By Troy J. Augusto
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - In case anyone still needs convincing, U2 proved why it is the greatest rock band of its time with a stunning show on Monday, the first of three sold-out Staples dates.
The quartet nears the end of what may well be remembered as one of the best tours in its incredible career, as entertaining as 1992's ``Zoo TV'' production and as uplifting as 1987's ``Joshua Tree'' outing. This was an emotional, two-hour performance, for both band and audience, set against the prevailing backdrop of national and global anxiety, which will resonate with those lucky enough to see this tour for years to come.
Performing on a heart-shaped stage beneath a series of video screens that showed all four players in black and white and from unusual angles, U2 opened with ``Elevation'' and ``Beautiful Day'' from latest disc, released a year ago, ``All That You Can't Leave Behind'' (Interscope).
They followed with a well-executed mix of older numbers, ``I Will Follow,'' a surprise ``Out of Control'' and ``Where the Streets Have No Name,'' and more recent tracks such as ``Please,'' the lone entry of the night from 1997's underwhelming ``Pop'' album, which Bono said was ``about religious nuts who re-create god in their own image.'' Bono dedicated the joyous ``Kite'' to his late father and afterward said, ``We are proud and humbled to be on tour in the United States at this time.''
During an encore, Bono again raised a note of patriotism, singing ``New York'' with an American flag around his shoulders. ``Until the last few months I wouldn't have felt the way I feel now about that flag,'' he said.
Intensity level was raised considerably during the encores, beginning with the chilling anti-war song ``Bullet the Blue Sky,'' and then moving to Bono and Gwen Stefani, from opening act No Doubt, dueting on Marvin Gaye's ``What's Going On.'' (Both are featured on the current charity single.)
Finally, the band began to play ``One,'' a plea for universal love taken from 1991's ``Achtung Baby,'' and the names of the crew members and passengers from the flights that crashed on Sept. 11, as well as lost NYPD and FDNY personnel, were scrolled in large letters on screens behind the band, leaving many attendees visibly shaken.
The buoyant songs of local ska-rockers No Doubt were a fun way to start the evening, clearly a guilty pleasure for many of the ticketholders. Led by the energetic, pigtailed Stefani, the Orange County band played such crowdpleasing hits as ``Just a Girl'' and ``Ex-Girlfriend'' along with a couple songs (new single ``Hey Baby,'' ``Hella Good'') from their ``Rock Steady'' album, which hits stores next month.