U2 Unleash ‘Pop’

U2 Pop

U2 are a profoundly polarizing band. They are simultaneously easy to love (they make wonderfully glorious rock anthems, put on ridiculously great concerts and have been consistently good for 30 years) and extremely difficult to love (they’re constantly experimenting and circling back, and Bono’s politics sometimes eclipse everything else about the band).

Musically speaking, the band was probably at its most polarizing on this day in 1997, when they released Pop. After dropping the watershed album Achtung Baby in the beginning of the ’90s and embarking on a game-changing worldwide stadium tour, the group spent the next few years experimenting with just about everything. The odd, electronic Zooropa set the table (as did the truly odd Original Soundtracks, the album credited to the Passengers that was actually just a U2 record), but Pop was an entirely different reality for the group. With dance music making a bid to take over the airwaves and influencing rock artists left and right (even the Rolling Stones were sampling), U2 decided to go all the way with Pop.

The album’s first single, “Discotheque,” set the tone. It was essentially a club song based around a thumping disco beat that featured shimmery guitars and keyboards and nary a mention of a blue collar uprising. Instead, the group decided to party. Was it ironic? Perhaps. Probably. Actually, nobody was entirely sure. The rest of the album stretched even deeper into the dance music abyss (especially the house-influenced “Mofo” and the beat-mining “Miami”).

Pop became one of the most-debated albums of 1997 and holds an odd place in the band’s history (as in, they tend not to bring it up). Still, there were tremendous songs lurking under all that electronic slop — like the effervescent “Staring at the Sun.”

– Kyle Anderson MTV

Dublin’s Docklands Showcase a New, Hip Quarter

There is arguably no place more central to Ireland’s capital than the River Liffey, snaking its way through the city and dividing Dublin into north and south sides before emptying into the Irish Sea at the city’s edge.

This photo taken Feb. 26, 2010 shows graffiti covering buildings at U2's former Windmill Lane studios situated in Dublin's Dockland's area. Many of Dublin's most iconic sites can be found situated close to the River Liffey. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison) (AP)

It is along the Liffey riverbanks that many of Dublin’s most iconic sites can be found: the majestic Custom House, the quaintly preserved pedestrian Ha’penny Bridge, the Guinness Brewery. In paintings, postcards and memories, the riverbanks form the perfect microcosm of Dublin and its lifeblood, thriving with traffic, pedestrians and the buzz of the capital.

Many visitors to Dublin use the Liffey as a landmark to point them in the direction of major tourist sites. But that limits their riverbank wandering to the city center, from famed O’Connell Street down to the cobblestoned warren of the Temple Bar tourist quarter and nearby museums.

Those who venture farther, however, following the river to Dublin Port, will find a new, modern Dublin along the shore, replete with dining and entertainment options in a sleek, trendy setting. Mixed in among these neighborhoods on the north and south sides, they can also find elements of the old Dublin tucked away, along with memorials and reminders of the city and country’s rich history.

Following the Liffey on the north side away from the city center, visitors will come upon the International Financial Services Centre with tenants like KPMG and JPMorgan Chase. Adjacent to these financial powerhouses, however, is a beautifully restored building called chq — the latest incarnation of a former tobacco store with vaults underneath. Continue reading

Still the world’s biggest band adapts to changes, political and musically

Even while maintaining its status as one of the few musical acts that can still fill stadiums, U2 is struck by how quickly its world is changing – musically and politically.

Charismatic front man Bono, in a reflective mood as U2 closes the North American leg of its “360” tour, notes the different, more polarized atmosphere in the United States since the band performed its anthem, “City of Blinding Lights,” at President Obama’s inauguration in January.

“I didn’t think it could come to this so quickly, after the joyous occasion of that election,” Bono says in an interview on board the band’s plane, as they jet to another stop on the tour. “I thought America was looking good. … Things are getting a little rough now.”

Bono says he’s been in touch with Obama and is confident the president will deliver on promises made during the campaign, including the singer’s favourite issue: funding to fight AIDS in Africa. “The Obama administration is just getting going. (He) has promised to double aid over the next years, because even though (President George W.) Bush tripled it, … the United States is still about half as what European countries give as a percentage, and I think he knows that’s not right.” Continue reading

U2 lifts off in Atlanta

U2 Atlanta

Photo by Spun2U

Caroline Syverson, 14, was eating a sandwich, late Tuesday afternoon, before going to her first U2 concert, with her friend and her stepfather and her stepfather’s girlfriend. “I just want to see if Bono is wearing sunglasses,” she said. “And if he’s going to take them off.”

