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Also disappointed: the best and worst of U2
on 20 November 2005
Like another reviewer I too found this DVD really quite disappointing. I was hoping for something that brought back memories of the show that I saw, in terms of quality of performance but it really doesn't arrive with this DVD.
There are moments in the first half of the show that are really quite dreadful: a lot of Bono's singing lacks his usual oompf or soul and is little more than gravelly shouting. He clearly struggles in places and there are occasions where the words just don't come out (literally in Elevation!) and he ends up apologising for having a frog in his throat. If he was ill then this really shouldn't have been first choice for the DVD.
Add to this the mix and it just sounds really, well, flat and lifeless - sometimes Edge doesn't sounds like he's plugged in, other times as another reviewer noted Larry's drums lack punch.
The crowd is useless! Despite being filmed over two nights, there's very little to indicate that they're even there throughout the DVD. When the view does shift to the audience, either from behind them or as a wide view, they're usually pretty lifeless. It is probably for this reason that, as another review notes, the cameras usally stick to the band!
Even the usual suspects for crowd cheer and happiness such as the intro to "Streets" gets, well, next to nothing! You have to feel sorry for U2 at moments when Bono throws the mic' open for crowd interaction and similarly gets little if anything in return (All Because of You), and especially for Adam when he does a lap of the ellipse (New Year's Day) to Bono's "Adam Clayton on bass guitar," and gets NO response.
They cheer more for having mobile phones than for agreeing that no child should go hungry. You get the impression in Beautiful Day that Bono too may be a little disgruntled when he says "beautiful day, for me anyhow" with a lack of his usual tongue in cheek.
Things look like they're picking up around "Love or Peace," which starts to look and sound like a U2 concert but this leads into a flat and sometimes dubious version of Sunday Bloody Sunday with, you guessed it, little crowd comeback. Edge seems to be belting out his parts almost as if to make up for it.
Thankfully all is not lost and the whole look and feel starts to change around Bullet the Blue Sky and Running to Stand Still. From here on it's like watching a different band, the energy levels pick up to what you might expect and Bono gets some of his usual bounce back. Full colour is resumed at Zoo Station and The Fly, though some crowd members look a little confused at this return to form.
The acoustic version of Yahweh is as good as I remember it, and with all four band members going to the tip of the ellipse to build the song up it's great.
The real treat comes with 40 at the end, with Edge on bass and Adam on guitar. It's a fantastic version with both Edge and Adam looking comfortable and smiling (at last!). The guitar parts are excellent, and this is the best part of the concert. Finally the production and the band seem to have found their feet and you feel like you're watching and listening to something splendid - a U2 concert! Even the crowd seem to discover themselves! Usually a U2 concert is full of special moments, so it's with relief that one creeps in right at the end.
As for the "deluxe" bonus disk, save your money. The documentary documents nothing worthy of note. If you like watching people queue, sing badly, a few minutes of people getting their tickets scanned, and then leaving the venue for too long then this is for you. Otherwise you'll find yourself wondering howwwwwwwwwwwww lonnnnnng, howwwwwwwww lonnnnnnng, must we watch this drivel before something interesting is presented? You get a much better idea of what goes into the tour by watching the odd clip on U2.com than this. Don't even bother with the surveillance cuts.
Sometimes rough, sometimes a bit barren, the odd special moment reminds you of something you're used to seeing. I'll be grateful if the next U2 concert release isn't another one filmed before a lifeless American audience.