saints are Coming, Desire, and the underrated ballad Kite.

Depending on where patrons stood or were seated, there would be minor quibbles about sound, sight lines, and, yes, the ludicrous queues at the bars.

Still, when Bono sang, "Tonight it's Melbourne that belongs to me," during Angel of Harlem, you could hardly argue against him.

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