Just after “Beautiful Day,” four songs into a thunderous, nearly sold-out show at the Georgia Dome, Bono took off his sunglasses. Beads of sweat dotted his face –  a vein stood out in  his temple. “Thank you all,” he told the audience, “for helping us build this—madness.”

And then he gestured up. Above him, all around him, was the 170-ton, four-pronged stage, looking like a metal claw from the Planet of Giant Robot Crabs.

“Really, we built it to get closer to you,” Bono said.

Joke? Hard to know. Because the massive stage was engineered for stadiums and halls big enough to generate their own weather. How do you get close to 65,000 people at a time? Continue reading

U2 at the Millennium Stadium: ‘The best gig Cardiff’s ever had’

IT was one of the most eagerly anticipated gigs of the year.

And for 70,000 fans, it delivered on every count.

When U2 rolled into Cardiff last night for the last leg of their European 360 Degree Tour, they blew the audience away.

Taking centre stage and most of the audience’s breath away in the Millennium Stadium was the £20m set dubbed The Claw – which towered over the main circular stage.

As the iconic front man Bono emerged last night, clad in black and wearing his trademark sunglasses, the crowd erupted with delight.

The almost capacity 70,000 audience made it a record-breaking attendance for any gig at the stadium, outselling Take That’s 64,000 audience earlier this year.

After opening with Breathe, from the new album No Line on the Horizon, the band treated fans to a mix of their many hits from the last three decades and new songs from their latest CD.

Highlights included Beautiful Day, Mysterious Ways, Vertigo, Pride and One, as well as newer stand out songs, Get On Your Boots, Crazy Tonight and Magnificent.

Homage was also paid to The Edge’s Welsh roots, with Bono confessing to having once had singing lessons from the guitarist’s father, Garvin Evans.

“He told me to look after the consonants and the vowels will look after themselves,” Bono told the crowd, who lapped up his every word.

The Edge, whose family were in the Cardiff crowd, received a rapturous applause simply by saying “Cymru Am Byth”, before the band launched into I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For while the adoring masses sang along.

Of course, no U2 gig would be complete without a political message of democracy and freedom, and this was no exception.

The band dedicated their tracks Walk On and MLK to imprisoned Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu gave an uplifting video message before the song One.

Fans hailed the gig as possibly the greatest spectacle seen in the stadium’s 10 year history.

Martin Howarth, 25, from Swansea, said: “I’ve seen the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the stadium and the Rolling Stones but U2 were much better.

“They get such a mixed crowd because they have been going for so long. Some people knew all the words of the old stuff and others only knew the recent albums.

“You have to give them credit and say they are one of the best live bands in the world.

“I would definitely go back and see them again if they came to Cardiff.”

Lloyd James, 24, from Swansea, said: “It was unbelievable. I have never seen a gig like it before.

“The sound was fantastic and the stage looked immense.

“I’ve been to some pretty special rugby games in the Millennium Stadium before but the atmosphere was something totally different to those.

“It’s the best gig Cardiff’s ever had.”

Read more at WalesOnline

– WalesOnline.co.uk

Two decades after ‘Achtung Baby’, U2 rocks Berlin

BERLIN — U2 rocked Berlin on Saturday, returning to the German city where almost 20 years ago the Irish band came to reinvent themselves and make “Achtung Baby”, for many fans their best album.

“Thank you for coming to our ‘grosser party’ (big party),” singer Bono told a crowd of 90,000 people during a two-hour set in the Olympic Stadium built by Hitler in the 1930s. “We wrote many songs here in Berlin.”

U2 came in 1990 to get inspiration from a city undergoing profound change in the wake of a peaceful revolution that pulled down the Berlin Wall the previous November and brought to an end communist East Germany.
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The album that they came up with, “Achtung Baby”, marked a new direction both musically and visually for the group, and would go on to sell in huge numbers and receive widespread critical acclaim.

The video for the best-known song, “One”, was shot in Berlin with clips of spluttering Trabants, the archetypal Eastern Bloc car that also featured, suspended over the stage, in the high-tech “Zoo TV” world tour that followed.

