Quality Not Quantity
U2 - Soldier Field - Chicago
June 27, 1997
First Appeared in The Music Box, August 1997, Volume 4, #8
Written by John Metzger
U2 paid a visit to Chicago's Soldier Field for three dates beginning on June 27. By now you have probably heard about the massive stage show that is in tow for this tour, and believe me, no description can really do justice to this display of excess. Just a few of the oddities in store were a 40-foot tall lemon, a huge McDonald's-like arch that reached higher than Soldier Field, and a monstrous screen that brought the band close to those in the worst seats. However, missing from many articles on the band is their reasoning behind this grotesque display.
Bono put it best as he explained where all the money collected from the high ticket prices had been invested. There once was a huge rock band, he said. They were scared of the big corporate monster. So we decided to eat the monster before it ate us. That they did, swallowing the MTV/sell-out culture and regurgitating it back ten-fold. It began with the Zoo TV tour several years ago and evolved into something so big, it will be quite a feat for anyone to top it.
The sound was spectacular throughout the arena, although I have to believe that those who paid scalpers for the "good" seats, lost a good portion of their hearing. From our vantage point in the back of the venue, we were able to fully take in the stage show, and all its computer-animated, three-dimensional imagery, while still hearing the band churn out a stirring selection of songs.
Opening with Mofo, the band drew heavily from latest album Pop, while mixing in a number of older hits in an attempt to hold the audience's interest. The second tune of the night, I Will Follow, was also the oldest selection performed, but seemed to fit right in with the remainder of the material. After all, the show was heavily critical of society's need to consume and its destitute habit of following rather than leading. Throughout the evening, Bono tried in vain to persuade the audience to put a higher priority on love rather than consumption. One particularly hilarious sketch projected on the screens depicted a shopper pushing a cart through a store and fighting with another shopper. Eventually, a gun is pulled, and the other shopper is killed. Meanwhile, the band tore through Last Night on Earth and At the End of the World as if to say: In the end, what good is all this stuff? Is it really worth fighting over?
After a haunting rendition of If God Would Send His Angels, which was abbreviated due to the huge amount of audience chatter, a mini-acoustic set was performed. This may be a premonition as to the direction that U2 will take. Staring at the Sun was brilliant as The Edge matched the passion in Bono's voice. The insanity continued with an audience sing-along to Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline.
But the crowd-favorites were clearly the big hits. Pride (in the Name of Love) became a huge sing-along that only added to the intensity created by U2. I wonder if the audience realized what they were singing about or were aware that Martin Luther King had once passionately addressed an audience in this very arena.
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For also became a sing-along. I'm sure that U2 has experienced this before, but the volume at which the audience was singing clearly impressed Bono. He carried the song into Stand By Me and left the audience to complete it. The song never concluded as the sing-along quickly dissolved without Bono's assistance.
Two encores, each consisting of three songs, closed out the show. The first encore began with a pounding Discothèque as Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen locked the band into a driving groove. But one of the best songs of the evening closed out the show. This was a powerful version of One that found The Edge's guitar soaring mightily to match the passionate singing of Bono. The band wanted to drive home the point that we've got to carry each other, not kill each other as we pursue love not products.
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Copyright © 1997 The Music Box