Believe it or not, I had never attended a concert until U2’s Vertigo Tour a few years ago. Somehow, I made it into my 30s without ever partaking in this aural right of passage. The concert was music and magic on a titanic scale, something more akin to a religious experience than entertainment. It was like going to church. A really, really loud church. And from here on out, all future concerts will be judged by that first one.
U2 is, without question, one of the finest bands of this or any generation. These four men, who have been playing together since they were teenagers, have a chemistry, longevity and blistering musical creativity nearly unequaled in the pantheon of music history.
If you have never attended a U2 concert, don’t despair. National Geographic has come up with the next best thing to being there: U2 3D, a completely immersive, three-dimensional experience that allows you to be a part of the Vertigo concert tour as it travels through South America.
In some ways, U2 3D is better than being there. Rather than being relegated to a single, solitary point of view, you are allowed – via the battalion of cameras and the magic of the 3D process – to leave the frenzied masses and soar over the stage or nestle in close with the intimacy of a lover as Bono croons or The Edge ferociously caresses his guitar.
The 3D is never gimmicky and rarely calls attention to itself. In some shots the band members appear as colossal figures, their instruments distorted and warping in size as the camera travels past them. In others, Bono appears to dwarf a crowd that looks one moment like a single, undulating entity and an ocean of stars the next. Rather than distracting from the experience as one might expect, the sensation only heightens the mechanical sorcery.
For the first time ever, U2 3D layers three-dimensional images overtop each other and even zooms in on action, pushing the limits of the technology in ways it’s never been pushed before. The film integrates textual and pictorial effects, plucking them off of the massive blankets of fiber-optic lights behind the band and tossing them into the audience’s lap.
If you think that Bono and his Third World causes are tantamount to blowhard sermonizing, stay away from this film. But if you find U2’s social critiques the vanguard of a new generation’s call to action, then Bono’s now famous and poignant sermons pleading for an end to war, for religious tolerance and for compassion for those perishing in Africa, will continue to excite and inspire. There’s a lot of Bono dogma here, but it is so organically integrated into the procession of music that it almost never feels out of place.
The musical highlights tumble one after another, 14 songs in all, covering the band’s earliest classics to their latest hits. From “Where the Streets Have No Name” to “Love and Peace or Else,” each song seems to gather exponentially in power and intensity. The band plays with passion and authority, feeding off of a crowd that crackles with palpable electricity.
U2 3D is the perfect synergy of music, technology and magic. When you can get as jaded a group as New York City film critics to rise in thunderous applause at the end of a film, you know you have made a tremendously moving piece of art.
© 2008 Brandon Fibbs. All rights reserved.
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