Opening Act(s): Big Audio Dynamite II, Public Enemy
Zoo Station, The Fly, Even Better Than The Real Thing, Mysterious Ways, One-Unchained Melody, Until The End Of The World, New Year’s Day, Whiskey In The Jar, Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around The World, Angel Of Harlem, When Love Comes To Town, Satellite Of Love, All I Want Is You, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bullet The Blue Sky, Running To Stand Still, Where The Streets Have No Name, Pride (In The Name Of Love). Encore(s): Desire, Ultraviolet (Light My Way), With Or Without You, Love Is Blindness, Can’t Help Falling In Love.
The Milwaukee Journal
U2 makes a zoo of Camp Randall
by Tina Maples
Massive tour matches stadium-sized ego, talent
Madison, Wis. — If Tom Wolfe had been writing about rock stars instead of Wall Street players in his novel “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” he would have named his lead character Bono.
Bono, the lead singer of the Irish rock quartet U2, has set himself up as the master of his own self-styled universe on the band’s massive, high-tech “Zoo TV’ tour.
The catch is, it’s all a big joke. Take a little boob-tube-bashing here, add a send-up of Bono’s infamous high-mindness there and you’ve got one of the diciest propositions of the decade: A simultaneous parody and exploitation of rock-star self-indulgence.
Sunday night, 62,000 people at the University of Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium got the best of all possible punchlines. The set was big, but it wasn’t better than the real thing: the band itself.
When “Zoo TV” was operating at full tilt, it was a dizzying rock spectacle beyond compare.
Four giant video walls, two multiscreen panels and innumerable TV monitors flashed a mesmerizing onslaught of images across a futuristic stage, complete with steel radio towers.
In the evening’s most spectacular special effect, two crane-mounted, garishly painted and lighted Trabants — among six of the obsolete East German cars on stage — circled the lead singer in reverential orbit, like two star-struck UFOs.
Sunday’s concert wasn’t a one-man show — well, almost, but not quite. Fiery, guitar-driven anthems such as “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “New Year’s Day” and “Pride (In the Name of Love” were driven by the raw force and expertise of guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. (who even finagled a little star break-out of his own, on an a cappella version of an Irish folk song).
PACING WAS EVERYTHING
Nor, despite its high-tech sheen, did Sunday’s show get too close to bell-and-whistle overload. Pacing was everything, and the band knew when to calm things down.
A full-barrel assault of lights, cameras and rapid-fire propaganda messages on “Even Better Than the Real Thing” gave way to gentle images of sunflowers and roaming buffalo on “One,” one of eight songs from last year’s “Achtung Baby” album. Some unpleasant audio flatulence aside, “One” made a graceful segue into an even gentler, solo-Bono version of “Unchained Melody.”
Bono made a similar transition during the evening. After two taut, energizing 40-minute opening sets by London’s B.A.D. II and the hard-core rap band Public Enemy, Bono and company emerged as distant and chilly rock idols with the distorted vocals of “Zoo Station” and “The Fly.”
This put-on chill dissolved as the musicians made the technology work for them on impassioned rockers and gentle balladeering (falsetto video duet with Lou Reed on “Satellite of Love”).
Best of all, the band’s seriousness was tempered with sheer silliness. Sunday, Bono’s choreographed but still convincing bouts of playfulness included an on-stage call to the White House (Bush “wasn’t available”), a romp with a belly dancer who wiggled her way through a literal interpretation of (She Moves in) “Mysterious Ways,” and a tryst with a female fan, a champagne bottle and a video camera on “Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World.”
Bono personalized the show even more by moving the entire band down to the end of a second stage that jutted out into the audience.
One of U2’s goals on this tour is to prove that it’s user-friendly — a needed reminder after the off-putting high-mindedness that crept into the band’s albums during the ’80s. It wasn’t an accident that the bulk of the songs that the band decided to perform on the intimate second stage — “Angel of Harlem,” “When Love Comes to Town” and “All I Want Is You” — were recast singles from the band’s pinnacle of pretentiousness, 1988’s “Rattle and Hum.”
Still, old habits die hard. For all he did to mock the poseur label, Bono couldn’t resist reclaiming the rock-god pose near the end of the two-hour show. Re-emerging for an encore as a silver-clad Vegas performer, he kissed his own image in a mirror as a symbol of “Desire,” then went on to pay tribute to the ultimate Vegas king in his cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.”
No doubt about it: It took an incredible ego to conceive a project as massive as “Zoo TV.”
What made Sunday’s such a satisfying experience was that the ego was matched by an equally incredible talent.