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Emotions reach dizzying heights for U2, fans

The second leg of U2's ''Vertigo" tour hit Boston last night with a full-on bang. The sold-out crowd featured celebrities such as Tom Brady and John Kerry, but also thousands of U2 diehards who sang along so loudly that any decibel meter would have been smashed.

This was like one of U2's classic concerts at the Orpheum when the band was making its move toward superstardom in the '80s. The crowd interaction was breathtaking -- from a pregnant mother who jumped up early to dance with Bono, to hearty, sing-along support when Bono briefly lost his voice during the Martin Luther King tribute, ''Pride (In the Name of Love)." He literally jumped back from the microphone and couldn't continue for a minute -- maybe he swallowed something that went down the wrong way or was just overcome by the moment -- but he raised his arms and beckoned the fans to fill in the verses, which they readily did like eager acolytes.

This unexpected glitch turned out to have a huge payback once Bono again found his voice. It cemented the bond with listeners, so when U2 then wailed into the spiritual ''Where the Streets Have No Name," the audience rose majestically and created a cathedral-like choir whose volume stunned even Bono. ''Wow, thank you very much," he said at the end of the song. You could tell it came from the bottom of his heart and wasn't just a goading tactic.

The show's set list was similar to U2's three Garden dates earlier this year -- with a fast-clipped triumvirate of ''City of Blinding Lights," ''Vertigo," and ''Elevation" opening the way. But creative wrinkles were heard when Bono added snatches of Smashing Pumpkins' ''Bullet With Butterfly Wings" (the verse ''despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage") to ''Elevation"; and bits of the Beatles' ''Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and Jimmy Cliff's ''Many Rivers to Cross" to the euphoric ''Beautiful Day."

A few major changes, however, were to come, starting with a heartfelt plea for unity, ''Miss Sarajevo," which U2 had done on its ''Zoo TV" tour. The band put it back in the set this summer right after the London subway bombings. Bono told the crowd that many Muslims and Christians could get along in Sarajevo and it was ''a symbol of coexistence and that's why evil men wanted to destroy it." The song, especially its operatic coda, drew another round of deafening applause, heightening the night's emotion even more if that was possible.

The main set ended with the familiar ballad ''One" with Bono noting that the ''One" campaign (designed to eradicate poverty) had signed up 2 million members, including Patriots quarterback Brady earlier in the evening. And the first two encores were pleasant surprises: the ballad ''The First Time" (with just the Edge playing acoustic guitar while Bono sang and urged the crowd to shout ''love love") and the gently uplifting ''Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses," which was more manna from heaven for the diehards.

Opener Keane, a keyboard-based trio with a Coldplay-like sound at times, was well-received but seemed out of place in an arena setting.

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