Opening Act(s): Fun Lovin’ Criminals
Mofo, I Will Follow, Gone, Even Better Than The Real Thing, Last Night On Earth, Until The End Of The World, New Year’s Day, Pride (In The Name Of Love), I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, All I Want Is You, Staring At The Sun, Sweet Caroline, Miami, Bullet The Blue Sky-America, 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, MLK.
U2 proves it can Pop
by Jim Sullivan
FOXBOROUGH - Flying Elvis, the Patriots logo, was smiling down upon Foxboro Stadium last night as U2 played the first of two shows, a two-hour, 22-song rock concert before 52,000 fans on an ersatz Las Vegas stage, replete with one golden arch (burger anyone?), an overactive giant backing video, a towering swizzle stick and olive, and a bulbous lemon that became a spaceman’s pod near the end as U2 emerged from it and played “Lemon.” And, oh yes, they also played a Neil Diamond song, “Sweet Caroline,” sung by “Diamond” Dave Evans, a.k.a. guitarist The Edge. All in a night’s work for Dublin’s finest.
Lead singer Bono has been Bono Christ and Bonofly in the past. Now, he looks like Robin Williams in his Mork phase, and when he donned a bowler hat and spun an umbrella while strolling on the catwalk during “Bullet the Blue Sky,” well, it was one weird image.
Weird is, in part, what U2 is all about these days - along with their usual staples of spiritual and spirited. The idea of “PopMart,” as this tour has been dubbed, is not that unlike that of the “Zoo TV” tour in 1992: offer a barrage of bright images, a sensory overload, and utilize elements of kitsch and camp while singing songs of sincerity, emotion, and depth. It’s jarring to the old fans, perhaps, but it works. As does U2’s focus on techno - the rhythm-centered songs from “Pop” (they played more than half the album), a pulsing version of “Where the Streets Have No Name” that was closer to the Pet Shop Boys’ cover than U2’s original. U2 does not want to turn into the band’s own worst enemy, a a human jukebox spewing out identical reproductions of their eariler hits, a purgatory for so many veteran bands.
The show was preceded by riveting techno and then M’s “Pop Muzik,” which segued into U2’s “Mofo” and then a chiming (if truncated) “I Will Follow.” U2 entered through the crowd and up the catwalk that jutted a third of the way out on the floor. Bonoboxer came out, hooded, punching away; bassist Adam Clayton was dressed in Timothy McVeigh-issue prison garb; The Edge looked like a cowboy from the Village People or Erasure. Only drummer Larry Mullen Jr. looked, uh, normal.
U2 tried, but did not quite achieve, the warmth and intimacy levels of their “Zoo TV” tour - though they got closer near the end, especially during the gentle encore “One.” A problem, certainly, is that U2’s new music is cerebral, progressive, and dance-oriented, not like the arena-suited anthems of yore. And Bono’s vocal mix was not all it could have been; the lyrics were drowned out, especially during the louder, more clamorous songs.
The Edge was grinding and chiming away like one of Sonic Youth’s guitarists, and Clayton was holding down the melody. Slinky, sinuous stuff, but not fist-wavers. And though they cut down on some of the visual bombardment in places, the overall feeling you got was this: Watch the colors dance on the screen and try to pick out the ants/band members every so often. It was a pleasant shift when Bono and the Edge played an acoustic “Staring at the Sun” on the small stage on the floor.
Old stuff? U2 included “New Year’s Day,” a still-wondrous “Pride,” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” - as the beer stands shut down. Coincidence? Conspiracy? Also, a swaying “With or Without You,” and glam/trash rocker “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.” This year’s U2 is a mixed bag of tricks - and mostly successful in their juggling act of art and entertainment, emotion and artifice. You can fault them for overambition, but you won’t forget to dance. And you’ll love the spectacle of it all.
© 1997 Globe Newspaper Company.