Opening Act(s): Lone Justice
11 O'Clock Tick Tock, I Will Follow, Seconds, 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.
Bergen Record, April 15, 1985
U2: Rock and Roll Brotherhood
by Barbara Jaeger
The banner, unfurled near the end of the show, stated: "A Celebration: U2."
The message was simple, and it couldn't have been more true. The concert by the Irish band U2 at the Brendan Byrne Arena Friday night was truly a celebration of all that is good about rock-and-roll.
From the opening note of "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" to the closing strains of "40," the group, which will conclude its three-night, sold-out stand at the arena tonight, delivered a performance that was chock-full of raw energy, passion, social commitment, and caring.
The bold theatrics and the flag-waving of the group's earlier concerts have been abandoned, but U2's act is no less fervent and enthralling. Without the dramatic distractions, the music, which is U2's real strength, is now the focus.
Many of the group's powerfully distinctive songs, such as "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (about the strife in Northern Ireland) and "New Year's Day" (about the political turmoil in Poland), were given rousing treatments by the band, which includes lead guitarist Dave "The Edge" Evans, vocalist-guitarist Paul "Bono" Hewson, drummer Larry Mullen Jr., and bassist Adam Clayton. But even the somewhat somber, introspective pieces like "MLK" and "Bad," from the group's new album, "The Unforgettable Fire," proved to be every bit as stirring.
"MLK," a lovely ballad dedicated to slain civil-rights leader Martin Luther King, was a moving tribute, made more so by Bono's sweet, tender vocals. Bono began "Bad," a song about heroin addition, singing in hushed tones over just the barest hint of instrumentation. From there, the song built in intensity, due in large part to The Edge's ringing guitar work.
The Edge is an extraordinary guitarist and Mullen and Clayton provide a rock-solid foundation, but it is Bono who enraptures the audience.
His mere presence, whether swaggering across the stage or crouched at its edge, and his distinctive deep voice demand attention. But there is no arrogance, just a sincere need to make the audience feel a part of things. During a wonderful rendition of Bob Dylan's "Knocking on Heaven's Door," Bono even brought a member of the audience up, handed him his guitar, and let him perform with the band.
Lone Justice, fronted by 20-year-old lead singer Maria McKee, performed an enjoyable 30-minute set of primarily country-flavored rock tunes to open the show. The Los Angeles band's material was the perfect showcase for McKee's phenomenal voice. On the hard-rocking numbers, she was reminiscent of Janis Joplin, while on the softer ballads, McKee exhibited shades of Emmylou Harris's style.
But the evening belonged to U2.
After an explosive rendition of "Gloria" as a first encore, a hush fell over the crowd when U2 returned to the stage and Bono stepped to the microphone and began softly singing "40." The soothing hymn, which quotes several verses of Psalm 40, intensified the communal spirit of the show. Bono turned a spotlight on the audience and encouraged them to sing the chorus with him.
When the band left the stage, the lights came up, and the 21,000 fans began filing out of their seats, the singing continued... up the aisles, into the corridors, and out to the parking lots.
© The Record, 1985. All Rights Reserved.