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We take quite a lot of photos where [U2] are laughing, but those don't get published. -- Anton Corbijn


by Sean Gates

To be fair, this was my first U2 show. Ever. That means I had a lot of expectations and dreams riding on seeing this thing, but let me say I wasn't disappointed. Not in the least.

Walking up the ramps in RFK to get to section 437, row 8, seats 1-4, everytime there was an opening out into the Stadium I'd catch a glimpse of the stage set; the olive, the arch, part of the world's largest TV screen. Funny that the seats in the stadium matched the stage set in terms of color; the whole place was like a rather tasteless box of crayons... now it was just a matter of sitting through the Fun Lovin' Criminals.

The Stadium was FULL. Through the opening act it was spotty, but as eight-thirty drew nearer more and more people drifted in, and as Howie B. DJed the place slowly filled.

There was only one bad point about the show. One, and only one, which is as follows. The world's largerst television was misbehaving. For the entire opening act, the far right side (the toothpick end) was not lit, and several squares of it were flickering. It was as if the screen was fighting a losing battle with a test-pattern.

I kept hoping and praying that it would boom to full, garish glory when the show started, but it was not to be. Most of it was lit at one point or another but you could see techies climbing up the back of it testing connections and God knows what else.

"So what do you think of all this shit?" Bono asked later, pausing to talk between songs. "Well, here we are in Washington. Last time we played here I broke me shoulder." He had a punch line, but I missed it beneath the screaming.

Damn.

All technical glitches aside, the show was otherwise nearly flawless. I'm sure the guys themselves would disagree, but from the perspective of the audience it went off well. You haven't 8d until you've heard a stadium full of fans screaming out the refrain from Even Better..."You're the real thing lo-ove." Right on cue.

"Gone," in addition to being one of my favorites from POP, rocked the house last night. And as the last notes died away, Bono spoke. "This is our church, made out of little bits and pieces of America. We go to all these towns, and at the edges of cities, and you see all these buildings that look so ugly in the daylight but so beautiful at night." Inviting us to come to church, he led a crooning audience through I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.

Miami sounded just right, and Bono picked the customary woman from the audience out by the catwalk. Dancing, kissing, kinky...Bono got one of those instant cameras out and took her picture as he sang "I took a picture of you.../getting hot in a photo booth." Let's just say this girl was DEFINITELY getting hot up there with Bono.

The light show with Bullet the Blue Sky was cool, and the animation of Roy Lichtenstein's mock comic-book Pop Art, the jetplane firing the rocket...well, you gotta love it.

Finally they got Staring at the Sun to work...they did it in a different key, and sort of let it be its own thing, and it worked out pretty well. It sounded different but it sounded good. And though Bono may have fudged the lyrics to If God Will Send His Angels, or cut short "Velvet Dress" (no pun intended) the show was great. And when that Lemon-shaped P-funk mothership cracked open and the band came out, as Bono lovingly let the opening lines of Discotheque float out across the stadium, I just couldn't seem to stop smiling like an idiot. Come to think of it, it was like that all night.

There were pyrotechnic explosions BOOMING at the end of that song, and another impressive light show, but the crown jewel of this show was one of my personal favorites: "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me." Containing little animated MacPhisto clips from the video and of course the MacPhisto symbol, what starts out friendly enough turns mean on you real quickly. As Bono gets to the "Kill Me" part of the refrain, Tomb Raider's gravity-defying heroine, Lara Croft, sprays the stadium with plenty of rounds, courtesy the TV screen. But the clencher was the end, the "Jesus" verse. Images of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Elvis Presley, Warhol's Marilyn Monroe prints, and even Kurt Cobain flashed across the screen at the end, and, well, tongue-in-cheek be damned, they made the point.

Well, the show was GREAT, and next time I see them (whenever THAT proves to be) I'm gonna try to sit down front, so maybe I can actually SEE that Bono and Edge are in fact, Bono and the Edge.

Even at the end of the night, weaving back through the streets where men had sold us $10 shirts and scalpers had just four hours earlier been running rampant, I cursed the mob of people and and pushed past the Transit Police into the Metro station. Later, crammed in a Metro train hanging on to the railing on the ceiling to keep the momentum of the train from making me fall on the girl behind me, trying to breathe, I had to admit, it had all been worth it.

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