U2 bandmates eschewed spectacle for solid musicianship last night at Nationwide Arena reports Aaron Beck of The Columbus Dispatch.

Early last night in a sold-out Nationwide Arena, U2 finished New Year's Day, and Bono addressed the congregation:

"The last time we saw you, we were looking at you out of a mirror-ball, lemon spaceship. The first time we saw you, almost 20 years ago to the week, we were looking at you inside the Agora, which was about as big as the mirror-ball, spaceship lemon. . . . It's nice to be back to Earth . . . but I still miss that lemon.''

The Irish rock band's concerts on the Elevation Tour 2001 aren't exactly stripped-down. Guitarist, lead singer and showman Bono, lead guitarist the Edge, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and bassist Adam Clayton aren't playing on a flatbed truck or anything. Fifteen semis are hauling U2's stage and gear across the United States.

But for U2, its concerts are a giant step back from the preposterous spectacles that were the past two tours. Popmart and Zooropa tried to entertain football stadiums full (or half-full in some locales) of people with giant video screens, a nightly phone call to the president, hanging automobiles and other modes of frosting.

Bono didn't make any calls last night, although he did sing into a cellphone handed to him from one of two general admission sections on the floor.

The stage was designed to bring people closer to the band and the band closer to the people. A heart- shaped catwalk 5 feet or so above the floor encircled 300 people close to the stage. The catwalk was designed to allow Bono and the Edge to make the show feel like a show inside the Newport Music Hall (formerly the Agora), and the design did that -- at least for the people inside and outside on the floor.

For those in the cheap $45-$131 seats, four video screens in a line above the stage brought fans closer with projected black-and-white images of each band member playing U2 anthems such as Sunday Bloody Sunday, I Will Follow and Where the Streets Have No Name and several songs from the band's back-to-basics rock album, All That You Can't Leave Behind, including what's become a tribute to Joey Ramone, In a Little While.

Before the song, Bono said, "One of the reasons we thought we had a right to get together as a band was the Ramones.''

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