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-Sunday Bloody Sunday, Where The Streets Have No Name. Encore(s): Discothèque, With Or Without You, Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, Mysterious Ways, One.
At the end of ‘Please’, Larry begins the military drum line from ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ which draws big cheers from the crowd. Bono sings the first line of the song, then improvises different lyrics before the segue into ‘Streets.’
U2 in Eugene
by W.W. staff
Since U2 announced its yearlong, worldwide tour at a surreal press conference in the lingerie section of a Manhattan K-Mart store back in February, rock pundits have speculated about whether the Irish supergroup’s preoccupations with pop culture and kitsch were eclipsing the relevance of its music.
Oregonians had a chance to judge for themselves May 6 when U2 brought its Popmart tour to Eugene’s Autzen Stadium. Before Bono and bandmates appeared, concertgoers were faced with numerous distractions, including souvenir stands selling T-shirts and condoms, photos of the musicians peering out from the concession booths, a giant golden McDonald’s-like arch protruding from a stage that also featured a lemon the size of a house and an olive skewered by the tallest toothpick known to man, an opening set by Rage Against the Machine and a lengthy DJ performance by Howie B., one of the producers of U2’s Pop album.
When the sun set, a remixed version of M’s 1979 hit “Pop Muzik” blared through the speakers and Bono, guitarist the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen emerged on a ramp that jutted from the stage approximately 60 rows into the audience. In somewhat anti-climactic fashion, the group sauntered to its instruments and began playing “Mofo,” one of the electronically enhanced songs from Pop.
With what’s being billed as the largest TV screen in the world flashing images behind the band, U2 then reached back to one of its earliest hits, “I Will Follow,” shifting the focus from glitz to raw, high-energy rock. As the Edge’s reverberating riffs echoed through the stadium, it became clear that though this 17-year-old band has adapted to the changing times and music movements, it’s still the same four guys relying on the sheer power of their songs.
When one of U2’s only true peers, R.E.M., performed in Portland at the Memorial Coliseum in 1995, the original four members added multi-instrumentalist Scott McCaughey (of Young Fresh Fellows and the Minus 5), yet still wound up sounding like a band that never quite moved forward beyond its original appeal. Drawing from a playlist that leaned heavily on its then-new release Monster, R.E.M. seemed to be spinning its wheels.
U2, on the other hand, has added flourishes of experimental whimsy to its solid song base over the years, and Popmart provided a better balance than the Zoo TV tour that followed the digital-age dalliance of the 1993 Zooropa album.
Bono strutted the stage at Autzen, setting up stunning visuals when he sang passionately in front of the giant video monitor backdrop. U2 mixed songs like “Until The End of the World” from 1991’s Achtung Baby with older nuggets such as “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and selections from Pop, developing a dazzling momentum.
Then came the only flawed segment of the show.
The new album’s most eloquent and moving tune, “Staring at the Sun,” suffered from Mullen’s misguided drumming and an overall hollowness. Then, all but the Edge left the stage; the guitarist picked up a microphone and ambled out to the end of the ramp, leading the crowed through an overblown and campy karaoke version of the Monkees hit “Daydream Believer.”
U2 quickly regrouped for a searing take on “Bullet the Blue Sky,” then began to tease “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” At this point, a young man somehow averted the legion of security guards in hot pink T-shirts and rushed the length of the stage toward Bono before being apprehended and whisked from sight. Unfazed, the band closed out the set with “Where the Streets Have No Name.”
Having established that their music was the message, the four musicians were next seen when the lemon, now unpeeled and emitting bright beams of light, was driven midway down the ramp before opening to reveal the band. They descended a staircase and performed Pop’s hit single, “Discotheque,” amidst the crowd, attaining a futuristic electronic sound with just a guitar, bass, drums and a microphone (although expensive effects pedals probably helped).
Closing out the night with an effective triple punch, U2 played an assertively boisterous version of its song from the Batman soundtrack, “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” followed by one of its most well-known hits, “Mysterious Ways,” and finally, with Keith Haring-inspired cartoon characters on screen, the tender ballad “One.”
In an era when most stadium rock shows consist of multiple big-name bands aligning for mega-events like Lollapalooza and H.O.R.D.E., U2 simultaneously mocked the spectacle that rock has become and cemented its status as superstar entity with a well-executed and entertaining show.
© 1997 Willamette Week.