Published: Wednesday, December 7, 2005
By Victoria Welch
Free Press Staff Writer
BOSTON -- Chutzpah, blind confidence or straightforward swagger. Whatever it is, Bono and the boys can pull it off.
The U2 frontman stood on the edge of a circular catwalk erected within the TD Banknorth Garden on Sunday night, surrounded by many of the 20,000 Vertigo Tour concertgoers assembled for the Irish quartet's sixth Boston show in 2005. With a sash tied around his head emblazoned with a plea for religious tolerance, the musician pounded on a single snare drum with the focused intensity of a seasoned Taiko drummer. Raising each arm with an exaggerated sense of rhythm and time, the musician crashed the drumsticks onto the instrument, punctuating the thunder of applause generated by the sold-out crowd.
The scene came during the waning moments of a politically laced "Love and Peace or Else," the first of many -- many -- commentaries woven into two and a half hours of performance, and Bono clearly relished the opportunity to emote his passions onto a crowd of followers. It could seem cheesy, or contrived, were any other frontman to try enlightening the assembled masses.
But it was Bono. U2.
As drummer Larry Mullen joined the beat to begin the opening cadence to "Sunday Bloody Sunday," the drum proved a brilliant set-list segue -- an example of the sound rock stylings necessary for the band to get away with the political posturing. Over 25 years, it has become another aspect in the spectacle of U2, as inherent to the performance formula as a dazzling light display and seemingly endless catalog of hits.
U2 tore through a set of old and new favorites that pushed the boundaries of audience oversaturation. With a shifting light display incorporating digital video and animation that evoked the neon hues of New York's Times Square and a stage that dwarfed the foursome, U2 brought spectacle to concertgoers. An explosion of electric guitar was accented by electric yellows and reds pulsing throughout "Vertigo." Audience voices threatened to overpower Bono and The Edge during classics such as "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," "With or Without You" and "Pride." Band members chased each other across the performance space, never breaking the rhythm.
Yet amid this frenzy of orchestrated chaos, there was a sense of inevitability. It seemed no surprise that an audience member wouldn't know where to look -- at Bono, at bassist Adam Clayton or at the audience. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was on display during the middle of the rock show. No matter where they sat, the audience felt the energy pulsing from the stage until the final notes of a third, unplanned encore set faded out.
And, of course, the band was going to shock the multiple generations of concertgoers in the crowd by managing to improve in live performance songs known and loved for years by those in attendance.
Come on, it's U2. The four Irishmen know they can pull off anything they want.
And, sure enough, they do.