Opening Act(s): Audioweb, Longpigs
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, Daydream Believer, 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, Unchained Melody.
The Times reviews U2 at Wembley
by Stephen Dalton
No one could have said that U2 resembled a band in crisis when their PopMart extravaganza packed out Wembley Stadium on Saturday. Perhaps in response to the tour’s lacklustre parent album, Pop, tour ticket sales have been sluggish and some shows even cancelled. But Wembley was teeming and the Irish quartet seemed ferociously keen to defend their title as the world’s most interesting stadium band.
While the band’s Zoo TV tour of four years ago felt cluttered with technological and intellectual baggage, the PopMart show is far more elegant and streamlined. The state-of-the-art stage design was a wonder to behold, calling to mind a Toys’R’Us superstore designed by Albert Speer, but it was never allowed to overshadow the musical content. U2 have learnt to accept that they stand by their greatest hits, and no longer seem in denial about the anthemic pomp of their past.
Underneath all the glitter and gloss, their show was therefore fairly conservative at heart, relying heavily on straight readings of such, windswept classics as New Year’s Day and Where the Streets Have no Name. The stadium remains the natural habitat for such epic constructions, and U2 delivered them with enough conviction to fire 70,000 revellers into a celebratory frenzy.
Unlike the Zoo TV experience, on this tour the presentation is the icing rather than the cake. Even the band’s much-vaunted conversion to dance music was barely evident, save for the triumphant encore of Discotheque which saw the four emerge from a giant lemon-shaped mirrorball. Guitarist The Edge donned a camp white cowboy suit and led the crowd in a karaoke version of the vintage Monkees hit Daydream Believer, while singer Bono modelled a selection of garish space-age outfits. But such theatrith=2touches were incidental to the music’s power.
Even tracks from the new album, the focus of indifference at early PopMart shows, sounded like they were integrating comfortably. The burly swagger of the recent single Last Night On Earth and Bono’s acoustic rendition of Staring at the Sun were both well received. The sole boring moment was a seemingly interminable segue of the new song Miami with the archive favourite Bullet the Blue Sky, both of them formless rumbles. Without the muscular drumming of Larry Mullen Jr to the fore, U2 can sound like just another stadium band.
Overall, though, the PopMart concept has clearly been honed to perfection. Perhaps U2 have been galvanised into action by poor ticket sales and critical maulings. Whatever the reason, Wembley proved just how dynamic and surprising a band U2 can still be nearly 20 years into their career. They might be on the defensive, but they are certainly not on the ropes.
© 1997 The Times.