Opening Act(s): The Pixies
Zoo Station, The Fly, Even Better Than The Real Thing, Mysterious Ways, One, Until The End Of The World, Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses, Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around The World, Angel Of Harlem-Dancing Queen, Satellite Of Love, Van Diemen’s Land, Bad-All I Want Is You, Bullet The Blue Sky, Running To Stand Still, Where The Streets Have No Name, Pride (In The Name Of Love), I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. Encore(s): With Or Without You, Love Is Blindness.
San Diego Union-Tribune
U2 GETS HIGH TECH
by George Varge
Everything you know is wrong.
That provocative message, taken from the title of a 1974 album by counterculture comics the Firesign Theater, is the unofficial slogan for U2’s Zoo TV tour.
And, as the four-man band’s often heady, sometimes disorienting performance at the San Diego Sports Arena Wednesday night vividly demonstrated, it’s also a manifesto — a dramatic statement of purpose for a show that found the Irish rock superstars mocking and celebrating themselves in almost equal measure.
Happily, this potentially schizophrenic approach succeeded far more often than not, allowing U2 to poke fun at its lofty image one moment and soar above it the next. The band achieved this balance by dividing its 85-minute concert into two distinct segments, joined by a stirring, acoustic miniset that briefly transformed the huge arena into an intimate hootenanny. For the capacity crowd of 13,908 fans, it was like getting three concerts for the price of one.
The first segment consisted of eight of the dozen songs from U2’s recent “Achtung Baby,” an album on which the band dramatically redefined its musical style by fusing funk, psychedelia and the churning, disco-inspired grooves of various Manchester dance bands with the atmospheric edge of David Bowie’s most experimental work from the late 1970s.
The second was essentially a greatest hits extravaganza, filled with one fist-pumping rock anthem after another — “Bullet the Blue Sky,” “Pride (In the Name of Love),” “Where the Streets Have No Name” and an especially moving “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” The audience, which was on its feet for the entire performance, sang along loudly on these songs in a powerful communion with the band.
But the difference between the two segments was more than just a matter of contrasting musical approaches or juxtaposing the old with the new. It was also the use of dazzling visual effects that would have been unthinkable on U2’s last tour five years ago, when the band relied entirely on the music to convey its messages of spiritual ideals and earthly foibles.
Specifically, the first portion of the show found U2 using a high-tech, multimedia stage set designed to overwhelm the senses and mimic the MTV era that U2’s rise to fame parallels. As the opening song, “Zoo Station,” began, a bevy of oversized TV monitors flickered ominously with static images. Above them hung a half-dozen East German Trabants, clunky, now-obsolete cars that paid silent tribute to a now-obsolete nation and way of life.
When U2 kicked into its next selection, “The Fly,” the TVs came alive with rapid-fire messages. As lead singer Bono Hewson hopped sideways, waving his arms in the air, dozens of slogans were flashed, among them:
It’s the real thing; Believe everything; Watch more TV; Manipulating is everything; Religion is a club; Celebrity is a job; Guilt is not of God; Conscience is a pest; Everyone is a racist except Japan; and, most pivotally, Rock and roll is entertainment; and It’s your world, you can change it.
Taking this invitation to change and entertain to heart, Bono assumed a variety of poses designed to mimic pompous, self-infatuated rock stars, and with them, himself. Dressed in a black leather ensemble that evoked the late Jim Morrison of the Doors, he mugged repeatedly, at one point kissing the lens of a video camera that shadowed him across the stage, then rubbing his body against the camera in mock lust.
All of this posing would have been wasted had U2’s music fallen short. But even in those instances when the barrage of on-screen action detracted from (rather than enhanced) the songs, Bono and his bandmates performed with sufficient conviction, warmth and passion to make this rock ‘n’ roll parody a success.
Bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. laid down one steady, thumping beat after another, while guitarist David “The Edge” Evans produced a characteristic array of chiming riffs and moody accents. (The band also employed backing tapes on some selections, including sequenced percussion, guitar and keyboard parts, and — in at least one case — harmony vocals. Fortunately, these instances were relatively few and subtle enough not to disrupt the performance.)
Because much of the show was so precisely choreographed, some of the best moments were spontaneous. These included Bono breaking into the chorus of Joan Armatrading’s “Love and Affection” during “Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World,” then ad-libbing Abba’s “Dancing Queen” in “Angel of Harlem” during the mini-acoustic segment performed at midset on a catwalk.
At one point, Bono pulled a female fan from the crowd, gave her a piggy-back ride and danced with her. Moments later, he sprayed the audience with a bottle of champagne, a prelude to drop-kicking a cup of water from the front of the stage. And during “Pride (In the Name of Love),” the dark-haired singer donned a T-shirt thrown to him by a fan that read: Bono is a scalper - a wry allusion to the heavy demand for tickets to the sold-out show.
Yet, while U2 clearly reveled in the opportunity to frolic with its audience, the band didn’t forget that fun must ultimately be tempered by a concern for more sobering matters. That’s why the night’s most troubling yet profound moment came in Bono’s introduction to “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” when he told the crowd: “I hope you find what you’re looking for, because if you don’t choose the right president, were all (in trouble).”
© San Diego Union-Tribune, 1992. All rights reserved.