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"When you're in a band you can party much longer than anyone else in your generation can." — Adam

by Matt McGee

It's December 12, 1987, and U2 is finishing its Joshua Tree tour in Hampton, Virginia. That was a special show: Edge came out during the BoDeans opening set and played with them; U2's roadies dressed as the Dalton Brothers while the band performed "Lucille" ... Larry Mullen sang the Eagles classic "Tequila Sunrise" ... U2 played "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" for the only time that tour ... and so on. Safe bet the fans in the Hampton Coliseum that night struggled to describe what they saw.

Fast-forward ten years to December 12, 1997: The U2 of today is worlds away from the U2 that played a brilliant show in Virginia ten years ago, but the last show of the 1997 PopMart Tour in North America was just as special, if not more so. There are nights when everything works, and this was one of them. When it was over, we struggled to describe what we saw. This was my 8th PopMart show and my 13 U2 show in the past 12 years ... easily the best of the group.

The PopMart stage was christened with a six-foot Christmas tree sitting atop the arch. And yes, Willie and the crew had total control over when the lights on the Tree were on and off. The wait for U2 to arrive seemed to last forever; Smashmouth left the stage at 8:45 and U2 didn't arrive for a full hour after that.

Bono entered the stage in the traditional satin boxer's gown, but tonight it was red-and-white -- the boxing Santa Claus had arrived!

It didn't take long for U2 to start making this another special night. During "Even Better...", a handful of the band's roadies walked on-stage from behind Edge -- they were dressed in the same muscle-man shirt Bono was wearing! They strutted across stage, right behind Bono - great fun, nice play on the theme of the song. Not long after that, Bono changed a lyric during "Last Night on Earth" to "PopMart is slipping away." And during "If You Wear That Velvet Dress," the girl Bono usually dances with turned out to be bass technician Stuart Morgan dressedi drag with a wig on -- Bono figured it out when Stuart put a firm grasp on Bono's ass up on the b-stage!

The show took on a more personal note for me in between "Pride" and "I Still Haven't Found...." Bono was making his way toward the end of the b-stage, and he was in the midst of his standard "Welcome to PopMart" speech. He approached the edge of the b-stage and stood right in front of me and the group of friends I was with on the rail of the catwalk. Brad Grantham, who was standing next to me, threw his Santa cap toward Bono -- it came up short, but Bono had a security guy get it for him. He put Brad's cap on and looked our way, saying "And the Lord said 'Humble thyself, Bono.'" He let us shoot a few pictures, then tossed the Santa cap back toward Brad. Awesome moment. At another point in the show, Brad had yelled "I love you, Bono!!!!!" and Bono turned our way and said "I love you, too." Awesome moment. I will never forget the look on his face at these moments. It sounds corny, but there was a real give-and-take going on between Bono and the fans -- especially the fans who had gathered around the b-stage.

Later in the show, Brad and I were holding up a sign Brad had brought: "At least the rhythm section has hair" is what it said. As the band came down from the mirrorball lemon for "Discotheque", we held it up higher for Larry to see. Not high enough, though -- he saw us and motioned to hold it higher. When we did, he laughed and nodded his head in approval. Awesome moment. Brad tells me that later in the song, Larry pointed out our sign to Adam, who reacted in much the same way. I wasn't paying attention to see it, but I'll take his word. Awesome moment.

Need more? At one point while Bono was in front of us on the b-stage, he had security get a plastic contained of bubble soap from Anna Hight, who was about 3 people down the railing from me. It was hysterical to watch Bono trying to sing and blow bubbles with the plastic wand at the same time ... and no, he never quite mastered that feat. After a couple tries he held the wand in front of one of the local security guys, who managed to send a few bubbles into the Kingdome air. Awesome moment.

And if that's not enough, after the band finished "With or Without You" on the b-stage, Bono stopped halfway as he walked back toward the main stage. He pointed toward another group of friends and called for people to come on-stage. Wirelings Angie Inboden and Kelly Sichmann made it to the catwalk stage with their sign that said "2356 miles only to dance with you." Bono was trying to get back to the main stage, but Angie had one more item of business to handle: she put a "Wire tag" around his neck! Awesome moment.

Musically, U2 was as good as they've ever been and Bono's voice didn't miss a note -- a far-cry from the Mexico City show I saw on Showtime just 9 days earlier. As "Still Haven't Found..." came to an end, Bono started singing "Stand By Me," something he hadn't done in a while on this tour, but certainly not something new. What was new was that the entire band kicked-in and played a full version of the song, instead of just the lyric or two Bono has sung before at this point in the show. As always, none of us knew the lyrics to the whole song, prompting Bono to jokingly say "Just like Las Vegas" ... still, awesome moment. As "All I Want Is You" ended, Bono started singing, nay screaming "Never Tear Us Apart", which he'd done in memory of INXS singer Michael Hutchence since the last couple shows of November. I have never screamed so loud in my life. Awesome moment.

Bono was just as into this show as we were. The band played one of the most extended endings to "Please" that I've heard yet. It gave Bono plenty of time to twist and writhe on th ground as he hit the falsetto notes repeating the word "Please" time after time -- wrappin himself in an Irish flag that was given to him by a fan in the front row. He ended up twisted on the floor about a third of the way down the catwalk. Awesome moment.

Is "awesome-est" a word? No? Alright, the most awesome moment of the night was the last moment of the night. U2 still on-stage, Bono and Edge finished a fragile version of "Wake Up, Dead Man" and the band all came out to center-stage. They bowed and waved to the crowd, saying goodbye after almost 8 months on the road. Adam and Larry left. Bono and Edge said goodbye a couple moments longer. Then they started talking -- it must have lasted only 30 seconds, but it felt like forever while we wondered what they were doing. Sure enough, Edge went back for a guitar and Bono went back toward his mic. Edge started playing and it took a second to figure out what it was: "40" ... we sang and sang, and this amazing show ended the same way that show did ten years ago in Hampton, Virginia. U2 has something about end-of-the-tour shows ... don't miss the next one.

But the next one may be nothing at all like this one. While talking to the crowd, Bono came dangerously close to delivering another "Dream It All Up Again" speech like the one he gave in Dublin at the end of the Lovetown tour in 1989. "The next time you see us, things will be different," he said. "I don't think we can afford to do this kind of thing anymore!"

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