Opening Act(s): Lone Justice
11 O'Clock Tick Tock, I Will Follow, Seconds, Two Hearts Beat As One, MLK, The Unforgettable Fire, Wire, Sunday Bloody Sunday, The Cry, The Electric Co., A Sort Of Homecoming, Bad, October, New Year's Day, Pride (In The Name Of Love). Encore(s): Knockin' On Heaven's Door, Gloria, 40.
Globe and Mail, March 29, 1985
U2's rock anthems bring Gardens alive
by Liam Lacey
THERE'S A fine line between an entertainer who wants to make an audience feel good and an entertainer who wants to make people feel good about their social convictions. The members of the Irish group, U2, which played Maple Leaf Gardens as its second Toronto visit in three months, are definitely entertainers who want people not only to feel good, but to want to save the world.
They're usually called "political" performers, but U2 are really anti-political: utopian and visionary. The band is less concerned with the day- to-day business of economics, wars and strategic arms agreements than with the bigger questions: mankind's fallen state, the curse of violence, the failure of grace and beauty in the world, and all those issues that emerge when good Irish Catholics unleash their Church-nurtured passion on rock and roll. The band's goal, as singer Bono Vox (Paul Hewson) expressed it last night, is "to make you believe the impossible is possible."
Bono, who is so gifted a performer he can make even peaceniks look sexy, surfed on intense waves of audience adulation last night, all in the name of love and peace, draped in the symbolism of white flags and a lot of impeccably integrated old-fashioned showbiz. There were great dramatic lighting effects, with a predominance of blood reds; poignant slow tunes followed by explosive anthems, and never a slow moment between.
Even with the entire audience of 18,000 and change chanting "No more, no war," the lights didn't come on full blast - there was a church-window effect of bright and dark patches across the audience, creating a light- and-shadow pattern across the sea of hand- waving humanity.
Even so soon after U2's last local show, Maple Leaf Gardens was packed. All Bono's priest-like intensity of performance occasionally seems a little melodramatic, there's no doubt he pays attention to the little details: kneeling down on one knee and touching the hands of the girls, a la Julio Iglesias, dressed in what appeared to be an old military jacket and leather trousers, and then rolling up his sleeve and tying his arm with the microphone for Bad, a song inspired by Dublin's inner- city heroin problems.
There's a point in the show where Bono flings the Irish flag into the crowd, and then admonishes it for "fighting over the flag. That's what this song is against." You keep thinking he must have used that line at other concerts, and then it becomes a little contrived.
So it would be, if the band didn't have the music to back it up, but - as redundant as much of the U2 sound is, and despite the melodic repetition - it's difficult not to be stirred (the connections to marching bag- pipe bands is not coincidental) by the ringing choir-boy cries of Mister Beautiful Voice, offset by the grind and rumble of the rhythm section and the mercurial guitar lines.
U2 is absurdly heroic in its stance; for much of the night, Bono was poised leaning out over the audience, like the bowsprit of a ship pushing out into the sea of people. When he danced, it was in that elbows-high new music style, with hints of a little Irish jigging across the stage, and while he flirted constantly with the edge of excess, the show only really seemed to achieve a really theatrical completeness once.
The moment came when Bono began singing other people's songs - Amazing Grace, a couple of lines of The Stone's Ruby Tuesday, a fragment of Sympathy For The Devil, and some of The Beatles' Norwegian Wood. Not only was it a sort of communal affirmation of rock tradition, it also yielded the most relaxed, and most emotionally free music that U2 played all evening. It was a reminder that Bono has fun getting up on stage and singing.
© 1985 Globe and Mail. All rights reserved.