Opening Act(s): Sidewinder
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, Bad-Never Tear Us Apart, Staring At The Sun, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bullet The Blue Sky, Please, Where The Streets Have No Name. Encore(s): Discothèque-Staying Alive, 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.
This is the only arena show of the Popmart Tour, and somehow most of the Popmart stage setup including the gigantic screen fit inside the venue (the giant toothpick and olive were not included).
U2 Spirit in the Cathedral
by Michael Dwyer
“The job of rock’n’roll, if it has any kind of job at all, is to blow people’s heads,” U2’s Bono told a press conference at the Burswood Dome in the early hours of yesterday.
“It’s a hard call to turn a shopping mall or a supermarket into a cathedral but that’s actually what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to find the spirit in the machine, if you like.”
In a machine of U2 proportions, I frankly expected that spirit to be an elusive beast. But beyond the vast video backdrop, zany threads and giant mirror-ball fruit, it is a testament to the band’s own extraordinary faith, conviction and consequent power that their Perth concert was such a soul-stirring experience.
Popmart’s first stop in Australia was the most intimate of their year-long journey, playing to less than a tenth of the 120,000 punters they met at one recent South American gig.
The mind-blowing 52m by 18m live video and computer graphics which towered behind the stage remained the same. So did the immense, flashing arch centrepiece and the band’s outrageous encore re-entry, out of a giant spinning lemon which glided halfway down the arena before splitting open and spitting out the world’s biggest rock band.
But the state-of-the-art razzle dazzle was dwarfed by the power of U2’s songs and the overwhelming sense of community-and through that, hope- which came with it.
The message was as clear as The Edge’s pealing guitar licks: no amount of technology can overwhelm the spirit of a song like Pride, U2’s tribute to Dr Martin Luther King, or I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, a concise acknowledgement of the search for meaning of every man and woman.
With 18,000 voices raised in that direction, you can unplug the big telly any time you like.
“When we put this tour together we really wanted the music to be the centrepiece of everything,” The Edge said later. “Looking at the production, it might look like that was a big part of it but that tension between the size of the production and the fact that there’s four guys on stage was always something we were interested in working on.”
“I think on a good night the production just becomes a backdrop and then some nights-like the first in Las Vegas (last April)- we felt like we were struggling against it. But it was a fair fight.”
The guitarist won in hand-to-hand combat towards the end of the show when he stood alone on a small stage in the middle of the venue to perform Sunday Bloody Sunday.
The rest of the show was a firmly unified band effort, Bono in an assortment of daft duds playing roving vocalist to Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton’s deft grooves and cowboy Edge’s truly peerless, multi-layered guitar work. The sound wasn’t as pristine nor the reproduction as precise as Radiohead’s stunning Perth gig last week, but passion, humour and celebration came in spades.
Ample U2 classics like I Will Follow, Even Better Than The Real Thing and New Year’s Day sat comfortably beside the more complex material from last year’s Pop album, each with its own dazzling visual component assaulting the senses in humungo-vision.
On the day Australian troops prepared for war at the request of the US President, Bullet The Blue Sky assumed an awful gravity. Bono writhed along the catwalk between the stages under a stars’n’stripes umbrella, blown inside out, as the band - and Roy Lichtenstein’s exploding cartoon warplanes- hammered home the song’s portrait of trigger-happy America.
Where The Streets Have No Name ended the main set in epic style before two long encores. The good times peaked with Mysterious Ways, Bono’s self-parodying narcissism competing for giant screen time with Edge’s shuffling white cowboy boots.
U2 saved their most poignant message for last. “This is for Michael Hutchence,” Bono said as Edge fingered the exquisite intro to One. The gesture was loudly appreciated and the crowd sang with emotion as Warholesque images of different dead rockers flashed on the screen.
They gave way to a giant red heart beating beneath the McDonald’s arch, and then a multiple image of Hutchence as the band segued into the slow, brooding Wake Up Dead Man. As tears fell around the venue, U2 made a quiet, final exit to INXS’s ballad, Never Tear Us Apart. As Bono hoped, the PopMart had turned into a cathedral.
Asked about the surprisingly downbeat finale later, he was uncharacteristically reticent about speaking of his late friend. “This is his country. This is his house and we can’t help thinking about him when we’re here,” he said.
Popmart plays Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney before concluding in Johannesburg in April.
Despite massive box-office receipts, the band claims to be making no money (manager Paul McGuinness says it costs $370,000 a day, whether they play or not), but future tours will, in any case, focus on more important issues than Bigger and Better.
“I think they’re really bold and brave tours; and forward looking,” Bono said, “but one of the things we’ve learned is that songs actually travel great distances, faster than all the millions of diodes and pixels that we have on the big drive-in movie screen. I can see the songs connecting.”
“And for me, we’ve got to make a record that reflects where we’re at right now. And where we’re at right now is making very direct music, probabely to contrast with the circumstances of this tour. I think that’s where it’ll go for us and I imagine that’s what will happen on the next record.”
© 1998 West Australian. All rights reserved.