Opening Act(s): Third Eye Blind
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, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bullet The Blue Sky, 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-Wake Up Dead Man.
U2 lost in Pop Mart
by Eric Siblin
Filter out the high-tech hoopla, the muddy sound and dubious new songs, a rock show of the highest order was struggling to be heard at U2’s Olympic Stadium extravaganza last night.
Ignore the towering McDonaldesque arch, turn a blind eye to the world’s biggest high-definition TV set blitzkrieging computerized animation, and avoid the industrial-sized olive atop a 30-metre toothpick … but who could?
Beneath it all, somewhere, was U2.
For those among the 52,000 fans who wanted to see more than four Lilliputian musicians making huge noises in the Olympic Stadium last night, technology blew everything out of proportion. Which was just as well, because with U2 every gesture is epic, every image symbolic, every sound anthemic.
Overshadowed by its own image, U2 rose to the occasion on about half of the setlist: the lacklustre songs from its latest album, Pop, leaving the crowd lukewarm; its tried and true hits having the desired euphoric effect: two concerts warring in the bosom of one show.
Bono, decked out in satin robe, shadowboxed his way onto a set that resembled an altar devoted to crass consumer culture. He unleashed the show with Mofo, a sluggishly metallic dance-club tune from Pop. “Looking for to fill that God-shaped hole,” sang Bono, as if acknowledging that the machinery of the song lacks soul.
The next song, I Will Follow, the band’s first real hit, hit the desired nerve and gave the crowd the oldie jukebox it wanted to hear. “Viva Bono,” declared the Irish singer in one of his many narcissistic flourishes.
At its best, the gadgetry was magical. When the band emerged from a gigantic lemon that doubled as a mirror ball, it was a magic trick that revealed U2 as Village People clones, a campy routine that lent itself to the techno-tinged Discotheque and all the ironic trappings of the PopMart tour.
Soundwise, the band’s signature songs were sometimes lost in murkiness, the vocals garbled and The Edge’s guitarwork losing its edge. Bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen held the core together. Staring at the Sun and Sunday Bloody Sunday were delivered by Bono and The Edge in an acoustic duet, understated but underwhelming; Simon and Garfunkle they are not.
Pride and With or Without You were memorable, reaching sublime heights, with the audience singing the song a cappela out of existence and the giant video screen playing riotous grainy colours that made everything larger than life.
“It’s always been a great town, city, country for this band,” said Bono. “Thanks for sticking by us.”
After four encores, someone tossed the Irish flag onto the stage, and Bono neatly folded the tricolour, taking it with him to the tune of Wake Up Dead Man.
For the true believers, it all came together in exquisite beauty.
© 1997 Montreal Gazette. All rights reserved.