An Cat Dubh, Into The Heart, Surrender, Two Hearts Beat As One, Sunday Bloody Sunday, I Fall Down, New Year's Day. (incomplete setlist)
Oregonian, May 28, 1983
Irish U2 heads for stardom
by John Wendeborn
The four-piece Irish band U2 returned to Portland Friday night, playing the Paramount Theater for a nearly full house of youths bent on supporting a group destined to become one of the most important bands of the '80s.
U2 plays rock that defies pigeonholing. The music rolls on the deeply etched bass figures and constant drum kicks, forming a foundation for the easily understood lead vocalist's way with words. The lyrics are far from new wave "gee whiz" and are not part of punkish anarchy. They are a subtle kind of realism. The words are about war, surrender, black cats, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" ("but it's not a rebel song," said the lead singer), "I Fall Down" and "New Year's Day," the latter recognizing another new year, but not in the optimistic tone the subject usually gets.
After the first two songs boomed out from the stage, the singer told the crowd, "We're not just another English fashion band passing through. We're an Irish group."
U2 definitely was not into the synth-pop styles that feature odd hairdos and clothing. Dressed in black, these four young men - all in their early '20s - presented a powerful, sometimes raw, sometimes sensual rock. No screaming guitar solos for effect, but wonderfully effective guitar work, part of a whole the rhythm section hammered away at.
The singer communicated physically with his audience throughout the show, moving from side to side of the stage and into the corners of the crowd. Later, he would go several rows into the audience to carry a large white banner that made its way around the theater - presumably referring to "Surrender."
He also spoke frequently, early inviting the audience to come down close to the stage, and telling the security guards that "there's never any trouble at a U2 show." Several admirers tried to climb onstage. A couple made it, but all were ushered back politely.
Lighting was starkly beautiful for this concert, in tune with the occasional ominous tone of some of the songs, and fog was handled in an offbeat way that lent another ominous aura -certainly not overdone.
"Two Hearts Beat as One" was a lovely piece of music. Just before it, the bassist was working through a figure that duplicated heartbeats, setting up an interesting pattern.
But what made U2 such a superb rock concert was not so much any of the asides or the conversation but the continually lean rock attack that flowed at any tempo. It was deceptively simple: the right sound reproduction of intelligently performed music, even on one slow introduction played on piano by the guitarist as he set a perfect mood splintered by full-bore rhythm announcing the uptempo portion that went right to the feet.
The band performed for 90 minutes, including several encores. One had the singer bringing two girls to the stage to dance an Irish reel before he sat them down and took their picture.
It was, after all, the best concert of 1983 so far: solid music played rhythmically and well, a positive stage attitude that recognized audience input, excellent sound and lights.
© 1983 The Oregonian. All Rights Reserved.