Happy Birthday to Luciano Pavarotti, thanks to Lou Reed and respect to Patti Smith at third NY show.
'In New York freedom looks like too many choices
In New York I found a friend to drown out the other voices
Voices on the cell phone
Voices from home
Voices of the hard sell
Voices down the stairwell
In New York, just got a place in New York...'
Ok, they didn't perform it, but this week it feels like U2 are living it. The daytime means Larry and Adam being interviewed for an upcoming piece on CBS's Sixty Minutes, Edge spending time with Anton Corbijn for a UK magazine, Bono on a photo-shoot for Rolling Stone magazine and being interviewed by Jann Wenner. And then the night time arrives with the small matter of playing to 20,000 people like your life depended on it - and maybe they are still here because, in a way, it does.
'Oh, Manhattan, Manhattan...' sings Bono as City of Blinding Lights gives way to Vertigo, to Elevation and I Will Follow and the floor of the MSG definitely appearing to be getting down to the groove. These are hot, hot, hot shows in New York City. Don't take our word for it - listen to the New York Post:
'Some performers say they love New York,' writes Dan Aquilante. 'But U2's 25-year affair with the city couldn't be expressed better than at their Madison Square Garden Vertigo Tour opener, played with panting passion that was returned kiss for kiss by the sold-out house. The performance... was the kind of show that makes it easy to answer anybody who asks, "What was the best concert of the year?" This was it - hands down and no question.'
More from Dan in a moment!
Bono paid tribute to Lou Reed at the end of Beautiful Day, reciting a snatch of his Romeo Had Juliet:
'Caught between the twisted stars
The plotted lines the faulty map
That brought columbus to new york
Betwixt between the east and west..'
And Louis not the only famous face loving the vibe tonight: Alicia Keys is here, along with Patti Smith and Michael Stipe. Then there's Christina Applegate, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgard and Julian Schnabel... and probably a crowd of others we should have recognised but missed.
A particularly potent Love and Peace or Else ran into Sunday Bloody Sunday anc confirmation that the floor of the MSG was definitely moving on its supports. As Bono explained the graffiti origins of the CoeXisT image, which projects on the back of the stage during Sunday Bloody Sunday - discussing its power as an image of people of different religious traditions coming together instead of apart - he mused on its special relevance for this audience.
'A piece of graffiti, a beautiful simple thought - CoeXisT - a thought that's going to get harder and harder to hold on to if we're not careful. I see New York as the capital of CoeXisT.'
'Guitarist The Edge was unrelenting in his telegraphic rhythm strums and stinging lead work, and his falsetto vocals throughout the evening added depth to Bono's middle range.' adds our friend on the New York Post. 'As for lanky bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen, the beat they laid down was so tight it seemed as if they have rhythm ESP. As good as Bono and The Edge are, it's the Clayton/Mullen partnership that propels this music.'
Well, no-one's going to disagree with that. (Except maybe the 'lanky' bit...) Bono is recalling a visit to Europe in the middle of the 1990's: 'So we visited this beautiful city called Sarajevo. We did this song called Miss Sarajevo about these beautiful women. We sung it with Luciano Pavarotti...it is the great man's 70th birthday this week. I think it would be so beautiful if New York could sing him Happy Birthday...'
And so it came to pass, and as Miss Sarajevo fades out and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights fades up on screen, Bono adds a quietly spoken 'Happy Birthday' and there is a moment of quiet anticipation.... before Pride blows the joint apart and the floor near as dammit gives way completely. With Bono and Adam walking around the ellipse stage, MSG has gone into orbit and everyone in the house has their phone held high trying to steal the moment for posterity. The phones are back out for One.
'There are really 2 million people I'd like to thank,' says Bono, referring to those who have joined the One Campaign http://www.theonecampaign.com/ to fight global poverty since the beginning of the year . 'By 2008 there's going to be 5 million and that makes us bigger than the NRA - thank you very much!'
Big surprise after the break is that ZOO Station is back, this time without the slot machine video images but with a silver curtain effect, receiving projected images of the band and looking very fine. And wouldn't you know it? Here's The Fly and now we are really rocking as With Or Without You invites everyone to sing till their lungs burst.
Edge and Bono share a mike for All Because of You, with Bono hammering a tambourine and, at one point, holding it, halo-like, over Adam's head. Yahweh follows and it's beautiful because it always is and then a night that can't improve on itself does just that with Bad.
'We'd like to dedicate this next song to the great poet of New York. I didn't know what Africa was until I heard Radio Ethiopia.. This is for Patti... Patti Smith.'
And still it wasn't over. They may have left the stage but something called them back and '40' closed the night.