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U2, ROARING TOWARD TORONTO

Avid U2 fans have been in their glory the past few months. The Irish band has released a new album, "Pop," made a prime-time television special and launched a tour, called "Popmart," of monstrous proportions.

On the first leg of the tour, U2 has been hitting many major North American cities before heading off to Europe. Because Buffalo isn't on the tour (though the band will be at the Toronto SkyDome in October for three shows), I headed off to New York City to watch Bono and the boys give a show at Giant Stadium. There, U2 showcased many of the songs from "Pop," accompanied by what is said to be the world's largest TV screen, a light show and a giant lemon.

"Pop" has been touted as a change from U2's usual approach to music. It encompasses far more techno sounds than any of their past work and has been met with mixed reviews by critics and listeners alike. The purpose of a tour is to sell albums, and Popmart's marketing ploy works. I came out of the concert liking "Pop" more.

The band opened with a series of "Pop" tracks. All the songs were high-energy and made even more interesting by the images racing on the huge screen in back of the stage. After plugging the new CD, the group gave the audience some of their old favorites such as "Pride," "Where the Streets Have No Name" and "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

The performance then took a turn to a series of ballads from "Pop." The recent successful single "Staring at the Sun," which I had first regarded as an Oasis knockoff, sounded great when sung by Bono and accompanied only by an acoustic guitar.

Additionally, "If God Would Send His Angels," the song most reminiscent of the tracks from the beloved "Joshua Tree," was performed well. The most impressive cut from "Pop," however, was "Please," a song that shows that Bono hasn't lost his vocal powers.

U2 played a half concert, half encore show. After the band left the stage, the giant lemon that had been sitting beside the stage shed its yellow cover to reveal a rotating disco ball. Naturally, the first encore was "Discotheque," sung as U2 re-emerged from the lemon and descended back to the stage. Other encores included classics like "With or Without You" and "One," right before Bono sung a single verse of "Unchained Melody" to end the night.

My only complaint was the absence of "Sunday Bloody Sunday." And there were times when I found myself watching the giant TV screen more than the performers, but the light show that coincided with the music was extremely suited to the show.

Overall, the audience was treated to an energetic and musically captivating performance. "Popmart" has been accused of being pretentious and overdone, but I wouldn't expect anything less from a band notorious for its political statements and biblical allusions.

Caroline Brancatella has just finished her junior year at Nardin Academy.

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