Opening Act(s): Rage Against The Machine
Mofo, I Will Follow, Even Better Than The Real Thing, Do You Feel Loved?, Pride (In The Name Of Love), I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Last Night On Earth, Gone, Until The End Of The World, If God Will Send His Angels, Staring At The Sun, Daydream Believer, Miami, Bullet The Blue Sky, Please, Where The Streets Have No Name. Encore(s): Discothèque, With Or Without You, Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, Mysterious Ways, One.
San Diego Union-Tribune
U2 IN SAN DIEGO
by George Varga
As befits a band that has reigned for more than a decade as one of rock’s biggest attractions, U2 posed some mighty big questions during its Monday-night concert at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
Namely, can soul-searching music find its target in a massive stadium setting?
At its best, yes.
Can songs that articulate a desire for spiritual meaning ring true in a world driven by rampant greed and consumerism, especially in a show that both celebrates and parodies that greed and consumerism?
Again, yes, although it helped to have an appreciation for irony as pronounced as U2’s.
Can the band that redefined the look, feel and dynamics of stadium rock concerts with its dazzling “Zoo TV” tour in 1992 possibly hope to top itself?
In a word, yes. In another, no.
And so it was that U2 was by turns transcendent and disappointing Monday night at the Murph, where the band performed the second show on its two-year “PopMart” world tour.
“We just left Las Vegas. I guess you’re the first real people to see us,” lead singer Bono told the crowd before U2’s third selection, “Even Better Than the Real Thing.” (In fact, U2 had been relaxing at the Hotel del Coronado since Saturday.)
Moments earlier, under a cloud-filled sky, U2 soared with the industrial-tinged “Mofo” and the chiming “I Will Follow,” which opened the concert with a powerful one-two punch.
But the band stumbled midconcert with an inexplicably offhanded and truncated “If God Will Send His Angels” and a limp, off-key “Staring at the Sun” (both stirring ballads, at least on record, from U2’s bleak yet earnest new album, “Pop”). And the remainder of the concert was marred by erratic pacing, which saw the group rise mightily one moment, then lose its momentum the next.
Either way, the four-man Irish band bravely sought to confront — if not answer — some of the big questions it has long posed in song about life and love, faith and temptation, sin and redemption.
Appearing before a loudly enthusiastic audience that — depending on the source — numbered between 30,000 and 37,000 (and included Mick Jagger, Courtney Love, Billy Corgan and Tiger Woods), U2 also sought to achieve an emotional depth rarely found in stadium rock shows. And it did so during a performance that deliberately blurred the lines between art and artifice, transcendence and trash (as in kitsch, and proud of it).
When the band succeeded, as it did on “Pride (In the Name of Love),” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and the concert-concluding “One,” it was inspiring and then some. But when the band faltered, as on “Gone,” “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” and “Mysterious Ways,” U2 played second fiddle to its stunning array of special effects, instead of riding atop them.
And it was clear that Bono, bassist Adam Clayton, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and cowboy-hatted guitarist The Edge were still workingout kinks and finding their stage feet after a nearly five-year layoff from touring. The Edge, who frequently used his guitar to trigger prerecorded samples of other guitars and keyboards, sang an amusing if pointless version of the Monkees’ 1967 hit “Daydream Believer” (which was written by onetime San Diegan John Stewart).
Regardless, the nearly two-hour-long concert was as instructive as it was inconsistent, and as galvanizing as it was sometimes overwrought and off-target.
But neither extreme, good or bad, would have been possible had U2 not taken bold risks with its music and with the staging of the show, which began following a potent but monochromatic opening set by rap/metal dynamos Rage Against the Machine.
After the stadium lights dimmed, U2’s members emerged from the Padres’ dugout to loud cheers. Escorted by a phalanx of hulking security guards, with a few dozen fans trailing in their wake, the band made its way to the tip of a curved catwalk and secondary stage that extended nearly 100 feet from the main stage.
Bono, who was dressed in a hooded boxer’s robe, threw punches in the air and parried against a phantom opponent as he took to the stage. As the concert progressed and Bono began a series of costume changes, it became apparent that the opponent in question could well have been U2 and the band’s heady legacy.
“It’s a great big stage,” Bono told the audience midway through the concert. “What small little fellows we are.”
Yet, at its best, U2’s music managed to dwarf the mammoth stage, which featured a neon-lighted, 100-foot-high golden arch (hello, McDonald’s!) that held most of the sound system (or the “McP.A.,” as Bono put it in a recent Union-Tribune interview). But the arch — a word that also describes U2’s sense of humor — was nearly dwarfed by the 56-by-170-foot screen made of aluminum strips that contained 1 million Light Emitting Diodes.
That screen beamed live footage of the band so large that even fans at the opposite end of the stadium had a bird’s-eye view. (Some concertgoers seated to the side of the stage, however, had obstructed sightlines.) The screen also featured computerized graphics that ranged from Andy Warhol’s portrait of Marilyn Monroe during “With or Without You” to Roy Lichtenstein’s “Whaam!” fighter planes during a rearranged version of “Bullet the Blue Sky.”
But where U2’s “Zoo TV” tour utilized smaller video screens to flash an unending stream of words, slogans and provocative sentence fragments, the far larger “PopMart” screen was devoted to images, real and computerized. And none was more powerful than the huge yet unadorned human-heart illustration that appeared at the end of the show-closing “One,” whose appropriately heartfelt chorus — We’ve got to carry each other — ultimately meant more than any of the high-tech razzle-dazzle that preceded it.
© 1997 San Diego Union-Tribune. All rights reserved.