Rains, apathy cancel U2 in Raleigh

If your holiday cookout got rained on, cheer up - it could've been worse. you could've been U2 playing in a downpour that seriously damaged your giant video screen.

That happened Monday night at Washington's Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. The stage set's huge screen will take three days to repair, so U2's Thursday date for Raleigh's Carter-Finley Stadium has been canceled.

Ticket holders can get refunds starting Thursday at Ticketmaster outlets. Promoters hope to reschedule the date, but it will be an iffy proposition.

"We cannot come to Raleigh because we are drying our television screen," U2 publicist Susan Rosenberg said Tuesday. "[The tour is] not coming at all at this point. We're playing North America, then Europe, then North America again, so maybe later."

One factor working against Raleigh getting a rescheduled date is that only about 20,000 tickets were sold for a stadium with a capacity at least double that for concerts. That mirrors the trend nationwide - big business in markets such as New York and Chicago (where shows have sold out and addional dates have been added), but little buzz out in the hinterlands.

In Denver on May 1, U2 played to about 30,000 people a crowd that left Mile High Stadium half-empty. And in Clemson, S.C., only 22,000 people showed up for the May 16 show at Clemson University's stadium, which seats more than 80,000 for football.

Undeniably, these are big crowds - bigger than anybody else is drawing on the road this year, with ticket prices of up to $52.50 (plus service charges). Still, it's hard to imagine that amphitheater-size crowds were what U2 had in mind when planning the "Popmart" multimedia stadium spectacle.

A similar fate has befallen U2's accompanying "Pop" - an album that certainly can't be called a failure, but that doesn't seem to have much legs. After debuting at No. 1 in 27 countries in March, it has quickly faded. It's already almost out of the top 20 in America, where none of the singles since the opening "Discotheque" have come anywhere near the top 10.

Perhaps the most telling U2 statistic involves the band's prime-time television special, which aired April 26 on ABC in conjunction with the tour's first date in Las Vegas. Out of 107 programs that week, the U2 show finished101st, according to the Nielsen ratings.

-From the Raleigh News and Observer - May 20, 1997-