U2’s PopMart Tour stage featured an enormous golden arch (a dead ringer for the McDonald’s logo), a 40-foot tall mirrorball lemon, and the largest LED screen in the world.
If laid flat, Martians would have been able to
watch the concerts from outer space, while munching on their Mars bars.
The tour kicked off in April 1997, with the band now all in their mid-30’s
and seemingly improving with age. As well as becoming ever-more fearless. No sign of creaking bones yet.
As with Zoo TV, the idea was to rib pop culture and send a sarcastic message
to those accusing U2 of commercialism. However, it backfired somewhat.
Many were confused by the band's new kitsch image and elaborate sets, while
the delay in Pop's release (to actually fill the album with enough
songs) drastically reduced rehearsal time for the tour.
As such, performances
in some of the early shows were reminiscent of the fledgling four banging pots
in Larry’s family kitchen as teenagers.
However, the memorable Sarajevo
concert saved the day. U2 became the first major band to perform there after the
Bosnian War. Mullen described it as an “unforgettable experience”, while Bono called the
show "one of the toughest and one of the sweetest nights of my life."
Another sweet U2 career moment followed hot on the heels of the PopMart
Tour. A month after it wrapped, U2 featured on the 200th episode of The Simpsons, in an episode entitled:
“Trash of the Titans”. The show saw its star Homer Simpson disrupt the band in
mid-flow during a PopMart concert.
Overall, Pop went down about as
well as a tonne of lead balloons, forcing the band to once again retreat to
their castles in Ireland and
– and The Edge to purchase another 300 guitars – in a bid to reinvent
themselves once more.
To read the rest of this column, check out BC Johnny's upcoming book: Chilled Almonds.