Skipping the family Thanksgiving of 1993

u2 sydney, Zoo t.v.Well, I didn’t skip it. I just didn’t go home to visit the family for one reason – U2’s Zoo T.V. Zoomerang pay-per-view concert from Sydney, Australia. My parents had basic television with rabbit ears and no cable. I had no chance in hell of seeing this in Iowa. I would’ve been stuck with no connection to the outside world for six days. Luckily, my aunt and uncle graciously let me stay at their place and have a run of the house just so I could tap into U2’s event. Thanksgiving Day of ’93, the day of the broadcast, had been almost a year and a new album since I’d seen U2 play live. Well, I did get a chance to tape the live broadcast of their final Dublin show a few months prior off local radio station WXRT and I was familiar with the set list, including Bono’s McPhisto character. Curiosity was killing me to see how the show had changed visually with the new additions. I was not disappointed.

As the concert rolled on that evening, I was on the edge of my seat, actually end of the bed, watching with glazed eyes and reminiscing about the show I had seen four times, one indoors and three outside. The Zoo T.V. tour, U2’s two-year road show for Achtung Baby, kept evolving as it hit different continents, which made the whole tour a very cool thing. The opening video montage focused on the EU, not George Bush, with the brilliant clips from Leni Reifenstahl’s Triumph of the Will film along with a cricket match, which got the crowd roaring leading into Zoo Station. We were on for a ride through one of the greatest touring spectacles ever produced for a stadium show and one that has been copied, in parts, by several other touring acts. Near the end of the concert, McPhisto’s, Bono’s devilish character created for the Euro part of the tour, spews a ranted recount of all that had happened during Zoo T.V.’s  lifespan of 2 years was the way for the tour to go out in style. His poetic spilling of headlines such as Bill Clinton coming to power, Yugoslavia’s turmoil and the NEO Nazis rise in Germany was in step with all of the video bombardment that hit us at the opening of the concert. It was if I was watching the curtain call for a long running Broadway show. Bono, actually McPhisto, tied it all up in a nice bow by telephoning a taxicab company for a ride home from Sydney’s football stadium. It doesn’t get any more rock n’ roll than that at the end of the tour.

The Sydney concert couldn’t have come at a better time for me. My spending Thanksgiving alone with U2 was going to aid me getting through one of my toughest parts of my life. I was battling depression set on by a girlfriend who left me flat added to the fact of my frustration of still working in a retail environ 3 years after college. They say rough times happen to all of us but I was hit hard and in the gut. I looked to my band, as I usually did back then, to help me through this traumatic time. My aunt and uncle were also there as well. They knew I was fragile when it came to relationships because they both witnessed my parent’s divorce when I was three years of age. I was now 25. In all fairness, I was getting back at my ex who had pulled the rug from underneath my life five months prior. My pair of custom painted U2 jeans was sitting in London waiting for U2’s return. The band requested my work in order to make a decision about a merchandising venture with me. I was a day late and a dollar short on tying the idea into this tour but still my work was in their hands and it was comforting.

In retrospect, the Sydney show truly was the end of the yellow brick road of this adventure U2 took the world on. The Zoo T.V. tour was so far ahead of its time that in this day and age of Twitter, Facebook and media blitz, simpler is better. Actually, the tour was a forecast of what was to come. Today, we are living inside Zoo T.V. as we were then watching it. It is strange how that happened but I feel that there’s a disconnect in life just as it was portrayed on those television screens and vidi-walls oh so long ago. In U2’s terms, it was a bookend of genius and something we will never see again. The band was on rare form.  Not that they have not been recently but creatively, this was their apex. For Bono to come out in costume would be to fill his prophecy of “I’m a tired old pop star in platform shoes.” Which is a fitting way for him to look at himself in the mirror long before reality told him. As for the history of this show, it will stand the test of time because it not only showed the passion of U2 but also gave light to their fans down under.

  1. Jason Andrew Lefler Reply

    I appreciated your remarks about the show in Sydney! My younger brother and I watched it with some friends at our place. It was a bittersweet time for me as well, but for one night, it was a great escape from things. Two years prior to this, I had been shocked by the aural transformation they’d made. It took awhile to appreciate the change, and just a bit longer to really love their new sound. Since then, Bill Flanagan’s U2 At The End Of The World has made me a bigger believer than I thought I already was. One question for you…do you know if the pay-per-view version of the Sydney show ever circulated on DVD? It’d be great to see the complete version with all the different angles and Trying To Throw Your Arms Around The World.
    Thanks again for your story and your enthusiasm!
    Lincoln, NE USA
    PS-were you at the Ames gig by chance? KC in October 1992?

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