Strip away the spectacle that has been U2's mode of entertainment for the past decade and what do you have left asks Ian Nathanson of the Ottawa Sun.
Thankfully, you still get what you're looking for -- Irish rockers U2. Gone are the giant Golden Arch of Popmart and the more-gi-normous-than-giant television screen and remote clicker of the Zoo TV Tour. Essentially, Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. have replaced all the high-falutin' gadgetry with what made U2 so popular in the first place: Strong songs, memorable lyrics and a certain je-ne-sai-quoi presence that fans have come to know in U2's 22-year recording career. That didn't mean last night's sold-out Molson Centre concert -- a return engagement a mere 41/2 months after playing a two-nighter here on the second leg of their Elevation tour - was short on spectacle. Lighting, giant video screens and plenty of visual imagery played an important role in keeping all 21,000 spectators happy. But the biggest spectacle of all came from none other than the band itself, with Bono not surprisingly the leading contender.
The artist hardly known now as Paul Hewson was all charisma and energetic spirit the second opening number Elevation began. As he kneeled down and blessed himself, with the house lights still on, his congregation greeted him with open and outstretched arms as if the Pope had suddenly appeared. Yeah, he sure had a hard time working this crowd into a frenzy by the time Beautiful Day hit familiar ears. The charisma almost got the best of the U2 frontman during Until The End of The World, when Bono, after literally being held up by lucky front-row fans, fended off against The Edge in a tete-a-tete cat-vs.-cat fight. At one point, Bono took a tumble on his derriere and appeared slightly achy for the next few songs, New Year's Day, Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of and Kite (the latter pair from U2's latest disc, All That You Can't Leave Behind). Fortunately, as if on cue, mellower moments lay ahead. While Clayton and Mullen Jr. held their own as musical anchors, The Edge proved himself more than just an electrifying lead axeman. His rhythmic rockabilly swagger suited Angel of Harlem to a T. Even better was his acoustic, campfire reworking of Staring At The Sun, harmonizing along with Bono.
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