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"People can't shock me with their capacity for evil -- or for goodness."

-- Bono

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U2 steals its own show this time

- June 30, 1997
by Jae-Ha Kim

"This is where we spent the cash you gave us," U2 vocalist Bono said, referring to the mind-boggling stage set while staring out at the crowd of more than 40,000 fans at Soldier Field. "You've turned us into a great big rock group."

The great big rock group kicked off its spectacular three-night stand in Chicago on Friday surrounded by a larger-than-life stage setup that included a 40-foot lemon mirror ball (from which the four musicians would emerge to play their first encore song, "Discotheque"), a 100-foot yellow arch that supported an orange basket-shaped sound system, a 12-foot stuffed olive atop a 100-foot swizzle stick and a collage of pop art images by Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring that were projected on a $6 million, 56-by-170-foot LED video screen (which may be sold piecemeal to sports stadiums across the country when the yearlong PopMart tour ends). Tickets? They went for $52.50.

But unlike their April 25 tour kickoff in Las Vegas where the eye candy overwhelmed the music, the Irish supergroup was ready for its two-hour concert this night. (They performed another sold-out show Saturday and closed their run here Sunday.)

They had all the kinks worked out and there was no hesitation in the performance, which was almost identical to their Vegas show.

The band omitted "Do You Feel Loved," replaced a Monkees cover with Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" and performed a reworked acoustic version of "Staring at the Sun." That piece featured just Bono and guitarist the Edge playing on a smaller second stage set up about 20 rows into the crowd, which included Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, Chicago Bull Steve Kerr, actors Robert Downey Jr. and Ashley Judd, and Judd's mother, Naomi.

As M's "Pop Muzik" rang through the stadium, U2 made its entrance from between the aisles of Soldier Field. There was Bono in a shiny, hooded fighter's robe (that he would wear later at the aftershow party in the Bears' locker room), shadow boxing his way across the stage. He was followed by a Fu Manchu-mustached Edge, bassist Adam Clayton wearing an orange dust mask that covered most of his face and stoic drummer Larry Mullen in classic rock 'n' roll black.

They confidently opened the show with "Mofo," which was laced with wild feedback. Next was "I Will Follow," their single concession to 1980 debut album "Boy." The fans cheered wildly when the Edge played the instantly recognizable chiming intro to the innocent, uplifting number.

Though the band has been making records for almost two decades, the musicians opted to concentrate on the new rather than indulge in nostalgia. But that's not to say that they didn't have fun with a few oldies. While their set list included nine cuts from their current "Pop" album, one of the evening's highlights was the Edge's campy solo turn at singing "Sweet Caroline," karaoke style. The guitarist appeared to be having a great time, punching his fist in the air and encouraging fans to sing louder.

There were a few awkward moments, such as when Bono invited a young woman on stage to slow dance with him during "Miami." Their stilted movements only detracted from the song.

And the vocalist hit a couple of rare, off-key notes on the evening's closer "One," which he dedicated to musician Jeff Buckley, who recently drowned.

"I want to thank . . . the people who have the funk and the spirit to be alive," Bono said earlier in the evening. Friday night, the feeling was definitely mutual.


© 1997, Chicago Sun Times.

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