U2

Popmart: Live from Mexico City [Video]

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U2's Zoo TV tour of 1992-1993 was something of a parody of a big-time rock outing, with lead singer Bono adopting various satiric personas and the stage dominated by cars and television images. When the band prepared to return to stadium work in 1997, it faced the question of what you do when you're once again embarking on a journey you've made fun of before. This time, the band dropped at least some of the tongue-in-cheek attitude of Zoo TV, while retaining the large-scale staging effects it felt necessary to put on a show in a large outdoor venue. The production's designers seemed to have been influenced primarily by the title of U2's new album, Pop; to them, that meant pop art, as in the artists Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Keith Haring, whose work was employed in the visuals, as well as their artistic sensibilities, built around utilizing cartoons, celebrities, and big washes of bright, garish colors. The giant stage was dominated by a huge arch that stood at the center, holding lights and, in a basket just below the top, presumably the video display hardware. The visual material was shown on a gigantic screen that formed the backdrop of the stage, rising 56 feet and spreading across another 170 feet. Beneath this, the bandmembers were dwarfed, often by their own images, displayed with various visual effects and in wildly unnatural hues. The dominant influence was Warhol's silk-screens of photographs of people like Marilyn Monroe, which actually turned up (along with a panoply of dead celebrities) during "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me."

In this two-plus-hour video, filmed on December 3, 1997, at the Foro Sol Autodromo in Mexico City, U2 showed that they had not entirely lost their sense of humor and certainly not their sense of spectacle, beginning the show by entering through the crowd to the strains of M's 1979 hit "Pop Muzik," Bono dressed in a hooded bathrobe as if he were a prizefighter, under which he wore a T-shirt emblazoned with a muscular physique. Guitarist the Edge sported a Western costume, complete with cowboy hat, looking like a lost member of the Village People with his Fu Manchu mustache; bassist Adam Clayton inexplicably wore a military helmet on his head and a surgical mask on his face to go with his white-framed glasses; drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. wore the same sort of sleeveless T-shirt he's been wearing on-stage throughout the band's history. Another comically stagey moment came at the start of the encores, which found the band emerging from a large, shining lemon to take a small thrust stage and play "Discothèque." All of this stagecraft threatened to overwhelm the music it was intended to support, which was a fairly straightforward U2 set mixing old favorites ("I Will Follow," "Even Better than the Real Thing," "New Year's Day," "Pride [In the Name of Love]," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," "All I Want Is You," "Desire," "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "Where the Streets Have No Name," "With or Without You," "Mysterious Ways," "One") with selections from Pop ("Mofo," "Gone," "Staring at the Sun," "Last Night on Earth," "Please," "If You Wear That Velvet Dress"), the former clearly received with more enthusiasm than the latter, although a good time appears to have been had by all.

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