U2, PJ Harvey Compaq Center, Houston, April 2 / Reunion Arena, Dallas, April 3

Live Shots

U2, PJ Harvey

Compaq Center, Houston, April 2

Reunion Arena, Dallas, April 3

The final tally on the Love-meter came to 84. That's how many times Bono said the magic word Tuesday. The U2 frontman has been going on about "re-applying for the job" of best band in the world recently, but judging by the Texas stops of the Elevation 2001 tour, the position is theirs for life. They have to be the biggest, because every show features in the neighborhood of 20,000 backup singers. That's not counting Edge, whose tremulous falsetto at the end of "Stuck in a Moment" was evidence that it's high time U2's guitarist got his own "Happy." ("Numb" was close, but a shade too gimmicky.) But back to the crowd: At both dates, there were more woo-oohs, ah-ahs, and whoa-ohs than a Civil War field hospital. Of course it was most pronounced on the older material, especially "New Year's Day," but the band also got plenty of enthusiastic vocal assistance on previously untested tunes like "In a Little While." Tossing in references to everyone from Radiohead and INXS to Marvin Gaye and Led Zeppelin, Bono spent at least half the shows gallivanting around the heart-shaped catwalk, touching hands, receiving gifts (a yellow rose in Dallas was the best), and prostrating himself while chanting a divine invocation before "Where the Streets Have No Name." Someone in Dallas tossed him a black cowboy hat, which he modeled to the crowd's great delight, but it still wasn't as cheeky as in Houston, when he ended "Bullet the Blue Sky" by saying "we run ... into the arms ... of Texas." The moment of both shows, besting even an apocalyptic "The Fly" and sucker-punch encores "With or Without You" and "One," was a song U2 hadn't done live in almost 10 years, "Bad," featuring Edge's ringing guitar spiraled into the song's exalted chorus and Bono screaming "Not fade away!" and seemingly all of Texas helping him out: "No! No! No! No!" Yes, yes, oh my God yes. One likely reason for U2's newfound reinvestment in being the best could be the company they keep: Opener PJ Harvey had the still-half-full arenas in goosebumps both nights, even when the Houston sound system conked out halfway through "The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore." Fierce and tenacious on "Big Exit," "This is Love," and particularly a solo reading of "Rid of Me" in Dallas, Harvey was also slinky, sexy, and cabaret-captivating on "Down by the Water" and "Horses in My Dreams." Stalking the stage in three-inch stilettos or blithely shaking maracas, she leveled the unsuspecting crowds with a star-making performance, then demurely thanked them afterward. There was simply a lot of love at these shows.

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