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[S[econd only to personal redemption, the most important thing in the Scriptures -- 2,103 passages in all -- refers to taking care of the world's poor. -- Bono

U2 makes a zoo of Camp Randall

- September 14, 1992

by Tina Maples

U2 makes a zoo of Camp Randall

Massive tour matches stadium-sized ego, talent

Madison, Wis. -- If Tom Wolfe had been writing about rock stars instead of Wall Street players in his novel The Bonfire of the Vanities, he would have named his lead character Bono.

Bono, the lead singer of the Irish rock quartet U2, has set himself up as the master of his own self-styled universe on the bands massive, high-tech Zoo TV tour.

The catch is, its all a big joke. Take a little boob-tube-bashing here, add a send-up of Bonos infamous high-mindness there and youve got one of the diciest propositions of the decade: A simultaneous parody and exploitation of rock-star self-indulgence.

Sunday night, 62,000 people at the University of Wisconsins Camp Randall Stadium got the best of all possible punchlines. The set was big, but it wasnt better than the real thing: the band itself.

When Zoo TV was operating at full tilt, it was a dizzying rock spectacle beyond compare.

Four giant video walls, two multiscreen panels and innumerable TV monitors flashed a mesmerizing onslaught of images across a futuristic stage, complete with steel radio towers.

In the evenings most spectacular special effect, two crane-mounted, garishly painted and lighted Trabants -- among six of the obsolete East German cars on stage -- circled the lead singer in reverential orbit, like two star-struck UFOs.

Sundays concert wasnt a one-man show -- well, almost, but not quite. Fiery, guitar-driven anthems such as Sunday Bloody Sunday, New Years Day and Pride (In the Name of Love were driven by the raw force and expertise of guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. (who even finagled a little star break-out of his own, on an a cappella version of an Irish folk song).


Nor, despite its high-tech sheen, did Sundays show get too close to bell-and-whistle overload. Pacing was everything, and the band knew when to calm things down.

A full-barrel assault of lights, cameras and rapid-fire propaganda messages on Even Better Than the Real Thing gave way to gentle images of sunflowers and roaming buffalo on One, one of eight songs from last years Achtung Baby album. Some unpleasant audio flatulence aside, One made a graceful segue into an even gentler, solo-Bono version of Unchained Melody.

Bono made a similar transition during the evening. After two taut, energizing 40-minute opening sets by Londons B.A.D. II and the hard-core rap band Public Enemy, Bono and company emerged as distant and chilly rock idols with the distorted vocals of Zoo Station and The Fly.

This put-on chill dissolved as the musicians made the technology work for them on impassioned rockers and gentle balladeering (falsetto video duet with Lou Reed on Satellite of Love).

Best of all, the bands seriousness was tempered with sheer silliness. Sunday, Bonos choreographed but still convincing bouts of playfulness included an on-stage call to the White House (Bush wasnt available), a romp with a belly dancer who wiggled her way through a literal interpretation of (She Moves in) Mysterious Ways, and a tryst with a female fan, a champagne bottle and a video camera on Tryin to Throw Your Arms Around the World.

Bono personalized the show even more by moving the entire band down to the end of a second stage that jutted out into the audience.

One of U2s goals on this tour is to prove that its user-friendly -- a needed reminder after the off-putting high-mindedness that crept into the bands albums during the 80s. It wasnt an accident that the bulk of the songs that the band decided to perform on the intimate second stage -- Angel of Harlem, When Love Comes to Town and All I Want Is You -- were recast singles from the bands pinnacle of pretentiousness, 1988s Rattle and Hum.

Still, old habits die hard. For all he did to mock the poseur label, Bono couldnt resist reclaiming the rock-god pose near the end of the two-hour show. Re-emerging for an encore as a silver-clad Vegas performer, he kissed his own image in a mirror as a symbol of Desire, then went on to pay tribute to the ultimate Vegas king in his cover of Elvis Presleys Cant Help Falling in Love With You.

No doubt about it: It took an incredible ego to conceive a project as massive as Zoo TV.

What made Sundays such a satisfying experience was that the ego was matched by an equally incredible talent.

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