But even shrunk down to the cozy Somerville Theatre for the final gig on its three-city "secret show" promotional blitz, the quartet exuded its signature widescreen, "greatest band in the land" charm and swagger. For an audience of 800 or so ecstatic fans, and those tuned in around the world via radio simulcast, the Irish rockers spent 60 minutes powering through a handful of tracks with stadium-size energy and gamely fielding audience questions with poise and good humor.
The performance portion blasted off with the fuzzy clangor of "Get on Your Boots." Bono urged folks to hop out of their seats and crowd the area in front of the stage and they didn't need to be told twice, deliriously jamming into any space not occupied by video equipment. (The show was taped for future use).
The "Horizon" songs may have not seeped in for fans yet but the band made a forceful case for their quality in the bass thrum and keening uplift of "Magnificent," the muscularity of "Breathe," and Bono's falsetto flights and the Edge's chiming guitar on "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight." The mini-set ended with a kinetic "Vertigo" with plenty of help from the crowd on vocals.
Five minutes later the band members returned to sit in director's chairs and field audience questions read by Sway.
The queries covered everything from what song Bono wished he'd written - Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," a chorus of which he sang - to memorable fan encounters. Drummer Larry Mullen Jr. recalled a show at the Paradise in Boston when a female fan tried to handcuff herself to Bono's leg. "That's how I met the missus," the singer quipped.
One of the night's treats was hearing from less-quoted members like Mullen and bassist Adam Clayton. Mullen in particular thoughtfully responded to a question about advice for aspiring bands. He spoke of good songs and even better arguments but stressed democracy "where everybody feels a stake in what they do. The idea of hired hands in bands just doesn't work, it's about respect for the individual."
During station breaks the band bantered with the audience, Bono sent a shout out to Senator Ted Kennedy, and got everyone to sing "Happy Birthday" to Clayton.
Bono brought the night to a gracious close by verbally throwing his arms around the audience, saying "Thank you for the great life you've given us."
A chant of "one more song," which rose immediately and went on for a few minutes, sadly went unrewarded but the buzz of having seen something special lingered in the departing crowd.