' Still living up to his Sunglasses'

12 Apr 2005
San Francisco Chronicle find the new show 'richly emotional', every song 'a
towering epic'.

'That Bono.' writes Joel Selvin. 'One moment he's remembering the first time
he heard his record on San Jose's KSJO, a radio station most of the people
in the audience probably have forgotten, if they ever knew, and the next
he's pulling a cross out of his pocket the pope gave him.

He set off digital cameras and cell phones by the dozens as he swept along
the oval ramp that ran from the stage into the middle of the arena floor, wearing the same pair of trademark "Fly" sunglasses he said he gave the pope
just before the pontiff bestowed the crucifix on the rock star.

When not hobnobbing with prelates and presidents, Bono does his best work
onstage at the front of U2, the world famous Irish rock band that played
Saturday at San Jose's HP Pavilion on the "Vertigo 2005" tour. He may bring
his off-stage antics with him onstage -- he did mention that, if he phoned
on this tour, he thought the White House would take his call this time --
but he earns his boasts.

In a richly emotional two-hour performance, Bono gave his audience an
amazing ride. He poured it out, urged on to ever greater heights by the
masterful three-piece band behind him. They turned every song into a
towering epic. But that was not enough. He called to his audience to reach
for the best parts of themselves. And, by the time it was over, he was
directly addressing God and invoking Scripture.

With the dazzling technology of movable lighting tapestries hanging from
above the musicians and the brilliant stagecraft of the runway through the
middle of the house, effectively cutting the room down by half, U2 opened
with "City of Blinding Lights," the first of seven songs from the new album,
"How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb."

While the band ran through its paces like the devastating three-man assault
team they have become -- is there a guitarist on earth who does more signal
processing than The Edge? -- Bono held down center stage, a man possessed,
snatching cameras and taking his own picture before returning them, quoting
songs as remote from one another as "Send in the Clowns" and "Young
Americans," all the time leading his audience through the detailed emotional
landscape of U2's music.

Some kind of terrible ambition lies behind U2's restless drive to stay at
the top of the rock world for a quarter century. Where are the other popular
bands from the summer of 1981 now? And would any of those groups dare take
the stage today and play most of their new album, let alone make it work?
But U2 has always refused to rest on laurels.

Those four musicians have continually followed their own path. When they
make a mistake, it's a beaut -- like the time Bono spray-painted the
Vaillancourt Fountain during a free noontime concert -- but, for the most
part, their hearts have led them in an unerring direction.

"Vertigo 2005" tour may avoid some of the high polish and over-the-top
theatrics of past efforts (and, in that way, follows up the no-frills
approach of the 2001 "Elevation" tour). But, in other ways, the new show is
also the band's most daring. When Bono asks everybody to hold up their cell
phones and send a text message to his Web site devoted to fighting world
hunger, he is turning the tables on himself. When he telephoned the previous
President Bush from the stage of the "Zoo TV" tour, he was making a joke.
This time he is bringing the audience into the act. That's not only a hugely
different dynamic, but it also conveys an entirely different message.

Read the rest of this review here


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