Leeds Popmart concert

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Leeds Popmart concert, August 28, 1997

By Simon Williams, New Music Express

U2 Leeds Roundhay Park

"... It isn't called PopMart any more. No sirree. For us Blighty bleeders who don't, like, comprehend the whole bally Yankee supermart/market concept, U2 have craftily updated their whole touring promotion and, according to the legion of posters smeared across the derelict pubs and shops lining the route to Roundhay Park, rechristened it PopSport. Oh, and there's a bloody big football on the posters as well, just in case we haven't noticed just how adroitly they've transferred their cultural allegiances from the US of A to the U of, uh, K. So there's this huge lemon, right. And the yellow skin peels away to reveal a sort of vast silver citrus-shaped disco ball. And then the ball trundles along this catwalk into the audience and then it stops and the top half sort of slowly lifts off and U2 are standing there and this metal ladder appears and the band walk down and all this equipment has suddenly appeared at the end of the catwalk and the band sort of launch into 'Discoth?que', like, in the middle of the crowd and it's just the start of the encores and, no ociffer, I'm pot nissed, it really, really did happen...

...As did many other things tonight, not all of them quite so jaw-droppingly amazing, but still pretty damn saucy. See, from the moment they dramatically appear stage-right and stride along an alleyway through the sodding audience to a final, carefree version of 'Rain' just over two hours later, U2 pretty much blow every conception of live performances and their alleged limitations out of the water. Light years ago, their cursed Red Rocks farrago (remember the white flags? The mullets? The manic bleat preaching?! Lawks!) catapulted the freaky foursome into the shameful realm of the rawk arena. Over a decade on, we have our own new generation of big stage bastardos, with Oasis, Blur, Radiohead and The Charlatans already booked into suddenly credible binocular-friendly venues before Crimbo. And rest assured that none of them will provide entertainment on a scale anywhere near as staggering as this.

The plot is pretty simple: for the old crowd pleasers (see 'I Will Follow', '(Pride) In The Name Of Love', 'New Year's Day') the theme is stripped down and euphoric; for the later efforts (see the majority of the quite literally tune-unfriendly 'Pop' album) the spectacle is all and, more often than not, utterly spectacular. And here's the rub. U2 used to be more substance than style Now they're more style than substance and represent older men getting to grips with younger people's dance-dazzled sounds. Somewhere in the middle you'll find PopSport in all its awesome, gizmo-grinning glory. "George Harrison says you shouldn't be here!" yells Bono, a man who obviously snorts the tabloids. "It's all big fucking hats and lemons!" It is, too, courtesy of The Edge's camp cowboy attire and one large bright yellow bugger stage-left, but when U2's retort is the gentlest of touches of 'My Sweet Lord' at the close of 'Mysterious Ways' you realise just how much they're enjoying this whole supposedly hard-nosed corporate touring fandango.

The highlights, then: Bono doing his traditional dance-with-a-girlie-from-the-audience act during a bionic 'Miami', and offering her a cigar; the cloud-bursting lasers for 'Bullet The Blue Sky'; the way in which Bono subverts all the Big Rock bollocks by dragging the crowd down into a 'Radio Ga Ga'-style mass clapalong; a stack of screamingly familiar genre-buggering songs which we haven't got time to detail because our minds are too busy being boggled by the cheeky, funky things in U2's life. And oh yeah, one other small-but-rather significant bit: somewhere in the middle of the set Bono and The Edge are at the far end of the catwalk with their acoustic guitars, duetting on 'Staring At The Sun'. Bono has already beamingly ordered the crowd not to laugh at his fretboard, uh, dexterity. In a few minutes The Edge will be striding solo on that same catwalk, bellowing 'Singing In The Rain'.

Throughout the entire experience fans will be waving flowers. Dads will be shouting along. Geezers will be hugging each other. Mothers will be clapping. Small girls will be quivering. And small boys? Hey, we all know about small boys and their jiving, jumpers for goalposts, right? Yes."

Copyright © 1997 New Musical Express. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on August 28, 1997 4:34 AM.

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