U2@Frank Erwin Center

Live Shot

One Hit to the Body: Paul Hewson and Dave Evans
One Hit to the Body: Paul Hewson and Dave Evans (Photo By John Anderson)

U2@Frank Erwin Center

November 5

They say a true sign of love, the ultimate symbol of trust and comfort with another person, is having sex with the lights on. With UT's sold-out Frank Erwin Center still teeming with empty seats and Stevie Wonder and the Beatles echoing through the hall's P.A., the segue into a recorded version of U2's "Elevation" just before 9pm Monday night began the tumultuous ripple of the evening's first climax. As the tune, taken from the Dublin quartet's most recent LP All That You Can't Leave Behind -- indeed the song from which this tour takes its name and inspiration -- built towards its own bursting point, Austin's largest concert arena roared in exponentially seismic waves of adulation. On their feet, arms stretched above them, 17,000 epiphany seekers set off a chain-reaction of energy that lacked only a mushroom cloud when U2 casually walked onstage with the house lights still full blare. Taking a good look into the eyes of Texas, just another North American one-night stand, the band's shy smiles and humble salutes only made the faithful legions clamor louder for those that would deliver them into ecstasy. And make no mistake, U2's 100 minutes in the spotlight were ecstatic; even if this particular show wasn't particularly inspired, it was no less inspirational. One could even say it was heroic. Kneeling in front of 350 general admission ticket holders who'd stood in line all day to gain entrance inside the heart-shaped catwalk extending out from the flat-top, no frills stage, Bono bowed low and crossed himself. By the time he stood up, Edge, in his trademark wool skull cap, was hammering out the jolting riff to "Elevation" on his cherry red Gibson SG. Larry Mullen Jr., looking like a teamster not to be crossed, and Adam Clayton, tall, lean, with big bespectacled eyes looking on in seasoned wonderment, locked in step. Out went the lights. The Rapture had begun. "Beautiful Day" went off next with U2's signature crescendoing ring, Achtung Baby's "Until the End of the World" following as Bono, dressed for all the world like an Irish footballer on his way to the pub, crumpled on the catwalk at Edge's feet under an onslaught of the guitarist's Les Paul. A trio of War/Boy anthems, "New Year's Day," "I Will Follow," and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" got hearts racing with Larry Mullen's chest-beating toms, the opening lines of that last song nothing less than sobering in our brave new world. In fact, almost every song off the set list featured some lyric that spoke directly to the bittersweet struggle of this mortal coil. A sincere reading of "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" preceded Bono telling the audience, "I can't tell you how proud, happy, and humbled we are to be in the U.S. at this time." That's what visas are for, boys. "Kite," and acoustic versions of "Wild Honey" and "Please" set the stage for crystalline highlight "Bad," which gave way to an exhilarating "Where the Streets Have No Name," Edge ripping through the Joshua Tree opener like one of the helicopters out of Apocalypse Now. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" morphed into "Pride (In the Name of Love)," ending the 75-minute set with MLK bringing the power and glory from two onstage screens. A truly apocalyptic version of "Bullet the Blue Sky," which sounded like ground zero had come to the Erwin Center, began the encores, which included Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," the emotional tribute of "New York," and "One," complete with a slow-scrolling flight manifest of all four hijacked planes from 9/11, plus the police and firefighter casualties. The band walked off with "Walk On," and when the lights went up, Bono's final words -- "Sure nice to be in Texas" -- rang like the naked truth. Come again, ambassador. Please.

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