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Next time, we're going to make some changes in the way tickets are distributed. But you know what? We'll never get it right. There's always going to be scalpers, there's always going to be screw-ups. -- Larry, 2005

Big, brassy U2 reigns supreme

- October 29, 2005

by Michael D Clark

It's official. No one does live music as big and brassy as U2.

A concert stage can be decked out with enough colorful lights to rival the sun, but without an iconic band led by an enigmatic and charismatic lead singer creating a sound that is instantly recognizable and distinctly its own, all you have is a hall decorated for a king who isn't there.

On Friday, veteran Irish supergroup U2 made the sold out Toyota Center its castle and, in front of thousands of its loyal subjects, the band reigned supreme. Even Astros pitcher Roger Clemens was in attendance to party a little with the lads from Dublin.

The set was a mix of songs that drew generously from the group's most recent studio album, How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, as well as 2000's multi-Grammy winning All That You Can't Leave Behind. In the spaces were crowd favorites and early singles like I Will Follow, breakthrough anthems like Sunday Bloody Sunday and rock 'n' roll classics like Pride (In the Name of Love) and Where the Streets Have No Name.

Ever since the late '80s, U2 has been more adept than any other rock band at making its shows memorable experiences to cherish for a lifetime. Back then the band did it with anger in its political rants. After that the allure was in the technological and visual gaudiness of the glitzy Pop Mart tour. On Friday, elements from each of those eras were represented in both song and spirit.

The stage, with its beaded curtains of shimmering lights, lit up the arena like a giant Lite-Brite. It was an appropriate look as vocalist Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr., opened the show with City of Blinding Lights.

Opening to the electric church bell-like jangle that is The Edge's signature effect, two-thirds of U2 took the stage in front of a large half oval catwalk. The middle was filled with a standing stage-front crowd. Bono then appeared at the tip of the catwalk to sing the opening verses. He flirted and cantered to the stage to join his band.

U2 can be as bold as it wants to be, but unconscious little touches of pop culture savvy set the band apart. Mixing a chorus of Send In the Clowns into The Electric Co. and Peter Tosh's Many Rivers To Cross into Beautiful Moments (ed. note: he must mean "Beautiful Day") were once-in-a-lifetime mash-ups that fans will talk about for decades.

U2 does it because it hasn't lost touch with the fans.

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