By Jonathan Perry, Globe Correspondent
When he's not busy stumping for human rights across the globe, meeting with world leaders and presidents, or being considered for peace prizes, Bono sings for a fair little rock and roll combo called U2. You might have heard of them: aside from some geezers called the Rolling Stones, they're just about the biggest band touring the world right now.
Last night's dazzlingly celebratory, pitch-perfect performance (the first of two sold-out shows in Boston, and one of seven this year in the city alone) illustrated why. Jubilant, poignant, impassioned, grateful, and always, always musically brilliant -- U2 was all of these things during a show in which one magnificent song from one era (an urgent, joyous ''I Will Follow") bled into another (''I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For") and fed into yet another (''Beautiful Day").
What U2 reminds us every time the four take the stage, some 25 years into their run as Ireland's most popular export this side of Guinness, is that they've never let up, looked down, or looked back. They've been the ambitious architects of monumental rock statements (''The Joshua Tree"), brazenly thrown themselves headlong into new sonic adventures (''Achtung Baby"), and effortlessly re-established their greatness by hitting new creative peaks (''How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb"). But they keep striding forward, a pop institution yet inimitable and still challenging themselves, and us.
Surrounded by a circular catwalk and flanked by a curtain of blinking lights that constantly shifted patterns and flashed like Las Vegas neon with a message, U2 had no trouble matching the electricity of the surroundings. At the center was Bono, of course, a bulky yet sensual presence in superb, soaring voice, preening and exhorting the crowd to exultation like a left-wing holy roller, as if he were leading a political rally inside the world's biggest pub. At his side, as always, was The Edge, peeling off those lovely shimmering guitar tones to match the easy majesty of the songs.
The evening started, appropriately enough, with ''City of Blinding Lights," dipped into the slippery dance-floor groove of ''Vertigo," and then the boisterous pomp and stomp of ''Elevation," with The Edge's bumblebee guitar buzz swirling Bono's cavorting romp around the lip of the stage.
Showmanship and sincerity collided beautifully on the evening's early showpiece, ''Sunday Bloody Sunday," an apocalyptic war-torn vision still timely to the world's events. ''America, this is your song now!" Bono called out. Someone from the audience then handed him an American flag, which he gingerly draped across an amplifier onstage, before shouting ''No More!" He immediately dedicated a howling, white-hot ''Bullet the Blue Sky" to the ''brave young men and women of the United States military." The sequence proved something of a paradox, but it was honest. And that's what U2 has always been about.
© Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company.