From a heart-shaped stage, before a crowd only a few months removed from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, U2 delivered a memorable performance at Kemper Arena.
“We are humbled and proud to be playing in America at this time,” Bono said then, in late November 2001. The Star’s Timothy Finn reported that fans responded during the show with love and zeal: dancing, singing, waving arms and flags and signs bearing political and personal messages.
Nearly 16 years later, the Irish rock band will return to Kansas City in September, as part of its Joshua Tree tour, to play at Arrowhead Stadium. Tickets go on sale Monday and can be purchased at www.livenation.com or at Arrowhead.
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U2 first performed in Kansas City in 1981, about five years after the band was formed.
The music video for its song “Last Night on Earth” was filmed in KC in 1997, though the result was apparently underwhelming. A Star staff writer wrote in December that the band “tied up traffic for two days in May to make a forgettable music video.”
Here’s how The Edge, guitarist for U2, explained it:
“The name of the song in the video is ‘Last Night on Earth.’ And William (Burroughs) is the alien. They’re all afraid of an alien. And they’re all gathered around waiting for an alien to come. And this big light comes down and it’s William Burroughs pushing a shopping cart. And he saves the world, and that’s the gist of what they did. And I guess William is beautiful in it. And he ... started brandishing his cane and everybody ran.”
The Star has chronicled U2’s stops in KC through the years, here’s a quick look at some past performances, pulled from our archives:
1982, Uptown Theater
Songs: “I Will Follow”; “An Cat Dubh”; “Electric Co.”
Opening band: The Regular Guys
What we said: “The group’s music does not conform to labels and therefore must be judged on its own merits. Fortunately, U2’s music stands on its own.”
Roland Reschke, The Star
1983, Memorial Hall
Songs: “Out of Control”; “Two Hearts Beat as One”; “Sunday Bloody Sunday”; “Gloria”; “I Will Follow”
Opening band: The Shapes
What we said: “(Bono) is easily one of the most charismatic vocalists around. The lithe young man with the stand-up hair ventured into the seats during ‘Boy.’ He clambered up a pole into the balcony with the crowd’s help, where he completed the song using a wireless microphone.”
Joe Rassenfoss, The Star
1987, Kemper Arena
Album: “The Joshua Tree”
Songs: “Pride (In the Name of Love)”; “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”; “Sunday Bloody Sunday”; “I Will Follow”
Opening band: The BoDeans
What we said: “As arena rock shows go, this one was a doozie, but not because of stage gimmickry or a stunning light show. ... Things cooked because the frontman, who also frequently visited the rear of the stage to acknowledge beside-themselves fans, believed in what he was singing.”
Brian McTavish, The Star
1992, Arrowhead Stadium
Album: “Achtung Baby”
Songs: “Zoo Station”; “Mysterious Ways”; “Satellite of Love”; “Angel of Harlem”; “New Year’s Day”; “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
Opening bands: Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, the Sugarcubes
What we said: “The high-concept stage design included not only many huge video screens but also smaller televisions of all sizes that Bono swaggered through and around. ... Meanwhile, the screens flashed dizzying messages such as ‘Everything you know is wrong,’ and ‘Art is manipulation.’”
Brian McTavish, The Star
1997, Arrowhead Stadium
Songs: “MoFo”; “Staring at the Sun”; “Bullet the Blue Sky”; “Where the Streets Have No Name”; “Until the End of the World”; “Sweet Caroline”
Opening band: Fun Lovin’ Criminals
What we said: “The crowd bounced and sang along to the new songs, especially ‘Discotechque,’ which included a sample of “That’s the Way I Like It’ by KC & the Sunshine Band. ... The highlight of the show for one young woman was ‘Miami, ‘ during which Bono — dressed like Malcolm McDowell in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ — pulled her from the front row and danced tenderly with her.”
2001, Kemper Arena
Songs: “Sunday Bloody Sunday”; “One”; “Elevation”; “Peace On Earth”; “Walk On”
What we said: “At that point, the screens behind the band turned blue and the names of Sept. 11 victims — airline workers and passengers, firefighters, police officers — scrolled up and off the screen and over the walls and ceiling of Kemper Arena as Bono sang: “ ... One life, but we’re not the same/We get to carry each other, carry each other.
“The seemingly endless scroll of names continued as the band segued into a few bars of ‘Peace On Earth’ and then into ‘Walk On,’ a salve about hope and redemption that seemed trite and mawkish several months ago. The difference between then and now, though, is precisely why Bono’s farewell — ‘We love you, Kansas City’ — felt more than cursory and why that Beatles’ song fit so indelibly into this stirring and memorable night.”
Timothy Finn, The Star