PopMart Tour

PopMart was a large stadium tour launched by U2 in 1997 that continued into 1998. By the end of the tour the band had played 93 shows, to approximately 3.9 million fans. The tour took U2 to visit countries in South America, South Africa, Bosnia-Herzegovinia and Israel for the first time. The tour itself was booked before the album was complete, which lead to difficulties rehearsing and a rough start to the first leg of the tour.

The tour was built around the idea of a supermarket and consumerism. The stage featured a 165-foot screen, one of the biggest created. A 100-foot yellow arch which supported the sound system, a giant olive, and a mirror ball lemon in which the band could ride from the main stage to a secondary b-stage. The tour would also give rise to U2's first website, U2popmart.msn.com, which was used to promote the tour, and occasionally to stream content from the tour. The tour is captured on home video in the PopMart: Live from Mexico City release, as well as on the fan club release, Hasta La Vista Baby and the PopHeart EP.

The tour was announced on February 12, 1997, by holding a news conference in Kmart in New York City, televised worldwide. The conference was held in the lingerie section of the store, and the band also performed a b-side, "Holy Joe" under a sign that said "Pop Group". Signage in the store also included "Yellow dot clearance" items for a low price of "U2.97." The initial announcement was for the 62 cities in North America and Europe on the first three legs of the tour.

U2 would take PopMart to numerous countries in South America, South Africa, Bosnia-Herzegovina and to Israel, their first time performing in those areas as a band.

PopMart: Leg One [North America]

The first leg of the tour saw the band going out on tour with a shortage of rehearsal, due to the time it took to complete the album. A number of the performances early on in the leg suffered in quality as the band continued to work out the new material and the flow of the show. During the opening night in Las Vegas, the band had to stop and restart "Staring at the Sun," and there were technical difficulties throughout, a performance which was being partially aired on ABC Televisions "A Year in Pop" special.

The dates for the first leg were announced February 12, 1997 at the Kmart press conference, with tickets for Washington DC, New York, Philadelphia, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston going on sale days later on February 15. Additional shows were placed on sale the following week. A presale was held through a special number, shown on VH1 the day before normal sales began. Tickets were also available by mail through the Propaganda fan club.

A show planned for May 29 in Raleigh, North Carolina did not happen. The show was cancelled due to damage to the screen, but some press speculate that low ticket sales also played into the cancellation, as low ticket sales had been highly publicized throughout the tour. Four other shows were listed in advance itineraries for the tour but are never announced, June 4th at Giant's Stadium in New York - a fourth show for that venue, June 6 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY, June 9th at Franklin Field in Philadelphia - a second show for that venue, and July 4th at Foxboro in Boston - a third show for that venue.

Production rehearsals for this leg of the tour ran from April 16 to April 23rd, with a dress rehearsal held on April 24.

PopMart: Leg Two [Europe]

The second leg of the tour saw U2 playing stadiums in Europe. The show was tighter, well rehearsed and starting to receive good reviews as well as larger audiences. In fact one show, at the Campo VOlo Airport in Reggio Emilia, drew a crowd of 150,000 people, and routinely ends up on lists of the largest concerts ever held. The second leg also saw U2 taking the tour to Sarajevo, a high point of their career. U2 had used satellite link ups to the city under siege during Zoo TV, and had vowed to play there.

The European leg of the tour was announced on February 12 as part of the initial announcement. Tickets for some of the shows went on sale on February 15, with more following on February 17, and additional shows added for sale throughout the month. Shows in Belfast, Madrid, Lisbon, Barcelona and Rome were not part of the initially announced dates but were added soon after. Sarajevo was also not part of the initial press release, but was mentioned as happening during the press conference. A show in Dublin was announced, but with no venues, due to difficulties U2 were having securing the venue.

The additional shows for Lisbon and Rome were announced on June 10, along with several changes to venues for other shows. Sleski Stadium in Chorzów, Poland was replaced with the Sluzewiec Horse Track in Warsaw. The Kaftatzoglio Stadium in Thessalonika, Greece was replaced with the Harbour Yard in that city instead. And Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv was replaced with Ramat-Gan Stadium instead.

A final show planned for the second leg never materialized. Itinerary books for the tour confirm that initially U2 had planned to play a show in Cairo, Egypt, which was never announced. That show would have occured on October 3.

PopMart: Leg Three [North America]

Leg three of the PopMart tour took U2 back to North American stadiums, opening with a show in Canada, and traveling to the US and Mexico as well. A full dress rehearsal is done on October 25 at the Skydome, the night before the first show of the leg.

The home video release for PopMart was filmed in Mexico, where U2 filmed both shows, and the footage from both nights makes up the home video release.

PopMart: Leg Four [South America, Oceania, South Africa]

The final PopMart shows took U2 to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and South Africa, countries they had never performed before, as well as to Australia and Japan. The leg started after Christmas in late January and ran through until March, with the band finishing up in Johannesburg.

The fourth leg of PopMart almost looked a little different. The band had intended to play Singapore on March 16, 1998, and this would explain the reference to far East Asia in the tour announcement which never happened. As well second shows were listed in itineraries for Santiago (Feb. 10), Sydney (Feb. 27) and Tokyo (Mar. 6) - none of these dates made it past the planning stages and none were announced.

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