popmart_-_1st_leg_-_north_america

June 18, 1997 - Oakland, California, USA - Oakland-Alameda County Stadium

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Opening Act(s): Oasis

Setlist:

Mofo, I Will Follow, Even Better Than The Real Thing, Gone, Pride (In The Name Of Love), I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For-Stand By Me, Last Night On Earth, Until The End Of The World, If God Will Send His Angels, Staring At The Sun, Daydream Believer, Miami, Bullet The Blue Sky-Amazing Grace, Please, Where The Streets Have No Name. Encore(s): Discothèque, If You Wear That Velvet Dress, With Or Without You, Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, Mysterious Ways, One-Hallelujah.

Media Review:

San Francisco Chronicle

U2 Finds About Half of What It’s Looking For

by James Sullivan

And here we were thinking sincerity and flagrant commercialism don’t mix.

The “bloody big” rock band U2 set out to prove otherwise Wednesday night at the Oakland Coliseum, as the gargantuan PopMart tour hit the Bay Area for the first of two consecutive nights.

“We got kinda scared. The big corporate monster was gonna swallow us up,” said lead singer Bono during a candid moment among 50,000 intimates, half an hour into the band’s two-hour-plus set.

Accompanied only by band mate the Edge, tugging gently at the strings of his guitar, Bono finished his brief tale. “Our plan was to eat the monster before it swallowed us,” he said triumphantly, sailing into one of his band’s many anthemic hits, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

WORLD’S BIGGEST ROCK BAND?

That title fits the superstar group at this stage, midway through an ambitious tour that opened in Las Vegas in April. U2 is vying for the title of World’s Biggest Rock Band, but it’s toying with its calling card — integrity — to get there.

And ticket sales, not as formidable as the band had hoped, are reflecting fans’ confusion. (A half-full stadium was projected for last night’s second show in Oakland.)

Artistically, the local installment of PopMart was a dazzler, but it ultimately felt as disappointing as an unjustified spending spree.

The talk of the tour has been the band’s enormous stage set, dominated by a speaker tower in the form of a towering yellow arch, looking exactly like half the logo of a certain fast-food chain.

At stage left stood a giant lemon, shedding its skin during the first encore to reveal an oblong mirror ball that served as a pod for the band members’ impossibly farcical return to the stage. High above the Coliseum skyboxes rose a skewered olive — a droll monument to phoniness. All of which seemed strange for a group that came to the rock ‘n’ roll table singing of the personal politics of humankind and political strife in Ireland. Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr. remain two of Bono’s favorite subjects, but you wouldn’t know it from the glossy merchandise.

Springing from the ashes of the punk movement in 1979, the band has been obsessed with American culture for a decade. Its last world tour, Zoo TV, was a compelling mix of high technology and a search for meaning. PopMart succumbs to the former.

Of course, the band reprised many of its yearning hits at Wednesday’s show — “I Will Follow,” “Pride (In the Name of Love),” “With or Without You.” But the set list was also peppered with songs from the new album “Pop,” an exercise in electronic dance music that succeeds well as ear candy but lacks in the memorable-song department.

BONO IN PRIZEFIGHTER’S ROBE

Band producer Howie B. set the stage with an eclectic mix of drum’n’bass and vintage soul-jazz, sampling M’s New Wave-bubblegum hit “Pop Musik” as the U2 foursome — the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton, drummer Larry Mullen and Bono in a prizefighter’s robe — entered the arena. Escorted through the crowd, the group mounted a walkway jutting 20 rows deep into the “floor”-seating section on the playing field.

“Mofo,” the first song, served notice that the band was determined to stand by its middling “Pop” material. True to U2’s earnest demeanor, the song finds Bono “looking for to save my soul,” but he’s looking for his answer in “bubble poppin’ sugar droppin’ rock ‘n’ roll.”

Besides obligatory performer close-ups, the images projected on the outfield-sized video backdrop included some neat stuff: crude animation clips, lava lamp visuals and a gallery of Warholian dead rock stars during the encore “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.”

Oddly, though, the unadorned walkway provided some of the show’s best moments, when the band distanced itself from its overblown concepts. Bono and the Edge joined there for an acoustic duet on “Staring at the Sun,” the biggest hit from “Pop” to date; later, the full band performed on the walkway in club- band style, lending welcome humility to “Discotheque” and a lovely reading to “If You Wear that Velvet Dress.”

Overshadowed amid the U2 hoopla was opening act Oasis, current deans of Britpop. In America primarily for these two U2 dates, the notoriously fractious band was on its best behavior, displaying the obvious arena-rock elements of guitarist Noel Gallagher’s songwriting to a half-full stadium at dusk. Oasis unveiled two new songs from a forthcoming album, including the promising “Be Here Now.” Singer Liam Gallagher dutifully trotted out all the band’s best- known sing-alongs — “Champagne Supernova,” “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” “Wonderwall.”

Midway through “Last Night on Earth,” Bono broke into a snippet from the latter song as a way of thanking his opening act. Though a karaoke version of the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” fell flat like a lot of U2’s campy ideas, Bono’s nods to other artists were refreshing. After the final encore — including “Mysterious Ways” and the moving “One,” both staples of the far superior Zoo TV tour — Bono closed with a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” “That’s for Jeff Buckley,” he said, acknowledging the recent death of the talented young singer who made Cohen’s song his own. Unfortunately, such genuine emotion was an aberration.

© 1997 The San Francisco Chronicle.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on June 18, 1997 8:46 AM.

June 15, 1997 - Edmonton, Alberta, Canada - Commonwealth Stadium was the previous entry in this blog.

June 19, 1997 - Oakland, California, USA - Oakland-Alameda County Stadium is the next entry in this blog.

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