So I know we all love ZOO TV but can we talk about PopMart for a minute?
The bubble suit???
The banana bass
The camp cowboy glory of Pop Edge
Everything was shiny and sparkly and ridiculous and they gave no fucks it was beautiful
God bless PopMart
These are some of the most astounding shows in the history of rock and roll. The combination of spectacle, sincerity, technology, and heart has never been matched, and beyond all the ridiculousness, they ROCKED.
Even on the disco songs. LOL I first got into U2 before their first album, when they’d released a handful of indie punk singles in 1979 that were a glorious din. My (now) wife and I fell in love on the second row of a U2 show in an opera house in Boston in 1983. We honeymooned in Ireland in 1985 because of how much we loved these stupid fuckers, and it never crossed my mind that they’d reach their peak strutting out of a 20 foot disco ball shaped like a fucking lemon.
Did you know that PopMart stopped a war? It was just for one night, but it’s true. POPMART STOPPED A WAR. There’s an entire Wikipedia article about this one show in Sarajevo, and it’s actually really good. It includes background on the war, and the negotiated truce that allowed people to freely travel across borders and through armed barricades, as well as the magic that happened when Bono’s voice gave out.
Feel free to insert your own punch line, but there’s a terrific bootleg of the show, as well as a lovely fan video, and if you don’t cry all the way through that part of the show, you have no soul.
The things they did with ballads on this tour were unbelievable too. My favorite is the night in Santiago when they introduced “Mothers Of The Disappeared” by having mothers step to the microphone to SAY THE NAMES OF THEIR DISAPPEARED CHILDREN, an act of defiance that put their own lives on the line – my god, Bono is a fucking blowhard, but nobody has ever gone the distance that U2 has to really make a difference. You might think it’s not enough, but go ahead, do more, and then let’s talk.
This is breathtaking.
And they did it dressed in sequins and ridiculous hats and silly shades after they climbed out of a 20 foot disco ball shaped like a fucking lemon.
So many complete shows up online, too, and they’re all worth checking out. Here are a few of my favorites.
Edmonton, June 1997 is shot with a single camera, but it’s pro video (albeit sourced from VHS here) and good audio. They hadn’t gotten the show entirely worked out this early on, but it’s still terrific.
Sarajevo, September 23 1997, with the best audio from multiple sources edited together with fan video. Don’t sleep on this because it’s fan video and audio. This is a once in a lifetime experience THAT STOPPED A WAR.
Seattle, December 12 1997 is also shot single camera, consumer grade, but a strong show, the last US date for PopMart.
PopMart Live From Mexico City was recorded December 3, 1997 and released commercially, but here’s a playlist with all the songs. It’s really good…
…but here’s something even better – a fan-made compilation from Mexico City of best video sources (often much better angles than the commercial ones), and a 5.1 surround mix of best audio (and any bootleg fan knows that this can be MUCH more immersive than the smooth commercial versions)
Buenos Aires, February 6, 1998, from a TV broadcast
And the finale of the legendary South American run, Santiago, February 11, 1998, once again a playlist that puts together the entire show from a TV broadcast.
Also worth checking out: Dublin (Aug 31 97 – nice audio, nice tribute to Diana Spencer on her passing), Las Vegas (Apr 25, 97 – band nearly scrapped the tour after how badly this went – but who wouldn’t want to see THAT?!?, and the good parts are GREAT), Foxboro July 2 97 (again, the band didn’t have the show together yet, but this their US home away from home, Boston, near the 4th of July no less – not great vid, but terrific upgraded boot audio), and this nifty half-hour BBC special coming out of the 97 show in Rotterdam that also talks about the tour itself.
And while there’s no video, the soundboard audio from this Miami show (Nov 11 97) is one of the most electrifying boots I’ve ever heard.
I’ll be honest, I fell completely out of love with them when they turned their back on PopMart after this. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.
PopMart is one of handful of pinnacles not just of U2′s career, but of the history of human creativity.
God bless PopMart.