by Courtney Devores
"I want to turn this song into a prayer," Bono said near the end of an emotional, show-stopping rendition of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" Monday night at Charlotte Bobcats Arena.
"That prayer is that we do not become a monster in order to defeat a monster," he continued.
Instead of preaching to the crowd -- as Bono and U2 have often been accused -- the Irish quartet and arguably the biggest band in the world wove powerful political and social commentary throughout their songs.
Bono dedicated a controversial "Bullet the Blue Sky," during which he donned a blindfold and posed on his knees with his hands above his head like a prisoner of war, to U.S. troops serving in the Middle East.
Hits and heart made up the centerpiece of Monday's show, although the early songs were plagued by uneven sound.
The volume was low for opening act Institute considering the recently formed rock quartet features former Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale. The group updated 1990s grunge rock, which included a few reworked Bush singles.
U2, on the other hand, was almost too loud at times.
As 17,000 people clapped with arms raised high, Bono emerged at the front of the wide stage circle that extended out into the crowd, showered in confetti for "City of Blinding Lights." During the second song, "Vertigo," also from their most recent, Grammy-nominated album "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," the audience sang along with enthusiasm matched only by a chorus of screaming kids at a punk show.
That spirit carried through "Elevation," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and "Beautiful Day."
"Gloria," from 1981's "October" and "Beautiful Day" suffered the most. Quiet moments were crisp, but as the band ascended into a booming chorus fuzz began to overcome them.
Luckily the problem was alleviated as Bono grabbed an acoustic guitar and Edge moved to keyboard for "Original of the Species."
"For the last 10 years of my father's life, every time we'd have a conversation he'd start it with `Would you just take off those stupid fly shades, please?' " Bono said, removing his trademark sunglasses while introducing "Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own."
"Love and Peace or Else" began with Bono and Larry Mullen Jr. perched at the end of the circle. The funk-soul cry to end war was the first in a chilling plea for peace and tolerance. The word "Co-Exist" was scrawled across Bono's bandana, and projected on the lights behind the group during "Sunday Bloody Sunday," 20 years old but still resonant.
"Miss Sarajevo" was followed by "Pride (In the Name of Love)" and "Where the Streets Have No Name." The combo, along with "One," capped off a moving, politically charged set.