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"[I]t's part vanity, it's part privacy and part sensitivity." -- Bono, on why he wears sunglasses

by Nathan

After having been blown away by ZooTV five years before, what could U2 possibly do to top it? That was the question I had as my Propaganda tickets came through and time ticked down to July 1. I had read about the tour strife -- the lack of sold-out shows, Larry's frustration with the musical quality, the lack of diversity within the setlists. This tour seemed to have more drama than any other U2 has embarked upon -- the early reports from Las Vegas was that U2 were rehearsing hard, but were fairly far behind. The Vegas show obviously wasn't what it could have been, and there was great curiosity as to how the band would wind up the tour -- with a bang, or a whimper. In my opinion, it was neither. While U2 played a great show, it was perhaps not quite the audio/visual blast they were aiming for, and certainly didn't top ZooTV.

My then-girlfriend, her sister and I arrived early the day of the show, hoping to see the band arrive -- but as I recall the boys arrived fairly late to the concert, the soundcheck having been done earlier using their road crew. They didn't stop for the fans, perhaps focused on the monumental task at hand.

Was pleasantly surprised to find that our Prop tickets were 9th row, giving us a fantastic view of the stage and B-stage. As this review is being written 7 (!) years after the fact, the only memories I have are really impressions...

1. Fun Lovin' Criminals being fairly uninspiring.

2. I remember the whole crowd looking towards the stage, waiting for the band. I had read about the show beforehand so knew The Entrance was gonna happen, and was one of the only ones looking towards the back as the lights swirled and the band came on.

3. The whole front section mobbing the stage after Bono walked up from the floor. We rocked out during "Mofo" and "I Will Follow," before security returned us to our seats during "Gone."

4. The reaction of the crowd to "Pride" and "Still Haven't Found" being raucous. I read in Rolling Stone after the fact that up until two weeks before the show, the band hadn't been planning on playing those songs, and it was Paul McGuiness who told them they needed to play them. Very wise, Paul...

5. Being STUNNED when the band launched into "All I Want Is You." The crowd was amazed as well. After hearing bootlegs of Bono singing the song solo during Zoo TV, it was great to hear a full-band version.

6. Edge singing "Sweet Caroline," and the whole crowd joining in ("So good! So good! So good!").

7. "Miami" and that silver-dressed dancer. Wow. She was quite popular, particularly among the camera men. I still remember her shimmery dress reflecting all around the stadium...

8. The three girls chasing Bono around the stage during "Hold Me, Thrill Me" being a bit distracting.

9. Bono and Edge sharing vocals on "Mysterious Ways," and Bono grabbing Edge's butt. A bit enigmatic, that...

10. The huge illuminated heart behind the band during "One." I wrote a small review where I coined the phrase "PopHeart," and was very surprised to see a live EP released later that year called "PopHeart."

11. "MLK" being a nice surprise.

After the show I remember thinking that parts of the show were brilliant, while at others that the spectacle had finally overwhelmed the music in a way it hadn't with Zoo TV. I wondered if so much of the frantic rehearsals had been trying to get the visuals to jive with the music, as opposed to focusing on the music first, visuals second. The setlist never really seemed to flow, but U2 valiantly soldiered on regardless, playing with fervor. Having said all that, I'm glad I went, but am thankful for the amazing Elevation and Vertigo tours that have come since then, tours designed to remind all of us that at its core, U2 is a band of amazing musicians, and amazing heart.

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