Rock superstars U2 launched their first U.S. tour in nearly four years in classic form in Florida on Saturday night, treating 20,000 devoted, delirious fans to a crowd-pleasing mix of old and new songs delivered with their legendary energy, free of the extravagances of their most recent tours.

Angus MacSwan of the Reuters News Agency reports that 'The Irish rockers hit the stage of the National Car Rental Center arena at Sunrise, near Miami, with the house lights still on and launched into a swinging "Elevation" from their new album "All That You Can't Leave Behind".

For the next two hours they put on a performance in which the songs, not the stage props, were the focus. They played six from the new album but also reached back to the socially-aware anthems of their 1980s glory days for a raft of songs from "War", "The Joshua Tree" and beyond, even bashing out their first ever single, "I Will Follow".

The elaborate stage props, production and high-tech music of their 1990s stadium tours -- the Trabants, the giant lemon and the live link-up with Sarajevo -- were also scaled back. Still, a diamond-shaped catwalk surrounded the stage, along which the indefatigable Bono strutted, sprinted and exhorted the crowd.

Inside the circle were a few hundred lucky fans -- when the black-clad singer strode out on the walk-way, it appeared he was walking along the outstretched arms of the faithful.

Fans had come from far and wide for the much-anticipated opening night of the Elevation Tour 2001, which will take a band that has sold 100 million albums worldwide since they started out playing Dublin pubs nearly a quarter-century ago on an 80-date trek through North America and Europe.

"I just love U2 and it's always been a dream of mine to see them on an opening night," said Canadian Justin Luey, who had come down from St. Catherine's, Ontario for the show. A veteran U2 follower, he has tickets for 13 of the dates on the tour. "It's a connection...everything they write makes sense to me. They care about their audience . They challenge us, " the 25-year-old Internet designer said before the concert kicked off. " I'm not worried at all they'll deliver."

Fellow Irishman Elvis Costello, in Miami on vacation, was among the celebratory guests.

The band followed "Elevation" with "Beautiful Day," a song which helped them to three Grammys (news - web sites) at the music award show last month. Then it was into their back pages for "New Years Day."

Guitarist the Edge (Dave Evans), dressed in a Miami Dolphins T-shirt, jeans and black wool cap, earned cheers for his falsetto singing on the coda of the Dylanesque "Stuck in the Middle". Another song from the new album, "New York" sounded a lot better live than on CD, with an almost Asian percussive beat, that mood heightened by four huge silky screens which unfurled from the gantries and silhouetted the players.

"Discoteque," with Bono splicing in a few lines from disco diva Donna Summer, was one of few songs from their 1990s output. For "Mysterious Ways", Bono lay down atop a video monitor which showed a gyrating dancer and throughout the concert four giant video screens showed the band -- Bono, the Edge, drummer Mullen and bassist Adam Clayton close-up.

More on this report at

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