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"I don't find interviews easy. All the introspection involved isn't good for you." — Edge



by Jovi


U2 had just kicked off their Popmart World Tour '97 last April. It was hyped as being the most expensive tour to date. The costs of keeping the tour on the road would amount to $250, 000 a day. I was fortunate enough to carry a ticket to their June 1 show in New Jersey. The sold-out concert was held in Giants Stadium, which had a maximum seating capacity of 54,000. The weather was quite cloudy, threatening to rain.

The enormity of the stage where U2 were to perform left me in awe. There was the 170-feet wide and 50-feet high LED screen. There was a 100-feet high arch in the middle of the stage that looked like half of the McDonald's logo. In the right side of the stage stood a 100-feet toothpick with a giant olive right in the middle. The main stage had a small extension that stretched farther out to a smaller area, otherwise known as the b-stage. All of these giant props along with the hype surrounding U2's Popmart tour made me very restless in my seat while waiting for the show to begin.

When the song "Pop Muzik" by M was being played in the PA, I knew that the show was about to begin. The band emerged from the audience on the way to the b-stage. Lead singer Bono, dressed in a robe with a hood, entered the stage punching the air as if he were a boxer. The rest of the band simply waved to the crowd then walked to their respective positions in the main stage. Bassist Adam Clayton wore an outfit with blinking lights, a constructor's hat, and a surgical mask. Guitarist The Edge had a cowboy hat and black clothes. Drummer Larry Mullen Jr. was in his usual sleeveless shirt and jeans. Everyone except Mullen was wearing sunglasses. As soon as they had their instruments at hand, they were ready to rock.

MOFO. The band wasted no time in giving the audience a sonic assault with this opening song from their latest album, Pop. Bono was quite energetic in singing this song, which was an autobiographical song that had references to his mother and his life.

I WILL FOLLOW. The band continued rocking the stadium with this classic hit from their first album, Boy. The song had a slower tempo than the original version. The band omitted the bridge portion of the song.

EVEN BETTER THAN THE REAL THING. This was a good reproduction of the studio version of the song from their Achtung Baby album although the tempo may have been just a tad slower. During the ending of the song, the giant screen had an image of the evolution from ape to man to a shopping cart.

GONE. The band put very much emotion into this song although I was a bit disappointed that they did not do the sharp wailing guitar sounds live. It was only a recording of that sound that was played as Edge was doing the rhythm part.

PRIDE (IN THE NAME OF LOVE). The band caught the audience off-guard by playing this song a bit earlier than expected, since this song used to be played towards the end during their previous tours. Nevertheless, it got the stadium to a complete frenzy with everyone getting out of their seats to sing and dance with this song.

I STILL HAVEN'T FOUND WHAT I'M LOOKING FOR. While the guitar intro was being played, Bono was talking to the crowd about his fascination for America, which the band first embraced 16 years ago. He said that the stadium was now a "chapel made of bits and pieces of America" before he started singing this former number 1 hit from their Joshua Tree album.

STAND BY ME. Bono started singing the first verse as the crowd began to follow him and sing along. When the crowd's voices picked up, Bono left the crowd alone to sing to an uncertain end. There were no bass and drums in this song.

LAST NIGHT ON EARTH. The band played this straightforward rocker from their Pop album. Bono seemed to either add new lyrics or made the scat singing portion of the song clearer.

UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD. The band played this song very well live. Bono and the Edge chased each other around the stage, with the Edge fencing with his guitar as Bono was taunting him.

IF GOD WILL SEND HIS ANGELS. This song was done acoustically by Bono and Edge on the b-stage. Adam and Larry had exited the main stage. Bono only sang one verse. Then in the next verse, he was singing "hallelujah." The song was very short.

STARING AT THE SUN. Bono and Edge were just strumming their acoustic guitars with no drums or bass. This song sounded very nice acoustically although there were some technical glitches. During some parts, there seemed to be some static coming out of the speakers. This song was also done in the b-stage.

SWEET CAROLINE. Bono left the Edge alone in the b-stage. Edge sang this Neil Diamond song videoke-style, with lyrics flashed in the LED screen. The stadium was suddenly transformed into a karaoke bar of more than 50, 000 people. This was definitely the funniest moment of the show.

MIAMI. This was one of their strangest songs. It was actually my least favorite song in the Pop album. But it sounded very nice live. There was an animated version of a windy beach being flashed in the giant screen. Bono also pulled up a girl from the audience to dance with him. He even lighted a cigar with her. He also added additional lyrics, "the sun shines east / the sun shines west / but the sun shines best in Miami / not in New Jersey." The last line gave the crowd a something to cheer about.

BULLET THE BLUE SKY. This song was reworked with a new funky beat that made it sound more like a Pop song rather than a Joshua Tree song. The screened flashed an animation of fighter jets firing missiles. There were also multiple rays of laser lights pointing to the sky directly above the middle of the stadium. The cloudiness gave those laser lights an even nicer effect. Bono was walking around with an umbrella that depicted an American flag.

