Opening Act(s): The Pixies
Zoo Station, The Fly, Even Better Than The Real Thing, Mysterious Ways, One, Until The End Of The World, Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses, Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around The World, Angel Of Harlem, Satellite Of Love, Bad-All I Want Is You-Bullet The Blue Sky, Running To Stand Still, Where The Streets Have No Name, Pride (In The Name Of Love), I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. Encore(s): Desire, Ultraviolet (Light My Way), With Or Without You, Love Is Blindness.
U2 celebrates its contradictions
by Steve Morse
U2 had much to celebrate last night. They steamed into the Centrum - the first arena they ever played in America, back in 1983 when the top ticket cost $ 13 - and received a backstage plaque last night to mark the occasion. And not only was last night their first Bay State show in five years, it was bassist Adam Clayton’s birthday. He was given a “happy birthday” serenade by lead singer Bono, joined by 14,000 fans. As if that weren’t enough, a skimpily clad woman in bunny ears, hired as a prank, came out and presented Clayton with colored balloons and a pink feather boa.
“Hi, I’m Hugh Hefner,” Bono said to her, as he held aloft a bottle of champagne, then hugged Clayton warmly.
Serious U2 fans might have been appalled, but the band is surely having more fun than in past tours. After being rock’s tense band of social conscience for the past decade, who can blame them?
All kidding aside, U2 gave another spectacular show. They’ve gone crazy with high-tech video this time - the show felt like Pink Floyd at 78 rpms at times - but not so crazy that it overpowers the intimacy that’s always been the essence of a U2 show.
The concert started blisteringly, with kinetic, grainily abstract computer graphics assaulting the eyes, but moved seamlessly to an acoustic, non-video-enhanced hootenanny segment that was the polar opposite.
The key theme was outlined in one of the phrases flashed onto four back video screens and an overhead, 15-by-24-foot screen: “Contradiction is balance.” That’s exactly what this dramatically shifting show was about.
The contradictions were everywhere. Bono began with the starkly industrial rock of “Zoo Station,” hidden behind dark sunglasses and moving with stylized android gestures. Then later, he took off the glasses, walked down a narrow ramp to a stage in the middle of the floor, and softly, vulnerably sang “Angel of Harlem,” as Clayton and the Edge played guitars at his side (as though they were in a coffeehouse) and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. played laid-back conga rhythms.
Need further contradictions? How about opening with eight straight songs from their new album, though the crowd hungered for oldies? How about, later on, intoning “Bad,” a gently hypnotic song about a friend’s drug addiction (again with no video images), then blasting into the bruisingly loud “Bullet the Blue Sky,” about fighter planes bombing Central American villages - and enhanced by a bright-orange video of a fire burning on a crucifix?
There was little time to catch your breath last night - not even during the Pixies’ fine opening set, which crackled Joey Santiago’s fuzzed guitar chords, Black Francis’ declamatory howls and David Lovering’s head-snapping drums. The Boston-originated band even finished with “UMass,” their breakthrough song, which sent the crowd into a proudly geographic frenzy.
Bono later complimented the Pixies from the stage: “I love being in a rock ‘n’ roll band in Massachusetts with the Pixies!” he roared. But surprisingly, Bono said very little else during the show, compared to his long-winded proslyetizing days. He briefly chastised scalpers (“We did our best to stop the bastards”), encouraged the crowd to vote (“You’ve got the vote - use it”) and pretty much otherwise stuck to the business of singing.
He had, in fact, an extraordinary night. He reached Al Green-like high notes at times, drove the band hard on “Mysterious Ways,” touched everyone with his spiritually seeking “Where the Streets Have No Name” (done in a beefed-up, house-music version), took the roof off with “Pride (In the Name of Love),” a tribute to Martin Luther King, and only faltered in his gold-lame Elvis parody near the end. Disco mirror balls were also used for that - and that might have been too much of a contradiction even for the most open-minded fan.
Still, when the band powered into the climactic “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” you somehow felt that they really had, at least in terms of concert performance. U2 has never been more in control of its multi-faceted destiny - and last night’s show will echo in the mind for many months to come.
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