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"I love to write, and that's what I'd do if I couldn't still perform. The deadlines are something I'd have a problem with." — Bono

Achtung baby, it''s U2 in Paris

- May 09, 1992


IN HIS goodie-goodie old days Bono used to sweep on stage clad in black leather and swathed in shades to treat his audience to a prayer. These days U2's lead singer is still in leathers and shades, but he welcomes himself to Paris in the bad-boy rocker tradition with 'The only problem with this city is you never get to bed.'

U2 kicked off the European leg of their 'Zoo TV' tour at the Omnisport, Bercy on Thursday night. 'Zoo TV', so-called in deference to Zoo Station in Berlin where the band made most of Achtung Baby. Its latest album, is both a set-piece for the album itself and a video extravaganza on the TV-addicted inner urban angst of the 1990s.

The show started with a sequence of songs from Achtung Baby - all shrieking electronic emotion and dark, despairing themes. The set, an electronic playpen of giant video screens and clapped-out cars in fluorescent colours, was a perfect back-drop.

U2 was at its best when taking Achtung Baby's angst to extremis. 'The Fly' was a wonderful whirl of raw electronics accompanied by a staccato sequence of words - 'Luxury', 'Chaos', 'Condom', 'Flower' - thumping on and off the videos. The pathos of Bono's voice thrusting through the electronics in 'One' and 'Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World' was eerily evocative of the individual's struggle to surface through the clutter of everyday life.

The only hitch was that there was little attempt to adapt Achtung Baby for a live performance. Most of the time this was fine. But one song, 'Mysterious Ways', fell flat sounding as though it sorely needed the support of the techno-toys in the studio.

This is ironic given that it was only when all the electronic paraphernalia was TSecpped away and band abandoned the electronic play-pen main stage for a small podium - and in the second part of the show, when it rattled through its old rocker numbers - that you realised how talented U2 really is. The crowd, which had howled its appreciation throughout, went wild, as if with relief, whenever the strobes were switched off and it could see the band clearly on the stage.

The real appeal of 'Zoo TV' was how neatly it illustrated its own message. A rock concert is, after all, the perfect platform to illustrate how individualism can be crushed by the mechanics of modern media, marketing and merchandising. At times U2 looked like victims of their own plot - as the cameras chased them around the stage to video them against their own videos and Bono, the singer who used to start his shows with prayer, splayed himself crucifixion-style across one of the biggest screens of all.

Financial Times. All rights reserved.

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