U2's Mega-Million Dollar Trash Fest

U2's "PopMarket" tour logo.

The U2

organization transformed Manhattan's first Kmart into "PopMart" Wednesday

morning (February 12), so that the group could make a mid-day appearance to

announce their worldwide "PopMart" tour, answer a few questions and

perform a song or two. The Irish band's tour begins on April 25 in Las

Vegas and covers North America, Europe, Japan and South East Asia. The band

also announced they would play Sarajevo (not for free, but for a low

ticket-price) later this year. Over 200 journalists gathered in the ladies'

lingerie department--amid Valentine-red satin nightgowns, robes, panties and

stuffed-animals--waiting over two hours for the band to appear. U2's

press

machine played out the discount-chain theme to the last detail: there were

"thank you for shopping at PopMart" signs on all the shopping carts and

"PopMart" signs all over the store. Even the roadies and several U2 handlers

wore red Kmart cotton vests. It wasn't too hard to distinguish them from

cashiers and salespeople (their Irish accents, beards and the cigarettes in

their pockets gave them away).

At noon, PopMart tour promoter Michael Cohl

(who has promoted world tours for the Rolling Stones, among others) of the TNA

Group took the makeshift stage and rattled off tour dates before introducing

the PopMart tour video, which featured computer-enhanced images of the tour's

stage design. The band's "supermarket sci-fi set" is made up of a massive,

21st-century- looking, 100-foot-high McDonalds-esque golden arch and Vegas-y

tributes, like a 35-foot high lemon-shaped mirror ball and a 12-foot

wide stuffed olive on a 100 foot tall toothpick...



As soon as the video ended, the screen showed the

band

entering the Greenwich Village store from the street, making their

way into the lingerie department.

When Bono looked around at all the

journalists, photographers and cameramen sitting underneath a disco-ball,

surrounded by tacky red satin and lace, he smiled and said, "This is what

happens when people do what you ask them to."

Then the band, whose new album, Pop,

will be released March 4, took the stage and performed "Holy Joe," a

techno-trippy tune on the B-side of the "Discotheque" single . Bono shook his

hips Elvis-style (admirable, considering he was wearing Prince-like high-heeled

boots); The Edge stoically played along (and worked his new hustler/Porn shop

manager look, complete with handlebar mustache, sparkly shirt and

brown-tinted aviators). Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, in their usual black

Euro garb, didn't look like they were embracing the American trash thing.

Bono

was, however, and when he finished singing, he wheeled a shopping

cart down the

aisle, and passed out red panties and stuffed animals to the press. It

was hard

to know what to make of this camp-fest. It was absurd, fun and pathetic all at

once.

Then the band got down to business and answered questions. Bono began

the question and answer period by saying, "Ask us whatever you want to ask us.

We aim to please."

Bono answered most of the questions (and even sat on a

few journalists' laps). The Edge also responded, but Mullen and Clayton barely

spoke. The band talked more about the tour then about their music. Here are a

few gems:

  • When an English journalist asked Bono, "Who's going to pay

    for this tour? It looks quite extravagant." Bono answered: "As Imelda Marcos

    said about her shoes, a million here, a million there, pretty soon it's big

    money. It costs a fortune to look this trashy."

  • "We still have the same ideas," said Bono. "We just look like we

    don't."

  • "We're like Kmart-- we try to reach as many people as we can," said

    Bono. "We're a multi-outlet-outfit ourselves."

  • In reference to the massive stage design: "We're making fun

    of playing in a large place," said Bono. "This is all window dressing. We hope

    people are coming to see us and hear the tunes."

  • "It's a luxurious position," said Bono. "We can afford to put on a

    show like this. It's an advantage to being stinko, to being U2."

  • After The Edge explained that the band is going to play eight of

    their new songs on the tour he said, "We

    don't want a greatest hits tour." Bono added, " 'Cause we don't have

    any."

  • In reference to their affiliation with Kmart: "Kmart aren't selling

    guns," said Bono. "We're amazed they let us in here. They've been very kind to

    us. We're not paying them anything."

  • When a CNN reporter asked U2 if the

    Kmart affiliation had to do with the fact that perhaps the band thought its

    music was "cheap, discountable and ultimately disposable," Bono said, "I agree

    with everything but discountable."

  • "No matter what we do, I'll always be

    the fucker carrying the white flag," said Bono. "We're still the bleeding

    hearts club. We still make painfully, sufferably earnest music. If we called

    Achtung Baby anything else we would have been hung. We're just good at

    disguising it."

  • Bono told the press that a U.S. concert ticket would

    cost $45--"like seeing the Knicks." Someone in the crowd shouted, "That's

    different," to which Bono replied, "Hey, to us it's the Superbowl every night."

    (After U2 left the press conference, Cohl and the band's manager, Paul

    McGuinness, said U.S. concert tickets would range between $52.50 and $37.50.)

  • "We're working with America Online but it won't be an exclusive deal,"

    said The Edge. "U2's presence will be on the World Wide Web." (In

    response to a question about whether the band will broadcast a concert on the

    web since they were the first band in history to have their single illegally

    downloaded on the internet.)

  • In reference to not working with Brian Eno:

    "It's cool, we're on good terms," said The Edge. "He called to say he likes the

    record."

    "He has a serious grudge against guitar players," added Bono.

    "Other bands go to art school, we had Brian. He's the art fag in us."

  • "When I listen to records by the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy, I hear the

    line all the way back to Robert Johnson," said Bono.

    Bono's camp-act seemed

    to make sense when he explained that U2 has no problem being a big band,

    putting on big stadium shows. "We're making fun of stadium shows," he said.

    "We're trying to make it fun."

    He also said the band "has always wanted to

    be this big-- as big as The Beatles, The Who and The Sex Pistols." He put

    on an

    American accent and made fun of bands who complain about their success and

    reluctantly "wonder how they got here." Added Bono: "We're making fun of bands

    who cant deal with it. By the time this tour is over, you're going to be sick

    of us."