To highlight their very cheeky, kitschy Pop Mart stage show, U2's Hasta la Vista Baby! is a definite token, since the mega-world tour that supported the band's 1997 release Pop almost went bankrupt due to its heavy, star-studded production and high-end ticket prices. All the same, the fans still came out to join Dublin's favorite band on yet another whirlwind showcase of classic tunes and newer electronic cuts -- so by industry standards it might have been a disappointment, but the fans would beg to differ. Only available to those fans belonging to the worldwide Propaganda fan club, Hasta la Vista Baby! is vibrant and exciting, everything Pop Mart wanted to be. Mostly it's aimed at those fans who appreciate Bono's cocky stage antics and the band's classy interaction with the audience. That's what made them famous, isn't it? Well, partly. It's about the music first and foremost, and for a band like U2, a global phenomenon since the '80s, it's all about rock & roll. And on a live stage, they truly strut their stuff once more.
The album kicks off with the band's technotronic twist of M's 1979 cult classic "Pop Muzik," which leads into the thunderous bombast of "Mofo." This particular Pop track is riveting as Adam Clayton's signature basslines step up behind Edge's power riffs for an enigmatic show opener. Of course, the ever so timid Larry Mullen, Jr. and his drum kit shimmer away while Bono acts like his iconic self. That is exactly what the fans want anyhow: the gnarling grit and showmanship of a hearty performance. "I Will Follow," which is dug up from the vaults of Boy, is quick while still fashionable, but the passion behind "New Year's Day" gathers a crowd singalong for a dynamic moment. This may have been the time for U2 to show off its musical reinventions, but the classics could not be overlooked and surely wouldn't be by the band nor the fans. But it was also a time for the band to shine as a tight unit, 20 years on as best mates and as a musical family, so new songs are sweet and welcomed. The acoustic "Staring at the Sun" is touching, and the electricity of "Discotheque" sizzles with ambience, but the harmonic darkness on "Please" is a little haunting as Bono dedicates the song to INXS' Michael Hutchence, his friend and musical counterpart who had committed suicide two weeks prior to this show. Typically emotional and always supreme, only U2 could have composed such a tribute.
A contrast to their 1983 live album Under a Blood Red Sky, Hasta la Vista Baby! proves that U2 don't need the waving white flags and the revolutionary rage anymore. They look beyond that social chaos for a rock & roll good time, playing other hits like "Where the Streets Have No Name" and "With or Without You" so the fans who paid loads of cash to see one of the world's biggest bands wouldn't go home disappointed. Pure swagger was what it was all about -- U2 exuding a real rawness -- and Hasta la Vista Baby! illustrates the prevalence of this band. A sense of honesty is still present, and regardless of the band's creative monstrosities for this individual tour, this album depicts what a marvelous show it really was.