Review: U2 at the Fleet Center in Boston, May 26, 2005*

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ONE love, blood, life
Sep 22, 2001
new york city
By Dave Mance

During what will be remembered by the 18,000 plus fans in attendance as a remarkable, breathtaking, beautifully flawed performance, U2 blew the roof off the Banknorth Garden (formerly the Fleet Center) in Boston Thursday night in what was the second of three shows.

When compared to the first night, "Gloria" replaced "Electric Co.," "Until the End of the World" replaced "Zoo Station," "With or Without You" replaced "Mysterious Ways," "Original of the Species" replaced "Yahweh" and "Bad" replaced "40." "Out of Control" appeared out of thin air, catching even bassist Adam Clayton by surprise.

Whereas the first Boston show was marked by its straightforward polished approach, Thursday night's show was looser and more laid back. Bono quipped opening night that it was nice to be home; on Thursday, the band acted like it.

For fans unfamiliar with this particular tour, the entire evening was a highlight. Seven songs were played from "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" and each proved remarkably conducive to live presentation.

The stage setup was simple and elegant with notable touches. The video screens of past tours were down sized and replaced with walls of light. At key moments words, phrases or images were broadcast through the lighting. Those with seats behind the stage benefited from a fluid, efficient use of visual accents (the beautifully lit backdrops rose and fell with each song).

Each song seemed to have a distinctive flavor. Some, like "City of Blinding Lights" and "Gloria" were mere conduits for the crowd’s incredible energy as Boston lived up to its reputation as a legendary U2-loving town. Others ("Vertigo," "Love and Peace or Else") were almost playful and mischievous. And of course, some were pensive (notably a scathing "Bullet the Blue Sky" and a somber "Running to Stand Still").

The message of the show concerned The One Campaign to eliminate extreme poverty worldwide. Bono spoke passionately of his faith in the United States and its people to step up to the plate and do the right thing.

This political portion of the night was handled deftly. Notable attendee former Vice President Al Gore was referenced and thanked by name for his efforts on behalf of the campaign to relieve third world debt, but through the applause it was made clear that the One Campaign was a bipartisan issue ("Maybe it's the one thing the left and the right can agree on," quipped Bono).

This wasn't the "Am I bugging you?" preaching of the past but the reflections of a mature, nuanced statesman evoking hope for a brighter future.

The most memorable moment of the show came during the second encore, when Bono, riding a wave of crowd frenzy, decided that the moment was perfect for "Out of Control." From the end of the ellipse he shouted the track back to the rest of the band and the crowd exploded in anticipation. Clayton missed it though, and instead launched into the bass line for "With or Without You."

A moment of confusion ensued. Larry Mullen, Jr. and Edge looked at each other, Clayton cautiously picked away wondering why his mates weren’t joining him and Bono came running down the ellipse to straighten things out.

What started as a gaffe became a very human moment as the band stood together as a foursome at the back of the stage and worked its way through the song. Edge missed the bridge and, instead of fading to the back with harmonics, replayed the verse riff. Bono corrected him like a schoolteacher and then guided the band through the bridge and into the chorus. Well, tried to. It was actually Mullen who cut through the confusion with the drum cue and got the whole song rolling again.

The fans for their part lapped the whole episode up and responded with thunderous applause and deafening "out of controls," despite the fact that the song leaped and lurched like a novice driving a stick for the first time.

"Original of the Species" seemed to be another last-minute addition that featured its share of screw-ups. And yet, in what is a uniquely U2 paradox, it will go down as a highlight of the show. A U2 concert has long since stopped being about performance, after all, and instead exists as a love fest between the band and the city it's playing. The Bostonians at this show took the stumbles as a cue for them to step in and carry the band for a little while. And it all worked.

It’s fascinating to think that a band could reach a point where really the only criticism one can offer from any show is that it was too good, i.e., U2's penchant for perfection can, on bad nights, come off as sterile and in-human, sort of like watching robots play pre-recorded music. This was not the case in Boston Thursday night.

The band left the stage grinning from ear to ear, drained, having given it all. As the crowd disbursed, the hallways of the Garden were full of concertgoers singing the refrain from "40" despite the fact that the song was never played.

I dare say not a person left feeling anything less than exalted.
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