Running to Stand Still

Photo by Matt OttoU2

Random notes scribbled on the back of an $80 faux-vintage T-shirt sold at the souvenir stand:

• I hate white people. And this was alllllwhite people.

• But I reallyhated the drunk old chick who kept slurring that U2 are "Duh greatesh band uh duh '80s, duh '90s, duh whole millenniumumum!!!" and who couldn't wait till Thursday so she could read this review. Sweetie, you just can't party like you did on the UnforgettableFiretour anymore.

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• The same stage setup as the Elevationtour, only the catwalk is more oval-shaped than heart-shaped and more decked out with neon/strobe hoochery. The same four-screen black-and-white surveillance-camera deal above the stage. And a giant curtain made of beaded lights, across which flash assorted video imagery. And what did Robert Hilburn say? "To make sure that nothing interferes with the message of the music, the band has eliminated the elaborate video screens and other flashy staging devices." Liar!

• Hey, there's Ed Arnold! Nowit's a party!

• Bono is wearing a bandanna around his head, making him look like fat Marlon Brando.

• "Sunday Bloody Sunday" into "Bullet the Blue Sky." Message: warisbad!

• Bono going on about Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream, "where everyone is equal under the eyes of God," "the journey to equality," etc. Lots of broad generalities, spouted like a master politician. But what does he think of the gays?

• Flags of the African nations drift down the beaded curtain during "Where the Streets Have No Name," then "One" preceded by more Bono speechifying about how "In the '60s, it was civil rights; now it's Africa." That plays better in Europe, but Americans don't care about Africa. Especially Africans with AIDS, which shouldn't be, but it's true.

• Bono during "One": "Have you come here to play Jesus?/Well, I did."

• "Zoo Station"/"The Fly." Quite good, actually.

• More broad generalities on the video screen: "It's your world, you can change it." Thing is, people do, they just never do it the way I wantthem to.

• "Elevation," "Mysterious Ways," some new song, "Vertigo," some other new song . . .

• More Bono: "Tonight, I sing this song for the Holy Father, a friend of the world's poor, a great wearer of . . ." Couldn't tell, but I swearhe said "fishnets."

• Oh, "40." Well, that's nice. Bunch of names scrolling across the screen. Assume they're victims of the Troubles, but isn't that kind of a dated topic?

• Then they leave the stage . . . andnevercomebackforanencore!And everybodystartsbooingwhen the house lights come back up!

• Turns out they diddo their encore tunes—they just never left the stage and came back to do them, which is really a pretty hackneyed ritual anyway. Still, people are pissed-off, to the point where they refuse to leave when the ushers tell them to.

• Not as good a gig as the Elevationtour, but not as flat-out wretched as the PopMart tour. So they've run out of ideas. Had the same feeling listening to HowtoDismantleanAtomicBomb, on which "Vertigo," a bodacious blast of lunkheaded arena rock totally inappropriate for U2, is the best song. REM ran out of ideas, too—except they keep making albums proving it. Maybe U2 will do what REM should've done and break up. Please?

• Did I really once camp out overnight outside a record store to buy U2 tickets?

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