Struggling U2 fall victim to pop market forces

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The Independent Online
U2, the Irish rock band, may be regretting the giant fruit that graces the set of their current PopMart tour of the United States. It is a lemon and it may turn out to be an apt symbol of a tour that appears to be struggling.

The evidence from ticket sales suggests that the band and its lead singer Bono, pictured, may not have the drawing power they once enjoyed. At least two concerts have been cancelled including one tonight in Philadelphia.

A three-night stretch in New York last weekend began well with a capacity crowd of 50,000 on Saturday. The lemon is part of a eye-popping set that includes a gargantuan VideoWall and towering McDonalds-like golden arch.

Even on that night, however, a few hapless touts were offloading tickets at half price. By Tuesday night the top tier of the Giant's stadium was mostly empty.

In other cities, it has looked even grimmer. The band played to only 27,000 on 1 May in a 60,000-seat stadium in Denver. On their last US tour, they attracted 53,000 fans in Denver. Tour insiders also report disappointing merchandising of PopMart paraphenalia.

The promoters denied yesterday that the tour, which will begin a British leg at Wembley on 22 August, is a flop. Arthur Fogel, president of the promoting company The Next Adventure, said: "When people see some shows fall short of sold out, all of a sudden they say the tour's in trouble. Nothing could be further from the truth."

The explanation for tonight's cancellation is that the gig would have clashed with a large Tibet Freedom concert in New York - at which U2 will briefly play. Another cancelled show, in Raleigh, North Carolina, was reportedly caused by damage done to the VideoWall by rain in a Washington DC.

David Usborne , New York

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