By TERESA GUBBINS / The Dallas Morning News
If all had failed at its Reunion Arena concert on Sunday, U2 would still deserve a certain amount of slack. The Irish rock band long ago achieved greatness on all fronts, from its awesome catalog of music to its extensive philanthropic efforts to its sheer longevity. Were the quartet no longer able, after more than 20 years, to rock the house in a convincing way, it would be totally understandable and easy to forgive.
But no slack was necessary: The concert, which also included opening act No Doubt, was fantastic, one of those right-time right-place events in which everything clicks in all the right ways. The music was powerful and intense, and the foursome felt completely on the mark, with the typically evangelical tone of its performance seeming to be exactly what was wanted and needed by the nearly full arena.
U2's music has always contained a stirring, spiritual quality, conjured by The Edge's ringing guitar tones and Bono's passionate vocals. They played their strengths to the hilt. This tour, mounted to support their most recent release, All That You Can't Leave Behind, has been under way for nearly a year – it came through Dallas once before, in April – and the band's command showed. Songs such as "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Where the Streets Have No Name" were massive, pushing the crowd into a near hysterical frenzy.
The basics of the tour were the same, with an in-the-round setup and a heart-shaped lit-up ramp that surrounded the stage. Bono spent much time trolling the ramp, interacting with the audience; occasionally he was joined by Edge for "duels" and duets.
They've returned to a more basic rock approach, but basic did not mean unsophisticated. The lighting in particular was exceptional, using subtle panels of color and blinking lights that ran at stage level. When the quartet first emerged on stage, the lights stayed bright – a lovely gesture that seemed to demystify the band's "rock star" status and include the audience as part of the show.
Much of the set came from Behind: from the opening "Elevation" to the gorgeous single "Beautiful Day." But the quartet unwrapped earlier gems including "New Year's Day," "Out of Control," and "In God's Country." During "Out of Control," one of the band's first songs, Bono meditated nostalgically about their first demo cassette. After they performed "In God's Country" – a song that included a beautiful harmonica solo – Bono revealed that "that's the second time we've played that tune in, I think, 15 years," before handing the harmonica to someone in the crowd. It's one of his strengths that he's able to make big moments feel intimate, and small moments feel large.