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by Mike Kavanagh

(written May 15)

U2 were at the height of their powers last night during a high-energy show at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.

Jeff and I drove separate cars, because his wife, my cousin Christine, is due to deliver their second baby any minute now. Yes, he was taking a risk by coming to the show, but then this was no ordinary show, this was U2.

We arrived in the parking lot at 7:45 PM, to a festive atmosphere. It was a bit crowded because the Phillies were playing the Reds across the street, but that didn't dampen anyone's sprits. The weather was great, and everyone was soaking it up. There was even a Grateful Dead cover band playing in the lot. Very cool.

We made our way into the arena, and found that the line for t-shirts was 5 rows wide, 20 people deep. It was insane, so we instead headed upstairs to where our seats were. Section 204 was easy to find - right at the top of the escalator. It was also right next to the beer stand, and a slightly less-crowded t-shirt stand.

Jeff got into the beer line, and I queued up for a shirt. Despite my line being the longer of the two, I ended up getting my t-shirt and meeting Jeff in the beer line before he'd even reached the front. Turns out that the group in front of us were ordering two beers for each person. It started out at eight, but ended up being ten or twelve. They had to change kegs!

Beers in hand at last, and t-shirt in bag, we took our seats. The pre-show music was fantastic. It was as if they had taken the mix discs out of my car. Franz Ferdinand, The Clash, David Bowie, Velvet Underground, The Shins. So, so good.

Then, finally, "Wake Up" by Arcade Fire signaled the beginning of the show. As "Wake Up" faded, the crystalline, twinkling notes of "City Of Blinding Lights" filled the arena. What followed was two plus hours of U2 at their finest.

"...Blinding Lights" was followed up by "Vertigo", which sounds great live. "Elevation" was particularly cool because the band played softly as Bono got the crowd involved in a singalong for the first verse. Then, as the chorus concluded, the band kicked in, and the place exploded.

The next phase of the show moved a bit slowly for me, but it picked up again starting with "Love and Peace Or Else." From that point on, the show kicked major ass.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that "One" has gotten a bit old, but this time I was distracted during most of it. You see, Bono introduced the song by talking about the One Campaign, "a new effort by Americans to rally Americans ONE by ONE to fight the emergency of global AIDS and extreme poverty. The ONE Campaign is engaging Americans through a diverse coalition of faith-based and anti-poverty organizers to show the steps people can take, ONE by ONE, to fight global AIDS and poverty."

True to form, Bono has taken this cause to heart, and urged everyone at the show to use their mobile phones to send text messages with their names to "UNITE." So, not only did the entire building light up like a blue Christmas tree, but after a few minutes, the screen above the stage began displaying all of the names who had texted in. My name was among them, which was quite cool!

The encore was fantastic, flashing back to 1991 with ZOO TV in full effect. "Zoo Station", "The Fly" and "Mysterious Ways" were exhilirating. "Yahweh" was quite powerful live, and "40" was simply amazing. The entire crowd singing for what must have been five minutes after the band had left the stage.

It was a fantastic show, and I can't wait for the next Philly show on May 22.

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