PLEASE. Bono was really into this song as he was yelling "please" and was trying to get the crowd to yell with him. Adam's bass playing in this song was awesome. There was a part towards the end of the song when Larry kicked in to the beat of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" while Bono was shouting "please." It turned out to be just a tease because the band did not eventually play that song.

WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME. Bono was still yelling "please" when the synthesizer intro to this song played. The giant screen suddenly turned red. When the drums and bass kicked in, all the lights faced the crowd as they all shouted in unison to acknowledge their presence in the stadium. Bono altered some lyrics to refer to the dark clouds above the stadium that threatened to pour anytime as he sang, "see that rain cloud disappear without a trace." There was a part when Bono and Edge were sharing a microphone and they were both eye to eye. Bono gave the Edge a peck on the lips. It got the crowd in a frenzy. Just when I thought the song was about to end, a woman climbed up the stage. Despite attempts by security to stop her, Bono let her up and the band extended the song by doing an instrumental portion while Bono muttered the lines, "then will there be no time for sorrow / then will there be no time for shame." These lines were obviously taken from their song, "The Playboy Mansion". He kept on repeating the phrase "no time" until the song ended. The band then exited from the stage and the lights went off for their intermission.

LEMON (THE PERFECTO MIX). The remix of this song was played on the PA while the band was in intermission. Images of transvestites dancing flashed in the screen and that gave the crowd some mixed reactions. The song did not finish. It just faded away to make way for the grand entrance of the band. The 40-foot lemon in the right side of the stage shed its yellow cloth to reveal a mirror ball shell around it. The lemon moved towards the b-stage and the laser lights that were constantly being pointed to the mirror ball lemon refracted from it. The lemon then opened to reveal the band inside it standing motionless with their arms folded around their chests and their heads high. A staircase went to pick them up as they made their way down, ready to disco in the b-stage. This time, there was already a 5-piece drum kit in the b-stage.

DISCOTHEQUE. The lights in the stadium suddenly changed colors into disco lights turning around the whole stadium. The stadium really turned into a giant discotheque. I was amazed at Larry's mechanical drumming. The beat sure sounded like the album, and I thought it would be hard to play without some programmed drums or drum machines. But it was Larry alone doing the beat. During the "boom!" outro of the song, there were firecrackers that came off the unoccupied seats in the upper level of the stadium that was directly beside the stage. It was well timed because they went off whenever the "boom" segment occurred. It was simply amazing.

IF YOU WEAR THAT VELVET DRESS. The guitars sounded different from that in the album. The song, however, sounded great the way they did it. The band was flawless in playing it. Just like "Discotheque," it was played in the b-stage.

WITH OR WITHOUT YOU. This song was classic U2. The band was at their best in this song. The drumbeat was slightly different though. This was the last song the band would play in the b-stage. They made their way to the main stage after the song.

HOLD ME, THRILL ME, KISS ME, KILL ME. This was one of the highlights of the night. This song is easily one of their best songs to hear live. I am pretty sure that this song will be a regular concert staple for a while. There were some bats and cartoon images of the band as well as a Bono-signal that looked like the Batman-signal in the giant LED screen. Towards the end of the song, the screen flashed images of dead people such as Kurt Cobain, Liberace, Marilyn Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr., Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, James Dean and many more.

MYSTERIOUS WAYS. This is one song where the band seemed to have some trouble in. Edge's guitars were not loud enough at times and there was one part where Bono missed his cue to sing the chorus and he had to improvise. Bono struggled in hitting the high notes in the chorus too. Despite all this, the crowd was really into the song and this made the song far from being even just a minor disgrace.

RAIN. The rain never poured but the clouds were still so dark. Bono pulled off a curveball by singing this Beatles song. I'm not sure if he sang it alone or if there was a guitar. I'm pretty sure though that this was an impromptu thing not included in the setlist but was directed to mother nature that evening. It was a very short song.

ONE. Animated images of the late Keith Harring were being flashed on the giant screen during this song. It was a very poignant moment as the crowd put on their lighters for this song. This was a very touching song.

UNCHAINED MELODY. This was their last song. There was only one guitar in this song and no bass and drums. It wasn't done completely though. The "lonely rivers flow to the sea" segment was omitted. As the band left the stage, Bono's voice singing "I need your love" was still ringing in my ear.

The concert was well worth the 60 dollars my mom paid for. It was even worth more. It was a big show with big props to go with it. U2 put on a great show that night. The members of the band seemed to be in the mood for the concert as they frequently displayed smiles. Some downsides of the concert was that Bono's voice seemed to go just a little hoarse towards the end of the show and the Edge was not really pushing his guitar playing too far because he did not do many solos and improvisations. Despite all of this, it was still a great show, perhaps the greatest rock 'n' roll show on earth. But more important then the show was the music and the band still displayed a knack for giving their audience the music that has defined U2 for nearly three decades. In this concert, U2 proved that it could still transform a giant stadium into and intimate concert hall.

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