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U2 leads all-out rock assault

The sensory onslaught that goes by the name of the "Zoo TV Outside Broadcast Tour," courtesy of the Irish superstar band U2, hit Tampa Stadium Saturday night and dazzled a crowd of more than 40,000.

Since its last stop at the stadium on a chilly December night in 1987, U2 has shed most of its ultra-serious, save-the-world image. Frontman Bono appeared in a black outfit and his trademark bubble sunglasses. His moves were exaggerated _ he danced close to parody but managed to not tread over the line.

Bono and his mates _ guitarist the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. _ performed on a vast stage, adorned with huge video screens that flashed a variety of fleeting messages and captured the action on stage.

U2 seems to understand that playing to a stadium crowd requires more than microphones, instruments and amps. The band _ once known as a dour, spartan lot _ bludgeoned the crowd with spectacle. But it was a good bludgeoning, one that put entertainment above all else, allowing the appreciative crowd to ignore the intermittent rain and enjoy themselves.

The band opened with Zoo Station, which features corrosive guitars and a clattering groove. An equally industrial tune, The Fly, also from the band's latest album Achtung Baby, followed.

After Mysterious Ways, One and a charming _ albeit brief _ turn at the Temptations' My Girl, U2 lit into a ferocious version of New Year's Day.

The group hit stride and never looked back, delivering the goods with abandon and fun.

After a short set by the British band Big Audio Dynamite, the rap group Public Enemy took the stage as a drizzle started.

The mammoth sound system emitted a hellacious din of rap rhythm tracks: rib-rattling bass and a relentless funk groove accompanied by a screeching, snarling street noise. The group played a 40-minute set that was essentially incomprehensible for anyone other than devoted PE fans. Yet the show was admirable for its reckless energy and rhythmic punch.

Group leader Chuck D. bounded back and forth across the long stage, clad in jeans, tank top and baseball cap _ all black. His more flamboyant partner, Flavor Flav, strutted around in a yellow warmup suit and Mad Hatter hat. They performed 911, Shut Em Down, their most familiar songFight the Power and other intense numbers. It all ran together, and the raps were all but impossible to follow, yet the crowd was willing to pump its collective fists and shout along with one of the most revered acts in popular music.