ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, APRIL 19, 2001
Talk about a coincidence! Two hours before heading out to see U2 at GM Place last Friday (April 13), I was watching The Simpsons, the episode in which Homer runs for sanitary commissioner of Springfield because he doesn’t like taking out his own garbage. In a Homer-esque attempt to win votes, he infiltrates the backstage area of a U2 concert posing as a potato delivery man—the band’s Irish, right—and eventually gets dragged from the stage by four musclebound bouncers, while the supposedly kindhearted and nonviolent Bono promises the crowd that the obviously disturbed interloper will be “well taken care of”. Then Homer is seen on the stage’s huge bank of video screens, being pummelled by the goons while U2 performs the uplifting chorus of its 1984 peace-and-hope epic, “Pride (In the Name of Love)”.
Now, I wouldn’t have expected U2 to participate in a mainstream American cartoon that skewered its socially conscious stance so effectively. I thought the group was way too serious and self-important for that. But by the time The Simpsons depicted the band members bellying up to Moe’s bar, the cracks of their four asses showing, I was wondering where I got that impression of pomposity in the first place. And apart from their casual entrance onto the GM Place stage with all the houselights on—as if to say, “Hey, we’re U2, we don’t need to start a concert like everybody else”—there wasn’t much of a high-and-mighty vibe forthcoming. They just seemed concerned with providing sharp performances of their big hits and tunes from their latest CD, All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
As usual, the black-clad Bono put on quite a show, whether sprinting around the red heart-shaped runway that encased the stage or crooning along to the slinky “Mysterious Ways” while lying flat on his back. Other times he’d use his fingers to make horns on his head and then charge like a bull toward the Edge, who’d swing his guitar like a matador’s cape. After a rousing rendition of the 1983 hit “New Year’s Day”, Bono remarked that it had been 20 years since U2’s first Vancouver appearance, at the Commodore Ballroom. “Thanks for hanging around,” he announced, before dedicating the new CD’s “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” to late INXS vocalist Michael Hutchence.
As is common at U2 gigs, most everyone in the crowd stood up for the duration of the concert. My knees got a bit stiff during the two-hour-plus show, but I didn’t feel like yelling “Sit down, you’re ruining it for everyone else!” to 19,000 people. Besides, I could rest my butt and still keep tabs on things via the effective black-and-white video screens hanging up high. The only time I lost interest came during the 1987 B side “Sweetest Thing”, when it became clear that even a band as revered as U2 isn’t beyond filler. Bono and the boys more than made up for that substandard entry, though, with encores of the raging “Bullet the Blue Sky” and the beautiful “One”.