Get On Your Boots, Magnificent, Breathe, I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight, Vertigo.
U2 perform live and take part in an audience Q&A during a special event that is part of "U2 3 Nights Live" broadcast by ABC Satellite Services and Westwood One. The location of the show is kept secret and over 750 radio contest winners are in the audience. During a commercial break in the Q&A session, Bono leads the crowd in singing 'Happy Birthday' to Adam, who turns 49 in two days.
Live Review: U2 in Boston
by Jon Zahlaway
It was a surreal scene: The biggest band in the world on one of the smallest stages in the Boston area, playing for a privileged room full of people whose attention was divided between rocking out to the fiery (albeit brief) performance and pinching themselves in disbelief that they were among the 750-or-so fans there to witness it.
U2's Wednesday night (3/11) show at the Somerville Theater--a historic venue that spends most of its time these days serving as a movie theater--capped a three-night radio event that began with an on-air band interview in front of a live audience in Los Angeles on Monday (3/9) and again in Chicago on Tuesday (3/10) as part of the group's campaign behind its recently released, chart-topping album, "No Line on the Horizon."
But it was the Boston-area appearance that yielded the biggest return for fans, as it was the only night on which the band, in addition to being interviewed, also performed.
The excitement was palpable even before the lucky ticketholders were allowed in. The street in front of the theater--part of Somerville's Davis Square--was lined on either side with crowd-control barricades, and police were on hand in large numbers.
Fans who won tickets to the event were instructed to meet at an off-site location, and were then transported to the venue aboard a fleet of coach buses led by police escort. Once there, the contest-winners were herded between barricades leading to the theater doors.
Though a sizeable crowd of fans and onlookers formed along the barricade across the street from the venue, and others clustered behind the building hoping to glimpse the band on its way in and out, predictions of a five-figure turnout proved to be overblown; a police source quoted in a local newspaper's post-show report placed the number closer to 3,000, and even that seems generous.
Local television-news crews mingled with the crowd, collecting testimonials from those lucky enough to have tickets, and from those wishing they did.
Ticketholders were allowed in shortly after 8 p.m., and by around 8:40, the tiny theater was packed. A camera crew shooting the event for the band made some last minute tweaks to a remote boom cam that jutted out over the crowd, and audience members struck up a steady flow of "Can you believe we're here?"-themed conversations.
Shortly before 9 p.m., MTV veejay Sway, who hosted the show, warmed the crowd up (the phrase "Make some noise!" was trotted out a few too many times during the night, but still got the desired response), and explained that, because the event was being aired live, a strict schedule was in place.
Proof of that came moments later, when he introduced the band at precisely 9 o'clock and brought the entire audience to its collective feet.
With the house lights still dimly lit, the members casually sauntered on stage one by one: first drummer Larry Mullen Jr., then bassist Adam Clayton, then guitarist The Edge--for whom the applause jumped up a notch--and, lastly, the perpetually black-clad and sunglasses-wearing Bono, whose presence sent the crowd into a frenzy.
The band launched right into its current single, "Get On Your Boots," and when the first couple of rows--which appeared to be largely occupied by industry-insiders, radio-station bigwigs and various other "connected" folks--didn't get raucous enough for Bono's liking, he motioned for those further back to approach the stage, which caused a number of people to surge forward. (Security personnel subsequently directed them back to their seats.)
At the end of that show-opening number, Bono curried favor with the audience by affirming that the group's stateside breakthrough came by way of Boston.
"This is where it all began for us," he said. "Boston, Massachusetts."
The singer then poked a bit of fun at himself, explaining that the historic Somerville Theater "is a vaudeville theater ... not for shy people, like myself."
The between-song banter was kept to a minimum, however, as the band stuck with the program for the syndicated radio broadcast, serving up a subsequent trio of "No Line on the Horizon" tracks: "Magnificent," "Breathe" and "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight." Despite having only eight days to familiarize themselves with the just-released album, most in attendance seemed to already know the songs by heart--and those who didn't still responded fervently, charged up by the spectacle of a stadium-sized band on a bite-sized stage.
The cramped confines, energetic crowd and a bounty of heat-producing sound-and-lighting equipment quickly brought the small room to a boil, with many in the audience sweating only slightly less than the drenched Bono, whose fashion sense nonetheless forced him to continue wearing throughout the entire performance a thin black jacket over his button-down black shirt.
"Thanks for sticking with us over the years," Bono said before the group played its fifth and final song. "Thank you to all the radio stations that played us. That's why we're here: to tip the hat to the radio [stations] ... and to play for a few of our close friends here in the Boston area," he added, eliciting more wild applause.
Before introducing the group, Sway had said the five-song performance would comprise nothing but cuts from "No Line on the Horizon," but the band instead capped the set with a rendition of "Vertigo," the ubiquitous hit single from the group's previous album, 2004's "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb."
Throughout it all, Bono was his usual exuberant self, bouncing around the stage, accenting various lyrics by striking some hands-raised poses, high-fiving a few lucky souls pressed against the front of the stage, and occasionally removing his sunglasses and gazing into the crowd as if to convince them of his commitment to the words he was singing.
The Edge continues to be the anchor to Bono's ship-in-a-storm stage presence, flawlessly delivering not only his signature guitar licks, but a bevy of those elegant backing vocals that are a key part of so many choruses in the band's catalog.
And, as always, the ever-subdued Clayton and his even-more-subdued rhythm-section counterpart, Mullen, laid down a full and steady foundation of bass and drums, a slight smile occasionally dawning on their otherwise straight faces.
With its all-too-brief five-song set completed, the band left the stage, at which time crew members lined up five director's chairs along the front of the stage. Shortly before going back on the air, Sway and the band members each took a seat and, during the 35 minutes that followed, held a Q&A session, with Sway asking the members various pre-screened questions that audience members had submitted before the show.
Despite the unique nature of seeing the group in an "Actor's Studio"-type setting, and the charm and humor with which they fielded the questions (notable moments: Mullen recalling a Boston club gig years ago during which a female fan tried to handcuff herself to Bono's leg mid-song, and Bono leading the audience in a rendition of "Happy Birthday" for Clayton during a commercial break), a full hour of the band performing would have been far more welcome than, for example, a question written by a 16-year-old and directed to Bono, which asked when the singer had lost his virginity. ("Um ... I've been working up to it," he quipped.)
And Sway, while certainly a charismatic and gracious host, was not who the crowd came to see.
More rockin', less talkin'. More play, less Sway.
The audience seemed to voice that sentiment at the end of the Q&A, when, after the band left the stage (Bono's parting words: "Thank you for the great life you've given us.") and Sway attempted to say his goodnights, a collective chant of "One more song!" drowned out all other sound.
With all of the band's equipment still in place on the stage, and no roadies moving to break it down, hope sprang eternal.
Alas, it wasn't to be, and efforts to encourage an encore were doused when the house lights brightened and canned music sprang from the speakers.
No one looked too forlorn as they filed out of the theater, however. After all, their admission to the show had earned them bragging rights for years to come.
© 2009 Live Daily.