Although U2 seems incapable of putting on a bad show, Friday’s performance here– the first of two shows at the venue, concluding Saturday–found the performers a bit under their usual high standards.
Appearing tired at times–perhaps because they’ve been on the road for seven months–U2 gave game but clearly tepid renderings of such standards as “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “New Year’s Day” during the course of the evening, failing to lift the crowd onto another plane, as is usually the case.
The set list Friday offered little surprise, largely following the script displayed during the band’s indoor dates at the Sports Arena last April.
But the big story on this night was the stage setting, which managed the seemingly impossible by topping the awesome display rendered indoors, a rarity on the concert circuit. Four video screens and 36 video monitors run by a crew of 18 offered some dazzling visuals, adding spice to every stage moment.
While the Zoo show is essentially about television, the visual images offered on the screens mean everything and nothing, a run of stock quotes, weather reports and philosophical statements augmented by rock video imagery and live stage shots of the performers. Eleven East German Trabant cars float around and about the stage, bedecked with lights inside and out and covered with artwork.
Heavy stuff, indeed. In case you missed the point, a silver-suited Bono ranted and raved during an encore version of “Desire” about the power of “television … television … television …” amid an explosive shower of phony money.
A small platform in the orchestra section at stage right served as a secondary launching pad for several songs in the show, highlighted by a full-band version of “Angel of Harlem.” Show also featured its now famous phone call to the White House, Bono exchanging a few humorous lines with a straight-laced operator for the crowd’s amusement.
As in the indoor version, the program front-loaded cuts from U2’s latest Island album, “Achtung Baby,” in the front half of the show, running a “greatest hits” package toward the end that started with an impressive version of “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” augmented by burning cross visuals, through “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” Bono preaching to the audience about its obligations in today’s election, a repeat of his springtime speech.
U2 wraps up its American tour Nov. 14 with a date at Anaheim Stadium. Band plans European dates in early spring.