By: Cate K.
Thirteen years ago, my best friend and I had our lives turned upside down by PopMart. We saw numerous shows across North America, including the (admittedly bad) opener in Las Vegas. Thankfully, the show only went up from there.
For those of you whose U2 history extends only to 2000, allow me to enlighten: PopMart was the official tour for that unpopular-but-creatively-amazing album Pop, released in 1997. Eschewing longtime producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, the Irish super-band were seeking to experiment with their sound and, by extension, image. The 90s was really about play, and I still consider it one of U2’s most interesting creative periods, both sonically and live. Together with the sprawling ’92/’93 ZOO-TV tour, U2 have re-defined what is possible in live concert presentations, and proven time and again that smarts and popularity can go hand-in-hand.
Self-parody got a major workout with PopMart, what with a giant arch that ran over top of the stage (“Look! We’re products too!”) and the massive Warhol-esque screen that underlined the absurd nature of fame and celebrity worship. They wore colorfully tacky Walter Van Beirendonck outfits with faux-muscles, and there was a very-big lemon the band would come out of for “Discotheque”, a la P-Funk. U2 making the Mothership Connection? Hmm. Well, my friend and I thought so. Looking back, sure, it was overblown and ridiculous but then… isn’t rock and roll?
I love this clip for a few reasons, not in the last because I happened to be at Foxboro Stadium that particular night thirteen years ago. This vid rocks because it boldly, brilliantly showcases what is, to many, one of the worst songs U2 ever wrote; being the girl who foxtrots to her own rhythm, I just love it. “Miami” leaps from the speakers -be they tinny, phat, or somewhere mid-range –with its thudding bass, funky rhythm, and dramatic, scratchy guitars. It’s a very bizarre (and, dare I say, sexy) travelogue, and it is the brawling, bratty the opposite of what most everyone expects U2 “should” sound like. Hallelujah.
U2 were set to play Toronto last night as part of their latest mondo-tour. No lemon this time but a claw; no long, flat screen but a wrap-around one. And no songs from Pop thus far on the 360 tour. The Toronto date, along with the rest of the North American dates, were postponed at the end of May (owing to Bono’s crap back), thus I’m consoling myself with old clips. It’s fun to go back to see what came before if you remember their 90s shows, or, I’d imagine, if you didn’t get to experience either ZOO-TV or PopMart. The scale, the vision, the risk-taking -and the playfulness, really -are jaw-dropping, and so inspiring.
For those of you who dig U2, as well as their bouncy, loopy, mouthy lead guy, I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of the “Miami” live vid. Be warned, though: this isn’t the poverty-activist–workin-with-the-Arch–hangin-with-Obama–takin-care-of-sick-babies–damn-near-statesman you’ve been seeing (and possibly rolling your eyes at) the last decade. T his clip is playful and fun. And not a little bit naughty. If you’re offended by language, mind the first bit, where The Edge has to toss members of opening act Fun Lovin Criminals off the stage. If you’re offended by the very thought of Bono gettin’ down (in public) with a smirking (and brave) girl in ill-fitting jeans… hey, give it a go. Life is short.
And for DivaJulia, who just wants to dance…
Maybe once U2 decide on make-up dates for 360 they’ll have added a few Pop tunes to their live set. Please?
Addendum: Cate was never the “Miami” girl. Her technique with cigars, hats, and mimes is, however, stellar.