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, Dirty Old Town, Satellite Of Love, Van Diemen’s Land, 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.
It’s St. Patrick’s Day and the show is merry and festive. Dirty Old Town is sung by Larry Mullen, who is accompanied by The Edge and Bono on guitar. Van Diemen’s Land makes its first of only a few post-Lovetown Tour appearances.
U2 finds its second home
by Jim Sullivan
“It’s an incredible feeling,” said U2 singer Bono from the Boston Garden stage last night, near the end of the band’s sold-out-in-a-flash concert. “It’s a home away from home, really.”
A load of hooey? Ninety-nine times out of 100 it is. Other, more Spinal Tap-like rock bands blather this way everywhere. But U2 and Boston really do have a connection that goes back to 1980, when the idealistic young Dubliners packed the Paradise. Then, U2 was but the opening act for the forgotten Barooga Bandit.
So, what does U2’s first St. Patrick’s Day in Boston mean to the band?
It means Bono lovingly calling us all “bastards”; it means drummer Larry Mullen Jr., guitarist Edge and Bono swapping lead vocals on the Pogues’ wistful Celtic ballad “Dirty Old Town”; it means U2 paying sly tribute to Bostonian and Tin Machine guitarist Reeves Gabrels on the numerous video screens; it means U2 praising the opening ex-Bostonian Pixies; it means working St. Patrick and the Bruins into “Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around the World” and suggesting that the Irish folks in the crowd got an alcoholic head start on the boys in the band; it means Bono calls the subject of “Angel of Harlem” Billie O’Holiday;it means Bono telling the illegal Irish to bug Gov. Weld and Mayor Flynn for green cards. “Truth is,” said Bono, “we all end up in Boston some time, looking for work.” During last night’s 110-minute set, U2 stuck to the basic framework of the previous 10 shows on the “Zoo TV” tour, but gave Boston a few unique wrinkles.
Where you have to give U2 immense credit is here: Generally, as a band gets bigger it tends to mean less to more people. The nuances get lost; the edge is muted. U2 has reversed that sorry equation, and done what very few artists manage successfully to do: They’ve re-invented themselves. The opening consisted of squalls and blasts from their “Achtung Baby” album and the black-leather clad Bono greeted the crowd looking like a cross between the Terminator and the Fly. They initially ditched the old uplift, dug down and got hard ‘n’ nasty, not unlike the Pixies. There were some mind-boggling slogans and buzzwords tossed up on the video: “Drugs Are Good,” “It’s Your World, You Can Change It,” “Sex,” “Everything You Know Is Wrong,” “Watch More TV.” There were also lots of shots of Bono projected onto the screens. U2, like Woody Allen, favors black and white imagery.
U2 moves us in a myriad of ways. While the set started hard and terse, it took logical shifts, moving into the gorgeous “Mysterious Ways” (featuring a live belly dancer), the gliding “One,” and then a major shift to the U2-on-the-catwalk acoustic segment, including “Angel of Harlem,” “Dirty Old Town” and Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love.” Finally came the familiar rousers like “Bad,” “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
There’s nothing much to quibble about. Just as Bono learned how to project to arenas by studying Bruce Springsteen, U2 has adapted to the high-tech video age by, perhaps, looking at American new wave-era counterparts R.E.M., who pulled off similar quick-hit video tricks on their last tour. Like R.E.M., U2 is utilizing video without clobbering their music with it. It’s a mix of dazzling spectacle and bare-bones rock ‘n’ roll, shot full of passion at virtually every point.
And not without humor. U2 has excised the pompousness that had hovered about them. The U2 stew now has room for it all. How else to explain a pumped-up, quasi-disco rendition of “Where the Streets Have No Name” that owed more to the Pet Shop Boys’ campy cover of the song than U2’s original? It wasn’t a bash-you-over-the-head maneuver, but it was subtle enough to bring a smile. And, I swear, the six cars that hung over the stage glowered like Stephen King’s “Christine” during “Bullet the Blue Sky.”
As to the Pixies: a 45-minute course and melodic, bloody-minded ranting and raving, a fantastic, frantic opener.
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