The current “360” tour taking in 14 European cities before heading to North America includes an enormous spaceship-like structure straddling the stage flashing out graphics and lighting effects and blasting out a wall of sound.

The Berlin concert included a mixture of classic U2 songs like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Mysterious Ways” as well as new songs from their latest album “No Line On The Horizon.”

With Bono a prominent anti-poverty activist, the concert also had a political edge, with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for Nelson Mandela and a song dedicated to detained Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“This woman has been under house arrest for the best part of 20 years,” Bono said. “I would like to sing her an Irish lullaby.”

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.

Shaky launch for the U2 mothership

Bono and co are big rather than clever at the start of their latest world tour but the power they unleash is still awe-inspiring

Photograph: LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

Photograph: LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

Where do you go when you have already reinvented the stadium rock show twice over? U2’s answer, for a while, was to strip things back and play indoor arenas, the group’s music on both All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000) and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb (2004) reflecting the sense of a band retrenching and reconnecting with their core sound and their traditional audience.

Now, having released the transitional No Line On The Horizon, a semi-experimental album that divided critics and fans alike, U2 have returned with a stadium spectacular that is epic to the point of overwhelming. Not even the groundbreaking multimedia overload of the early 90s Zoo TV tour or the surrealist invention of the later Popmart extravaganza quite prepares me for the sight that greets me as I enter the packed and sweltering Camp Nou for the first date of the group’s much anticipated 360° world tour.

Imagine one of Louise Bourgeois’s giant spider sculptures redesigned by the art director of Blade Runner and you are maybe halfway there. And that’s before the giant sci-fi installation begins to light up and throb above a vast circular stage complete with extended walkways and bridges. U2 in the round is what we have been promised but the scale of the set, and the stage itself, makes me wonder whether anyone – even a group as vaultingly ambitious as U2 – could ever compete with it. My fears, as it turns out, are not altogether unfounded. Continue reading

U2 in space: further thoughts on tour launch

By Neil McCormick

Early on in discussions for the launch of the latest U2 tour, Bono floated the possibility that they would become the first band to play a gig on the moon. Larry shot that idea down however. He pointed  out that there would be no atmosphere…

Ah, the old ones are … well, not the best … but the old ones, anyway.

Ever since U2 blew the possibilities for live event staging wide open with their multi-media Zoo TV tour, they have been caught in a peculiar trap: how to satisfy audience expectations for hi-tech, cutting edge spectacle while rooting the experience in the very human, emotional contact with fans that is at the heart of their appeal. In other words, how to make it bigger and more intimate at the same time.

U2 360 is their latest attempt to reconcile these sometimes conflicting demands. It cost over $100 million to stage, and the programme credits run to three tightly printed pages. Purpose built for stadiums, it is effectively a stage within the stadium space. U2 play in the round, roughly in the centre of the venue, complete with bridges and runways, so that no corner is too far from the action, with band members able to move easily around, constantly interacting with different sections of the crowd. Towering over them, standing on four great legs, is a construction housing the lighting rig, speakers and (rising and falling) a vast circular ring of screens on which are displayed artfully integrated images. The whole thing looks like a giant alien spaceship, and the sci-fi theme is pushed throughout, with the band entering to the countdown from David Bowie’s Space Oddity and exiting to Elton John’s Rocket Man. They even pause proceedings for a satellite video link up with the International Space Station in orbit around earth, allowing for some typical U2 calls for global peace and love with a futuristic twist.

Read the complete blog post by Neil McCormick on Telegraph.co.uk >>

U2 open world tour with a bang

U2 kicked off their first tour in three years, rocking a raucous Barcelona crowd of around 90,000 and reaching for the stars with a live link-up to the International Space Station.

Featuring one of the biggest concert stages ever built, the U2 360 Tour will visit 31 cities across Europe and North America and entertain an estimated three million people. More dates are expected to be announced in 2010.

Fans surrounded the circular platform inside Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium, allowing for a bigger audience and lower average ticket prices during the global recession.

“All around Spain, all around the world, things are difficult. Thank you for coming back to us again and again,” Bono said during the high octane show.

The quartet, one of the world’s most successful acts, opened with Breathe from their acclaimed new album No Line on the Horizon, and the crowd came to life with the anthem-style Magnificent on a hot summer’s night. Continue reading