NYC 3: “Maybe a 40-minute version of Bad…”

Bono loves a good birthday, that’s for sure — two days after leading the MSG crowd in a chant for close friend Gavin Friday, last night he directed them to sing for Luciano Pavarotti, co-Passenger on “Miss Sarajevo,” who turns 70 this week. Perhaps the crowd’s singing was a bit off, but Luciano couldn’t possibly complain about the justice Bono did to his part of the song tonight; this reporter found himself stunned and double-checking to make sure it wasn’t lip-synched.

The one-two punch of “Zoo Station” and “The Fly” returned to the set for the first time since the third-leg opener, meeting a rapturous reception from a crowd that might have been the loudest yet of the New York gigs. The night was not without fuckups — Bono was forced to shake a persistent cough before the second verse of “I Still Haven’t Found…,” and the snarky grin on his face when he caught The Edge playing a rare bum note in the intro to “Yahweh” probably had his sainted guitarist suppressing the urge to sock him one in the mouth. Certainly the biggest “oops” of the night came at the close of the show — as Bono touchingly dedicated the next song to New York’s unofficial poet laureate, Patti Smith (who was in attendance), he closed his remarks with “This is… ’40′.” Even from the cheap seats you could see Edge’s eyebrow shoot up, and Bono then cringed a bit as he realized — “Err… I mean ‘Bad’. Perhaps a 40-minute version of ‘Bad’?” That tantalizing (or perhaps horrifying) idea wasn’t followed up on, but Bono leading the Garden in a chant of Patti’s “People Have The Power” to close the song more than made up. Even when he then ducked off stage, once again forgetting that they’d inadvertently promised the crowd “40.” Or perhaps they just couldn’t resist pushing it to three encores?