Is it time to re-evaluate U2’s Pop album and PopMart tour? Maybe.

Under the fluorescent lights of the near-deserted terminal, he looked like a neon ornament brought to life. Behind the sunglasses Bono could barely keep his eyes open as he filled in the immigration form. Twenty-one years on, it seems ludicrous that U2’s position as one of rock’s heavyweights could ever have been under threat. Okay, so maybe the Rattle and Hum film fell a little flat and the Zooropa album was…okay, but for the most part, U2’s trajectory brought them almost nothing but fame and acclaim. Over the years, though, opinions on the album have softened. Now comes this article in The Irish Times. Seven weeks into their most ambitious – and expensive – tour to date, the frontman dressed as a boxer was feeling punch-drunk from defending U2’s title as the biggest band in the world. Keep reading. But he was nonetheless exhausted – physically and emotionally too. U2’s imperial phase–that period of their career where they could do nothing wrong–extended from the release of The Joshua Tree in March 1987 through to the end of the touring cycle for Achtung Baby. The second sported a goatee and was dressed head-to-toe in a white cowboy outfit studded with rhinestone and topped with a vast stetson hat. Reviews were not good. One wore a silk boxer’s dressing gown with the hood up, his eyes concealed behind mirror shades. True, in places such as Edmonton – provincial, happy to be on the international touring circuit – the greeting afforded the PopMart tour had been as full-hearted as U2 had come to expect. How different it all was in 1997 as, in service of opinion-splitting new album Pop, they struggled against some of the most sustained setbacks of their career. Bono and The Edge had come straight from the stage at the city’s Commonwealth Stadium and were hastening towards a flight to San Francisco. Under pressure to come up with an album that could meet or exceed the standards of The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby, the band decided to immerse themselves in the emerging world of electronica.   They roll into Dublin’s 3Arena on November 5th for four nights, part of a blockbusting global trek which has to date grossed $106 million. There were many dead ends and false starts and the resulting album, Pop, felt…unfinished. Later, Bono was heard to say that he’d like to go back and work on the album until the band got it right. In 2017, the 20th anniversary of the album’s release, Rolling Stone had this re-imagining of Pop. The two Edmonton gigs had gone well – certainly better than an instantly notorious concert two months earlier at which U2 had stopped midway through a new song in order to work out to play it. (Full disclosure: I’m quoted here.)
A little after midnight on June 16th, 1997, two Irishmen walked into the US immigration pre-clearance facility at Edmonton International Airport in Canada. By late 1995, though, U2 had run into a roadblock. Billboard did the same.
Is it time to re-evaluate U2’s Pop album and PopMart tour? Maybe.