Having seen U2’s sprawling Zoo TV concert in Arizona several months before, I was more than prepared for the outdoor stadium version when it rolled into Las Vegas in November 1992. Indoors, it was almost overwhelming, a barrage of multimedia technical effects, massive video screens and a lighting rig that reached up to the ceiling. The audio/visual frills worked in sync with a stellar set from the band, promoting Achtung Baby. It made for an intense presentation that left an audience of about 13,300 totally drained.
Fast-forward to a crisp autumn evening at Sam Boyd and a crowd roughly twice as large. As stadium lights dimmed, the audio-visual spectacle began with the same concept—on much bigger screens. Any lost nuance was offset by higher decibels and brighter graphics. U2 turned in a powerful set and made it look easy after having played more than 100 concerts over eight straight months of touring.
The Vegas show had something of a festival feel, and the band stretched out a bit by turning a few tunes into impromptu medleys that featured surprise covers. “Stand by Me” emerged from a lingering “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and “One” transitioned into “Unchained Melody.” Drummer Larry Mullen Jr. even stepped forward to belt out Irish favorite “Dirty Old Town.”
There were lots of local references in the barrage of video images, and an audio sample from broadcast coverage of a Nevada Test Site nuclear explosion. The Arizona concert’s biggest moment, the smoke-laden transition into “Where the Streets Have No Name,” lost some of its magic here, but that didn’t stop the masses from standing and singing along.
Sam Boyd’s parking being what it was in 1992, I headed for the exits as the band started into “Love Is Blindness,” the show closer for most of the tour. I hadn’t quite reached my car when I had one of those Vegas moments: As the song ended, the night filled with the strains of Bono singing a few lines from Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Good thing there was no roof.