U2 back to Albany with 'heart-on-its-sleeve rock 'n' roll anthems exploring spiritual themes' writes Greg Haymes of TimesUnion.Com.

When U2 last strafed the Capital Region with shows at Knickerbocker Arena and the Saratoga Equine Sports Center nine years ago, they were in the midst of their Zoo TV tour with vocalist Bono portraying the Ironic Pop Star, a role he managed to play only semi-convincingly. On Saturday night, Bono and the boys returned to the Pepsi Arena (formerly the Knickerbocker), sounding more like the open-hearted rock evangelists that made three stops at the long-defunct Albany nightclub J.B. Scott's during their first American tour two decades ago. "I still have my T-shirt that says 'J.B. Scott's,' '' Bono proudly told the sold-out crowd on Saturday. While some may say the band's return to form is mere nostalgia, perhaps U2 is simply acknowledging its strong suit - heart-on-its-sleeve rock 'n' roll anthems exploring spiritual themes. They kicked off the two-hour show with "Elevation'' and the joyous, life-affirming "Beautiful Day.'' Playing on a stage inside a huge red, heart-shaped runway that stretched halfway into the arena floor, Bono and his mates - guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullins - served up new songs, highlighted by the soaring "Kite'' and the gospelesque "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of.'' Of the old favorites, the back-to-back blast of "I Will Follow'' and "Sunday, Bloody Sunday'' was an undeniable highlight. So, too, was the final pairing of the set, the cathartic "Where the Streets Have No Name'' and the galvanizing "Pride (In the Name of Love).'' Along the way, Bono dipped into the grab-bag of rock history, splashing bits of songs by Bob Marley, Buddy Holly and Van Morrison into the mix. But most touching was an impromptu a cappella rendition of the Beatles' "In My Life.' Bono was more than a bit under the weather, but he didn't flag. During "Until the End of the World,'' he and The Edge engaged in a mock bullfight, with Bono eventually collapsing on the runway and kicking the strings of his bandmate's guitar in a barrage of feedback.

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