Someone recently said to me that there is a new biggest band on the planet, a K-pop group called BTS. The title of world’s biggest band is open to debate, for several reasons, but I will concede that there are currently several bands that could lay claim to the crown. What I will not concede, however, is the fact that U2 is still the best live group going. This has been true for several decades now, starting in the late 1980s, and for this reason, I have always loved U2’s promotional videos that incorporate live footage. Today’s subject is one such video, as it includes footage shot during the European leg of 1997’s Pop*Mart Tour. Pop*Mart is frequently maligned as showcasing U2 at their most self-indulgent. It was called silly by one detractor, but I think that a better word might be “spectacular”. One viewing of the live footage in this video for “Please” should be enough to change anyone’s mind, as it is of a passionate, emotional, and more-than-competent performance by the world’s greatest band at the top of their game. “Please,” especially, more than any other song that was regularly included in the set-lists from Pop*Mart, showcases one thing that U2 does better than perhaps any other band, and that is to make big ideas, concepts that span the national and international and even the universal, and make them personal and relatable for each individual who is listening. Ostensibly, “Please” is about the troubles in Northern Ireland, but when Bono sings the song backed by the other three members of U2, it becomes as much about internal conflict as it is about wars which are fought over territory and borders. Larry’s stuttering, militaristic drums, Edge’s chiming guitar, and Adam’s throbbing bass all combine with vocals from one of the greatest showmen the world has ever known to make “Please” a tour de force of both anti-war sentiment and the turmoil that exists in the human heart.
I love videos that showcase U2 live on stage because that is where they are at their best. Don’t get me wrong, I think that U2’s studio work is fabulous, and I believe that nearly all of their albums are masterpieces, reaching the highest point that the medium allows, but on-stage, in front of an audience is where the songs and the individual members of U2 really shine. This is due to several factors, not the least of which is the working relationship that these four men have formed over the past 40+ years, but it is also apparent that all four men in U2, especially Bono, live for that connection with the live audience. There is something special that goes off when U2 is on-stage together, and a lot of that dynamite can be attributed to the fact that Bono is desperate to win over the crowd. This has been true since Bono was a young man hanging off of the balconies in small venues across Europe, and it is still true today. All of this can be viewed in the performance of “Please” that was captured for this promotional video, and that is why it has been and remains one of my all-time favorite U2 videos.
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