Performance notes: U2 botch Staring At The Sun the first time around and perform it again. At the end of Please, Larry plays a snippet of Sunday Bloody Sunday's distinctive drumming. This show features the live debuts of Mofo, Do You Feel Loved, Last Night On Earth, Gone, If God Will Send His Angels (only time a full band version is played), Staring At The Sun, Miami, Please, Discotheque, If You Wear That Velvet Dress, and Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me. Setlist and comment provided by U2gigs.com.
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Ah, the famous 'disaster' that was the opening show of Popmart. Yes it is bad in parts but I admired the band's attitude to see it through. Expectations were high and all eyes were on the band to deliver a great show.
Most of the new songs were undercooked, Mofo chugged along rather than rocked as an opening song being played close to the album version but sounding deflated. I Will Follow, a regular song absent from the band's shows since 1989 apart from a couple of B stage performances on ZOO TV was not the strongest return either and almost just a footnote to the previous song.
The flow of the set wasn't as smooth either as later shows of the tour, but come on this was opening night. The flow between songs was shaky, the older hits early on felt jammed in and although we hear first performances of Do You Feel Loved, Last Night On Earth and Gone sounding under-rehearsed, their is certainly a charm and rawness to these performances.
We then get to the infamous Staring At The Sun stop and start moment, over the years this has really been blown out of proportion as a 'major disaster', Bono started too fast and off tempo, it was soon fixed. I've heard bigger live errors on other U2 tours. The line "I'm feeling great but there's something missing" fits well into the context of this performance; there was something missing, I can't put my finger on it but the full electric version wasn't as potent as later acoustic versions.
Miami was actually one of the strongest performances of the new songs on this first show, leading nicely into a new arrangement of Bullet The Blue Sky. Please was next and an emotional highlight, not a bad debut either and some nice electronic percussion that was later dropped on the tour. There was almost a sound of relief as well as joy in the crowd's cheer during the opening of Streets, the circus was over for now and this was the band they loved without all the tinsel.
Then it's time for the lemon! Here it is, the big debut as it delivers the band down towards the B stage for the first performance of the first single from Pop.... it starts, the drums kick in as does the bass, but where is the Edge? He's looking for his peddle in the smoke! The guitar coughs into life eventually and honestly, it's a ropey version, despite the difficulties the band carried on through.
If You Wear That Velvet Dress is actually done well, it's a longer version more akin to the one on the album with a full solo. If you see the video from this show Bono attempts a slow dance with a mannequin which is... forgettable. As is With Or Without You. The band had rehearsed a 'hip-hop' version of this which although debatable, would have suited the mood and theme of the tour better here.
Next another debut of HMTMKMKM, not bad but not overwhelming either and at this very early stage still sounds like it needs more rehearsing. Mysterious Ways sounds like a filler at this late stage in the set and almost an after thought to squeeze it in somewhere. By the end and closing with One, you sense the band are tired and I guess relieved they got through it.
Very clear soundboard recording. There is also a 'pops and chops' bootleg of the show which is an audience recording and one I prefer but not as clear. Recording: Soundboard - 5 stars
For an opening night that went downhill pretty quickly, the audience are actually fantastic. Maybe dazzled by the new spectacle of Popmart enough to forgive some underwhelming performances but seem to appreciate the new songs.
To say this show suffered from tension would be an understatement; U2 were the biggest band in the world after ZOO TV, they were untouchable and in a position to be as creative as they pleased. The world was expecting a lot from this tour and this show was meant to prove that; it didn't. However, there is a charm to this and a bravery from the band that I like. They know it's falling apart yet they plough on through, they were still daring still challenging the mainstream but the music didn't match or transcend the impressive spectacle of the stage.
It's a show worth visiting, U2 are sometimes at their best when it seems they are at their worst.
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“Rock’n’roll’s always been about rebellion, hasn’t it? Elvis Presley in the 1950s and then bands like The Rolling Stones in the 60s with their long hair and their drugs. The trouble is it’s all become such a stock image. It makes me sick because if you start talking about anything else, like innocence or something, people don’t want to know. It frightens them.”
- Bono, 1979