DVD: U2 - Popmart: Live from Mexico City
Label: Island Records
Released: September 18, 2007
Popmart finds U2 at their most bloated. The set is absolutely huge and probably has enough lights to illuminate a mid-size town. The grand entrance with the band entering as a boxing entourage heading to the ring of a championship bout (with Bono as the fighter) all set to the tune of M's "Pop Muzik" is about as over-the-top as it could be. They had costume changes. At one point, they return to the stage in what appears to be a UFO. With all this superficiality, how could they possibly connect with the fans?
Certainly, they could reconcile this show with much of their 90s material with its Eurodance angle, but they can't avoid their older selves, the more organic U2 that saved the 80s from synthesizers and hairspray. They seemed to falter on these songs at first. "I Will Follow" gets lost in the lights. "Pride," a song that usually gives me cold chills, doesn't resonate in the way it typically does. However, by "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," they start to scale back some of the extremes of the show and let these songs stand on their own, the way in which they were intended. From that point on, they seem to reconcile the sheer size of the performance with the personal nature of their music. When the crowd sings along to "Sunday Bloody Sunday," it's downright moving. When Bono brings a girl from the audience on stage during "With Or Without You," he might as well have brought the whole audience up. It was that kind of universal moment. And hugging that girl was in sharp contrast to how he played to the cameras early on. Sure, I could have done without "Lemon," but in context, it worked. They sandwiched "Please" between "Bullet the Blue Sky" and "Where the Streets Have No Name" as seamlessly as if they all came from the same album. The one big disaster is the credits rolling over the last song, "Wake Up Dead Man," and excellent and unexpected choice by the band, ruined by the producers.
Popmart probably finds U2 at just about their worst. Amazingly enough, the show was still phenomenal. They found a way to marry huge, contrived sets and rock star bombast with music that makes real human connections. They reached out and touched tens of thousands in a way that bands struggle to in clubs that hold a few hundred. While this might not be their finest moment, it leaves little doubt that they are the greatest rock band since the Beatles.