U2 at the Pepsi Center: What price salvation?

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EVERETT COLLECTION / SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Everett Collection / Shutterstock

Backstage at an Amnesty International benefit, Lou Reed once told some journalists — in his famously flat monotone — that if any of us actually knew the real Bono and the things he does behind-the-scenes, we'd all be worshipping him.

These days, of course, Bono's humanitarian achievements are far from secret. There's also no shortage of fans eager to bow before the altar of U2, as readily demonstrated Saturday night during the first of two sold-out shows at Denver's Pepsi Center.

Ireland's biggest export opened the evening with "The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)" from Songs of Innocence, an album that, as you may recall, just showed up one day in half a billion iTunes accounts, thus spawning a cottage industry of U2 removal software.

From there, the band segued to the title track "The Electric Co." from its debut album, Boy, which was soon followed by its first single, "I Will Follow," rekindling memories of a time when Bono was still more choirboy than messiah.

There have been more than a dozen albums since, which means the band can now play for two hours and still just skim the surface of its repertoire. Set highlights like "Until the End of the World" and "Vertigo" also proved they can still do the U2 anthem thing with as much passion and precision as ever.

Visually, the show makes artful use of a "transformable LED screen," which runs down the center of the arena and mixes surprisingly edgy animation with, less surprisingly, a ton of special effects and band member close-ups. Most of it works well, actually, although Bono's strut down the catwalk with a red-white-and-blue megaphone during "Bullet the Blue Sky" is a bit much.

And yes, there was, is, and ever shall be preaching, with Bono name-checking Ferguson and citing developments in his homeland as proof that "you cannot have peace without compromise."

Toward evening's end, the frontman further drove home his message of compromise, somehow managing to praise both Amnesty International and Bank of America in the same breath.

As of this writing, online resale outlets are still offering Sunday night tickets to well-heeled U2 enthusiasts, with prices ranging from $178 to $4,273.


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