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"U2's records take a long time to make not because the band members are stuck for ideas but because they never stop talking about them." — Brian Eno

U2''s Las Vegas-style theatrics detracted from its music

- May 04, 1997

by Scott Iwasaki and Jeff Vice

SALT LAKE CITY -- You're never too old or too famous to learn something. Just ask U2, arguably the biggest pop-rock musical act in the world these days.

Perhaps taking to heart some of the criticisms of its past two world tours, "Zoo TV" and the subsequent followup "Zooropa" &emdash; especially the carping about the band playing too much newer material &emdash; U2 is at least doing a better job of sweatin' to the oldies these days, as it were.

But for some concertgoers the six "classic" tunes, out of 22 during the group's two-hour set, weren't enough.

"They really catered to the younger fans," said avid U2 follower David Wright, 30. "They didn't play a lot of their songs the older fans grew up on."

Another devoted U2 listener, Chris Alder, agreed.

"The new stuff is OK, and I think everyone, including the younger fans, can agree," Alder said. "But the new fans don't like the newer stuff as much as the older fans like the older stuff. And what's more, the crowd overall really rocked out when the band played the oldies."

Those "oldies" included "I Will Follow," "Pride (in the Name of Love)," "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," "Bullet the Blue Sky" and "With or Without You." Newer selections were "Mofo," "Miami," "Discotheque," "Staring at the Sun" (the band's sappy progressive-rock power ballad) and "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me," among many others.

Of course, there was still a major problem with the "showbiz" aspect of the group's show. At times the glossy stage show &emdash; which looked like a garish day-glo Las Vegas theme casino act &emdash; overshadowed what was actually a pretty decent set of songs.

The stage sported a 180-foot yellow arch, which housed a cluster of orange speakers, a huge stuffed olive skewered at the end of a 190-foot toothpick and a giant lemon that unpeeled to reveal a silly mirrored disco ball (with the band inside, a la, a David Copperfield magic trick).

"I didn't get the munchies from the marijuana smoke," Alder said. "I got them when I saw that (McDonald's) arch on stage. It was definitely Mickey D's in Vegas."

Let's not forget the silly faux Village People costuming, which featured vocalist Paul "Bono" Hewson as the Boxer, guitarist Dave "the Edge" Evans as the Cowboy, bass guitarist Adam Clayton as the Hazardous Material Worker and Larry Mullen Jr. as, well, the Drummer (unlike the others, he was dressed pretty much as usual). And, mercifully, Bono didn't resurrect his white-faced horny persona, Mr. Macphisto, at any point during the show.

But the Edge did have more to say this time around. He led the 30,000 people in a karaoke sing-along to the Monkees oldie "Daydream Believer."

Actually, such theatrics detracted from the music. The band could have still packed the stadium on the strength of its performance and without the glitz, which probably helped push the ticket prices to the exorbitancy plateau.

While U2 has been downplaying its politics more and more, preferring to write more personally oriented songs than their socially conscious early material, the same can't be said about openers Rage Against the Machine, whose members really wear their hearts on their sleeves.

Unlike their much more popular touring mates, Rage didn't need "no steenking" stage props to get the crowd excited. Instead, the L.A. quartet relied on hip-hop- and funk-inspired metal with a leftist political tone.

© 1997. Deseret News.

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