Bono Says Sarajevo Concert "Belongs To The Future"

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Pre-Sarajevo Popmart concert, September 21, 1997

Bono Says Sarajevo Concert "Belongs To The Future"

By Caroline Smith, Reuters

SARAJEVO, Sept 21 (Reuter) - In what is being billed as the biggest concert ever staged in Sarajevo, the rock group U2 is about to fulfil a promise lead singer Bono made to the city shortly after Bosnia's war ended in 1995.

The Irish group's concert in Kosevo stadium on Tuesday will be the first major pop spectacular in Sarajevo since the war ended and is already providing welcome relief to a people tired of politics and the memory of years under siege.

Bono used U2 concerts to attack Western powers for failing to end the war in Bosnia and celebrated New Year's Eve here with his wife Ali in 1995. He did not perform but promised to return and hold a concert in 1997.

"Don't worry, next time I'll bring the band," he said after arriving on a United Nations aid flight in December 1995, just a few weeks after the war ended.

In a telephone interview with Bosnian state television on Sunday, Bono said that if rock and roll music could be summed up in one word, it would be the word liberation.

"Music doesn't know political divides and music has a joy that ignores borders and defies borders even, this is what we've always stood for as a group."

He said he did not want to patronise Sarajevans by pretending to have a great message but said the whole U2 tour "extravaganza" would show "this is a cultural city for the future and this concert belongs to the future not the past."

Bono said the band could relate to Bosnia because of the long-running dispute in Northern Ireland between pro-British Protestants who want to be ruled by London and nationalists who want to create a united all-Ireland state.

"We come from Ireland, it's a small country and we have been divided also. We are trying to wrestle our world from the fools of the past and give it to the wise men of the future."

Kosevo stadium is being transformed by hundreds of workers, 450 of them just to build the stage and sound system.

An advance guard of 250 of U2's own technicians was due to arrive in Sarajevo on Sunday to help build the 30-metre (90 foot) high stage backed by a giant screen. Organisers said the group had invested $1 million to stage the concert.

Organisers have printed 45,000 tickets, which have been priced three to four times lower than anywhere else on U2's PopMart tour, but expect around 50,000 people to turn up, a spokeswoman said on Sunday.

Special trains will bring fans from across Bosnia and thousands are expected to arrive from other former Yugoslav republics Slovenia and Croatia -- Slovenes have been told they will not require a visa for the evening.

The inflow of visitors is likely to cause havoc around the city, reachable only on narrow, winding mountain roads which 60 U2 trucks will have to navigate to bring in equipment.

The organisational board for the concert groups most of the government of the Moslem-Croat Federation, which makes up half of present-day Bosnia, including the head of the country's collective presidency, Alija Izetbegovic.

Izetbegovic told Bosnian state television: "This concert...will not only be an event for Sarajevo but I could say without exaggeration it is an event for the entire planet."

Copyright © 1997 Reuters/Variety. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on September 21, 1997 4:40 AM.

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