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 delivers a seamless set
by Greg Kot
Because of their large scale, arena shows are choreographed instead of improvised, triumphs of calculation rather than spontaneity.
Yet U2 feeds off the ritual, bringing a human dimension to their grandiose gestures and outsize emotions.
At its sold-out show Tuesday at the Rosemont Horizon, U2 surpassed the promising start it made 32 days ago when its first U.S. tour in 4 1/2 years opened in Lakeland, Fla.
Although the band played exactly the same songs in exactly the same sequence as it did on opening night, smoother segues and tighter musicianship made the performance cohere to far greater effect.
Even more dazzling is how effortlessly the band breaks down the walls between itself and its audience.
Bono, the band’s singer and charismatic focal point, dares to look ridiculous in wraparound shades and neck-to-toe leather, to parody himself by donning a glittering jacket and kissing his mirror image or to parade and stumble down a long walkway like a drunken Jim Morrison.
“Somebody’s got to play the rock star,” he mocked.
Irony is not often a word one associates with this supposedly dour quartet, but on this tour, U2 lathers it on.
It was somehow appropriate that Bono kept baptizing the crowd with various liquids - spraying champagne, drop-kicking cups of water - while thrusting himself into a sea of waiting arms.
Theater has become an important element in the band’s performance. Bono plays the shellshocked war correspondent during “Bullet the Blue Sky,” a heroin addict in “Running to Stand Still” and a faraway lover wooing a belly dancer - yup, a belly dancer - in “Mysterious Ways.”
Equally impressive was how Bono and his mates - guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. - smoothed out the musical potholes from the Florida show.
In performing songs exclusively from its last four albums (while totally ignoring its first three), U2’s current tour tries to make sense of widely varied styles of music.
Whereas the band’s 1988 album, “Rattle and Hum,” was its most American-influenced, with its homages to gospel, R&B and early rock ‘n’ roll, U2’s latest release, “Achtung Baby,” is its most European-sounding, with nods to the industrial clang of Einsturzende Neubauten, the groove of the Manchester dance bands and the synthetic atmospherics of David Bowie’s late-’70s Berlin albums.
The show’s triumph was how it integrated the two periods, emerging from the darkness and vague decadence of the “Achtung” songs into an acoustic “Angel of Harlem” from “Rattle and Hum,” and then voyaging deeper into the heart of darkness with “Bad,” “Bullet the Blue Sky” and “Running to Stand Still” from earlier albums.
It was at this point in Florida where the show began to lose momentum, as U2 pulled out its warhorse hits for a predictable finale.
But on this night, it was chilling how the band segued from the hushed, tortured cries of the heroin addict portrayed in “Running to Stand Still” into the galloping “Where the Streets Have No Name.”
As the house lights came up, the crowd’s roar nearly matched the band’s.
There were awkward moments aplenty, but even these were pure U2 - especially the snippet of a Martin Luther King speech inserted into “Pride (In the Name of Love),” capped by Bono intoning, “Amen, Martin.”
Not many bands could get away with such earnestness. Fewer still could make it work.
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