NEW YORK CITY SLICKERS

Newies, oldies, cover versions and no gimmicks - the band send 1,000 diehards, including several VIPs and NME.COM, wild in the Big Apple...

U2 played an exclusive free concert in NEW YORK CITY last night to a crowd of just 1,000 competition winners and celebrities.

The event, organised by 92.3 K-Rock Radio at Irving Plaza, was the hottest ticket the city had seen since Madonna’s gig at the Roseland Ballroom last month (November 5).

The hour-long worldwide broadcast featured material that spanned the band’s career, from 1980’s ‘Boy’ to 2000’s ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’. Bono dedicated ‘Stuck in a Moment (You Can’t Get Out Of)’ to Michael Hutchence, the former INXS frontman who died in 1997, and mourned the recent break-ups of

Rage Against the Machine and Smashing Pumpkins before launching into ‘Desire’. During ‘Mysterious Ways’, he ventured into the crowd, letting them support him while he sat – and sang – upright.

In homage to quintessential New York act The Ramones, a group Bono said influenced U2 a great deal over the years, the Irish quartet covered the punk rockers’ ‘I Remember You’. They closed the night with The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’.

Fans, most of them diehards, were elated from the moment the band took the stage. “It’s the best show I’ll ever see in my entire life,” said a breathless Kathleen Meade of Queens, New York afterwards. “I don’t think I could ever see anything this intimate, because when you go to the stadium shows they’re great, but you’re usually very high up and far away. It was definitely an

awesome experience that I’ll probably never have again.”

Mark Mitchell of Westchester, New York, also thought the band sounded “awesome” and particularly enjoyed ’11 O’Clock Tick Tock’, which he felt “came out of left field”. Even Bono admitted it had been some time since U2 performed that classic track. “We used to do it on club tours,” the singer revealed. “We would play it twice because we ran out of songs.”

“They’re obviously trying this small crowd out for the tour and they sound so on,” Mitchell continued. “They proved that they’re still a rock band and they can still carry a crowd and kick the doors out of the place.”

“The thing that I really liked about it was that there were no distractions,” commented Rosemary O’Toole of Staten Island, New York. “There was no big lemon; like on the Popmart tour, there were no beetles crashing up above the

stage and what not. It was really bare bones and they don’t need all that distraction.”

Indeed, U2 got back to basics with no-frills decor, simple lights and band-member introductions by Bono midway through – as if the group were new on the scene.

The Chemical Brothers opened the show and stayed behind to witness U2’s historical performance. The DJs watched from upstairs in the VIP area, where they were in the company of Smashing Pumpkin Billy Corgan, Garbage’s Shirley Manson and supermodel Cindy Crawford.

Other stars reported to be in the crowd included Tom Cruise, Zack De La Rocha, Billy Corgan, Cindy Crawford, Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, Christy Turlington, The Corrs, Dave Gahan and Martin Gore from Depeche Mode, Marlon Richards – son of “Keef” – Gabriel Byrne and Q-Tip.

The full set list was : ‘Beautiful Day’ ‘Elevation’ ‘Stuck In a Moment (You Can’t Get Out Of)’ ‘I Remember You’ ‘New York”I Will Follow’ ‘Desire’ ‘The Ground Beneath Her Feet’ ‘Mysterious Ways’ ‘One’ ‘All I Want Is You’ ‘Bad’ ’11 O’Clock Tick Tock”Won’t Get Fooled Again’

Click back to NME.COM later today for a full review of the gig.