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by Michael Snyder

I have been a U2 fan for some time, but this is the first time that I was able to see them live. Initially, although I like the album POP and respect the musical direction they have undertaken, I was concerned that U2 might lose themselves in the glitz and the glammer. As I walked into the Field, about an hour early, I was amazed at the sheer size of the stage, with the word "POPMART" staring back. I had heard that the show was sold out, and close to the band's debut, I could see that this was true. I simply could not believe the magnitude of people. I have been to several other concerts before, but none were of the sheer magnitude of this one. When Popmuzik started blasting and the spotlights shined on the entrance to the field, I felt a rush of energy. Just seeing the 4 absolute best musicians in the world take the stage was a memory.

The band did not play a very tight version of Mofo, but it still sounded strong. Bono is a man with a lot of presence, and great timing. He brought the nearly confused crowd (many I'm sure had not seen or heard from U2 since ZooTV) back to him with a great rendition of their first hit, I Will Follow. I thought, despite my initial fears, that the stage design, huge TV, and massive lighting were done masterfully and were actually enhancing the music. Even someone unfamiliar with the music had to enjoy this. The lights exploded on Gone, and the band played it beautifully, full of passion. When Edge started strumming out Even Better Than The Real Thing, they had the crowd for good, rocking the stadium. Edge, my favorite band member, was unbelievable this night. Playing Last Night on Earth led into Edge's masterful guitar on Until the End of the World. New Year's Day and Pride absolutely electrified the crowd. During the chorus on Pride, I couldn't even hear Bono singing because the whole crowd was singing so loudly. I was convinced that these were still the same guys who brought us songs like 40, Bad, and Sunday Bloody Sunday. Bono thanked us from the bottom of his heart. He told us to "take it to church" on ISHFWILF, akin to the R & H gospel version, and we did. I couldn't believe they brought back All I Want Is You, and I wished they would have played a more complete version. The acoustic version of Staring at the Sun was very pleasant. Edge's karaoke was a lot of fun, and the guy even has a great voice!

Bono's huge antics with a giant umbrella and a jazzed up beat to Miami was cool. I didn't like what the band did to Bullet the Blue Sky, taking the meat out of this 80's warhouse, but it fit in well with the show. About 8 giant spotlights pointing into the sky caught my attention. The rendition of Please left me nearly breathless, and followed into Where the Streets Have No Name, instilling me with a sense of nostalgia for their unbelievable music of yesteryear.

Time for the first encore. With neon lights, smoke shooting up from the stage, and a giant Lemon Mirrorball opening to reveal our fab four, this was overwhelming. Their presence was incredible, as was Edge's guitar on Discotheque. Although the crowd seemed not to take to this one, or the sultry If You Wear That Velvet Dress. But I remember looking over to my brother in amazement at Edge's riffs on Discotheque. Bono brought us back, however, with my favorite U2 song, With or Without You, beautifully done. Edge sounded like he just didn't want to stop playing this histrionic riff, and Bono added some new lyrics at the end.

That would have satisfied me altogether, but our boys from Dublin still had to rock the Field with Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, which actually sounded even better, more raw, than it does on disc. Edge was amazing, during the next song, Mysterious Ways, Bono actually bowed down to him as he went on a blistering solo riff. The enchanting music of One, perhaps the band's most solid performance of the night, closed out this chapter in the Popmart saga.

This is indeed the same U2 from the Joshua Tree era, with promos for Amnesty International on their albums. They have just managed to become more subtle and intelligent about the conscience messages in their great music. If you haven't seen Popmart yet, especially if you missed ZooTV as I did, go see it. It is worth the steep price. I know I'm going again!

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