U2 @ New Meadowlands Stadium

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—U2 blasted through its set at the New Meadowlands Stadium preaching the gospel of political righteousness to a soundtrack of churning sanctified rock that boomed to the heavens. Theirs was a spiritual knockout with Father Bono at the pulpit whipping his bandmates (and vice versa) onto higher grounds as they rattled their way through a catalogue of hits going back three decades.

Combining the scowl of punk, the industrial clatter of their ‘90s output and some good ole blue-eyed soul, the Dublin quartet delivered the goods like a fired-up unit with something to prove. The stage looked like a spacecraft from planet Klingon placed near the 40-yard line. A videoscreen wrapped around its top end that offered fans a 360-degree view of the band’s onstage performance, however, they played to the crowd straight ahead on through the endzones leaving a good portion of the nearly 90,000-person crowd with side views for most of the night.

Held in place by four metallic like claws with the band in the middle and ramps connecting the stage to catwalks circling it, messengers Bono, Edge and bassist Adam Clayton moved in orbit throughout the night to stationary drummer Larry Mullins’ steady and pulsating beats.

There was a deliverance of the hits that centered on the band’s 1991 album, Achtung Baby. Rescheduled from last year due to Bono’s bad back, the wait was well worth it.

Entering the stage to the tune of Bowie’s “Space Oddity” they quickly got down to the business of show with Achtung’s “Even Better Than The Real Thing” as the band’s muddy mix sounded driven by extraterrestrials. By the time “Fly,” “Mysterious Ways” and the power pop of “I Will Follow” went down, the mix sparked and rang to the Turnpike.

Edge’s chunky riffage colored the songs’ primitive and straight-ahead rhythmic punch like a one-man orchestra. He added a jagged, ragged glory to their softer moments and a refined symphonic overture to its cantankerous, noisy ones. Loaded with an arsenal of pedals, reverb, Rickenbacker, Fender Strats and Gibson’s, he accentuated and countered the rhythm section’s boom with moody soundscapes of luscious thunder for the band’s Magical Mystery Tour.

The guitar, drums and bass combined roar to Bono’s muscular vocals was a powerful one as they pushed and pulled their dynamics from the full-throttled, planky juggernaut of “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” from War, to the quietest ebb of “With Or Without You,” from The Joshua Tree.”

With the self-righteous zealotry of a preacherman, Bono was a figure of divinity up there dressed in his black duds and wraparound glasses. Taking on the world order, pimping for Amnesty International and paying homage to Burmese political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi takes guts yet he pulled it off with a sense of humility.

Bono added from the stage that this was their 24th performance in East Rutherford and the 30th anniversary since they played the Fast Lane in Asbury Park. Someone handed him the set list from that night and he read it aloud, chuckling towards the end at the band’s encores that were repeats from the regular set.

On “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For“ they took things down a notch as the crowd chimed in on the chorus turning the rocker into a hymnal as a few verses from Springsteen’s “Promised Land” were thrown in.

Space Shuttle Commander Mark E. Kelly and husband of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords introduced the next one onscreen. From space he recited some of the lines from “Space Oddity” then he posted notes on the window of the shuttle to “Beautiful Day.” The song’s messages reiterated the band’s global take on the times and their life affirming pleas to mother earth. Clichéd and pompous, maybe, but I say, bring it on.

During “Zooropa” the circular screen lowered itself encasing the band as they bashed out a mini set of clanky, disco-fied warblers. The hypnosis-inducing strobe of flashing reds, whites, greens and laser beams turned the sweaty stadium into club ecstasy. “Vertigo,” “Elevation” and “Discotheque” with snippets of the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” kept the spirit of the Mudd Club and CBGB’s alive and kickin’. The set closer was “Walk On.”

The second encore ended with “Out of Control” from the 1980 album, Boy. On it the band and crowd molted into a unified force of electrified energy and controlled chaos ending their two and a half hour, 26-song set, just in time.