The enduring greatness of the Irish supergroup is evident in the display.
By JOHN PATRICK GATTA
Just the fact that a major exhibit titled "In the Name of Love: Two Decades of U2" opened at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum attests to the Irish quartet's critical and commercial appeal. Unlike the several dozen artists inducted into the Rock Hall, U2, who won't even be on the ballot until 2004, is featured on three floors of the Museum.
Of course, such an act is understandable after a trek through the exhibit during a media preview. It opened to the public Sunday and will run through September.
Photographs by world-renowned photographer Anton Corbijn can be seen through May. His work will be replaced by images from graphic designer Steve Averill, who has worked with U2 throughout its career. Also, four films will be shown during the exhibit's run.
With a charismatic singer in Bono, a guitarist in the Edge who learned that effects could be as worthwhile as power chords, and a solid bass/drum tandem in Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. that propelled each song toward moments of exuberance, mystery or foreboding, the band became more than the sum of its parts.
Although its 1980 U.S. debut album, "Boy," was mainly played on college stations around the country, 101-FM The Wizard (now Hot 101), turned local listeners (including this one) on to the extraordinary band. With shows that spread rapturous word of mouth and material that held emotional resonance, the band grew in popularity with each subsequent release and has since sold millions of albums worldwide.
Like everything about the Rock Hall, it's the minutiae of "In the Name of Love" that makes the exhibit intriguing. Up close, one catches the ordinariness and glamour of rock history and the unwavering allegiance to the creative muse.
You're not just looking at a black leather jacket behind a glass case. That's Bono's gear from the band's Elevation Tour 2001. You can view the revised lyrics to "New York" following the tragedy of Sept. 11, and read in the explanatory text, which accompanies each item on display, that these words were used at a concert a couple days later in Indianapolis.
The exhibit's greatest asset is that it engages you to take in the full impact of U2's career, so far -- from its earnest beginnings -- which are chronicled by a note left at a rehearsal and a trophy won in 1978 during a battle of the bands contest -- to its distinctive take on rock 'n' roll that's heard when you enter the fifth floor. You hear the retooling of the group's sound during the '90s and its desire to mix creativity, visuals and technology in an attempt to inject social change.
There hasn't been another act that's shown the influence of U2 on a musical or personal level. While it may have tripped over itself at times in its earnestness to shape a new image or ignite new sparks by embracing other genres, the band can't be faulted for trying something different. "In the Name of Love" celebrates all of that.