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"Music expresses the inexpressible. All our songs are about that, about inarticulation." — Bono

Review: Zoo TV in Tacoma

- March 31, 1992

by Charles Cross

Guitarist David "The Edge" Evans recently told Bill Flanagan that U2's Achtung Baby is "a reaction to the myth of U2." At the end of their April 20 concert, I had no doubt this band was capable of deconstructing themselves, but I was left wondering if destroying-U2-to-rebuild-U2 is what either the band or their fans desire. The myth still sells concert tickets, which was why U2's two recent shows here were the biggest concert event of the year to date and in style and substance, it was a monster of a show. Featuring a wall of TV monitors tuning in cable TV shows at random, West (sic) German cars suspended from the ceiling, mirror balls and catwalks, the stage worked as a fifth member of U2.

If the look of the production was postmodern, so was the sound. Musically U2 began to reinvent themselves onstage from the first number as they courageously played eight straight songs from the new record. The sound was raw, melodic but confused - a fascinating new direction. Riffs and lyrics floated in and out of a song, just as video images clicked in on the monitors and disappeared just as quickly.

When the band left the new material, they were less focused and seemed to drift back to their myth. A short acoustic set on a small stage was an attempt at intimacy, and a cover of Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love" was chilling. This set was one of many of Bono's Elvisisms, inspired by the '68 Elvis comeback special. As the concert progressed Bono looked and sounded more like the King, wearing a gold lame' suit and calling the White House from the stage with a cellular phone. It was meant as a wry commentary but as the band started to blast out hit after hit from their Joshua Tree album, the irony was lost on the crowd.

The biggest applause rouser of the night and myth making at its best, was a brief video snippet from the photo session for The Joshua Tree. U2 played five songs off this release, perhaps as a prelude to the stadium tour they will mount later this summer.

After the obligatory encore of "With or Without You," the band ended the set with a moving "Love is Blindness," once again touching in on "Zoo TV." It was a confusing and unpredictable end - closing a predominately upbeat show with a song about death and loss - but it did more to tear down the persona of U2 than anything else all night.

The Rocket, 1992. All rights reserved.

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