One of the finest live bands around gives us a unique cinematic and musical experience, where the famous energy and the atmosphere of a great U2 concert is almost tangible. Shot with IMAX 3D cameras, this ingenious effort is perfectly realized and executed, in form of a 85-minute 3D concert film, shot in the course of 2 weeks at a dozen concerts all around Latin America in 2006, during the Vertigo tour, which supported their last studio album How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.
The band has wisely chosen the Latin American concerts, especially the ones in Buenos Aires, to be the place where the 3D film should be shot, because frankly, those crazy Argentinians are the best concert audience in the world. As Eddie Vedder had put it at a Pearl Jam concert in Buenos Aires in 2005: „I mean, no one sings the guitar parts, for Christ's sake!“. The atmosphere is very similar in this film – the performance of Where the Streets Have No Name is the closest that a concert film had got to experience the energy when that song is played. The audience is jumping and singing their hearts out, Adam Clayton coming out of the screen to steal my 3D goggles, Edge chiming that famous guitar riff and of course, everyone's favorite/most hated frontman, Paul Hewson, jumping around like he's still 20 years old. The moment where the audience comes in with the ooohs in With or Without You will give you goosebumps, I guarantee it.
U2's performance is flawless, apart from a priceless The Fly intro, where The Edge can't get that bloody guitar to work („I don't know how this thing is working!“), with Bono frequently asking „Where is the fly?“. I love these kinds of mistakes because they make the untouchable rock stars more human and it adds to the overall entertainment. Bono's voice is spot-on (it wasn't as great at the 2nd Buenos Aires concert where the majority of the footage was filmed, the concert was almost cancelled; the band had shot another performance in front of an empty stadium a couple of days back), The Edge holds nothing back with some great guitar work on New Year's Day, Bullet the Blue Sky or The Fly, Larry Mullen is his usual cold-blooded self, but the biggest surprise of the film (and the tour in general) is a playful and energetic Adam Clayton, who moves more than The Edge in the film, finally playing and looking very entertained at the same time. Bono is his usual self – either you love the guy or you hate his guts; you can categorize some of his movements, dances or speeches downright cheesy or preposterous (like him singing Luciano Pavarotti's part in Miss Sarajevo – hell, it doesn't even sound bad), or you can enjoy the man's charisma, which is undeniably there.
It's great that you can see the band so close, as you will never be able to see them at a concert, like seeing Larry Mullen's drumkit upclose, with a cocktail drink next to it or whatever the hell that was, the setlist in front of Bono, Edge's gear or any other details that a die-hard fan will enjoy for sure. The 3D effect is simply stunning because of the fact that the band and the audience seem very real, but also how close they seem.
I could nitpick about the setlist, and being the nitpicking asshole that I am, I have to. Why Until the End of the World, Mysterious Ways and Zoo Station are not in there (played at all these concerts), is truly beyond me. Those songs were ideal for this opportunity, because the sonically powerful Achtung Baby classics were the visual highlight of the tour and they would look absolutely fabulous in 3D (on the other hand, I'd like to thank the lucky stars that The Fly is in there – easily the highlight of the film). Otherwise, I didn't mind the greatest-hits setlist at all - after all, these songs are what drives the audience mad and pulls the energy to a whole new level. The effect is evident once you see the film.
The political subtext of the show is another factor that definitely isn't for everyone's taste. Here it is really pushing up the ante – someone could get bored of Bono's preachings very soon, but at least the message is noble. Anyone who knows a bit about U2, certainly knows that the political side was always a part of them and their best songs couldn't exist without that angle.
Since the film is cross-cutting between 10 concerts, there are moments where the audio is not completely in sync with the video. To all the sceptics – Bono ain't lip-synching, it's one of the few faults of directors Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington. Kudos to them for doing an otherwise really impressive work.
Whether you are a U2 fan or not, this film is made for the for the casual audience as well as for the die-hards. If you are interested in music in general and in 3D technology, this film is for you. Don't miss it.
P.S. Stay during the credits, there is an extra song playing. There is a message „a special thanks to Morleigh Steinberg“. This is the wife of The Edge. Their daughter got seriously sick during the filming of these concerts, causing to postpone the Australian tour that immediately should have followed the Latin American one. Kudos to the band for managing to create this atmosphere despite these circumstances and filming this. 2 years later, the fans have seen the film, the postponed Australian tour did occur to big acclaim and most importantly – Edge's daughter is cured.
Only one thing has yet to happen – U2 finally coming to Croatia. Maybe next year?