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"The thing that's most oppressive in our era is celebrity. And that's why people want to burn my house down. I think I understand that." — Bono



by James Houston

Let me preface my review by stating in no uncertain terms that U2 still rocks the earth. I had heard quite a bit about the format of the Popmart show and was really anxious to take it all in. The show was an event.

One complaint that I have heard throughout the tour from fans and media alike is that the band has failed to make an emotional connection with the audience. This wasn't the case in Philly, but the show did seem a bit disjointed. Let me clarify that. The music was tight and sounded unreal. However, the band jumped from stage to stage at various points in the concert playing only one (ie- Staring at the Sun) or two songs at a time. And some of the props (I am referring to the lemon) seemed to serve no purpose at all other than to allow the band to give a Spinal Tap-inspired middle finger to the idea of an "old" U2. It seemed a somewhat empty and cringe-inducing gesture to me. The song selection was also somewhat dissapointing. Bono and Edge played a shorthand version of "If God Will Send His Angels", "Miami" rocked at parts but was not a concert friendly choice in my mind and "Velvet Dress" was inexplicably chosen over songs like "Do You Feel Loved" and "Playboy Mansion". The combination of the hop-scotch staging and the odd song selection was the prevention of continuity and in turn momentum.

Visually the show was great. I don't want to dissect the differences between Zoo TV and Popmart. Popmart was different and great on its own terms, but not as visually overwhelming as Zoo TV (which was probably a sound concious decision). I would see the show again in a second, but hope that the lads "go away and dream it all over again" as was the case after the Joshua Tree tour.

All in all, Popmart was still U2. I just felt that (at least from the nosebleeds) you had to strip through a shitload of plastic, forced irony to get there. I think that the show was a bit of an overthink not bound together in any identifiable way -- except for the music. THAT is where the connection with the fans is made. That's what it all comes down to. The original hard left taken in creating Achtung, ZOO TV and Popmart took balls. They have deconstructed the old. The challenge now lies in the creation of something new.

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