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U2 Play Secret Boston Show


Call it the luck of the Boston Irish. While other cities only got in-studio radio broadcasts out of U2’s “3 Nights Live” series this week — part of the band’s massive promotional push for their chart-topping new album, No Line on the Horizon — 800 radio contest winners in Boston got to see the real thing: a live U2 performance in the tiny old Somerville Theatre — plus a post-show, Storytellers-like Q&A session!

It was quite unreal. Even Bono thought so.

“The last time we played a small theater like this was probably when that came out,” Bono said, pointing at the 12-inch copy of the band’s 1980 single, 11 O’Clock Tick Tock, which one fan waved under his nose. For a moment, the singer looked unnerved, as if transported to another time and place. But Bono quickly returned to the task at hand: pimping the new songs and being relevant now, three decades into his band’s career. But despite being so well-seasoned, U2 is clearly not ready for the classic rock circuit just yet, and they’re out to prove it.

Predictably (but perfectly), the short, sharp set launched with new single “Get On Your Boots,” a full-on rocker wired by the Edge’s throaty guitar riff and stroked by Adam Clayton’s limber bass lines. “Magnificent” followed and reintroduced U2’s familiar drive and jangle. “I was born to sing for you,” serenaded Bono, unafraid to ply sentimentality. The dancing crowd roared, eagerly lapping it up.

Drummer Larry Mullen Jr. kicked the swaggering and bluesy “Breathe” into action with a thunderous beat, while Bono applied an elegant Jagger-esque shimmy before executing the scat-like lyric with equal swank. Though more thoughtful, “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight,” a personal song that’s as much about restraint as it is letting loose, held no nuance for the crowd — they only heard the part about going crazy.

A mighty, spiraling “Vertigo,” from U2’s previous album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, ended a tight, immaculate set that didn’t stretch back past the new millennium at all. But the hour-long Q&A session that followed got them reminiscing. “It took us 30 years to figure this shit out,” Bono said. It wasn’t just those in the audience that were pinching themselves.

“Get On Your Boots”
“I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight”