360 At The Rose Bowl

Day number 360 of the year, what else could I talk about today? One of the wildest extravaganzas in U2 history, but in an over the top way rather than a crazy ridiculous over the top way like say Popmart or Zoo TV were. I was driving into the Los Angeles airport a week ago and saw their oddly-shaped building in front, and immediately thought back to 360, to the Claw, and remembered that the building was a design inspiration for the stage. Yet another of those things where the band pops up when you least expect them.

U2 360 At The Rose Bowl was a great show. I remember watching it online the night it was on, it was a huge success as an online show. Wikipedia says that 10 million people watched the show online, which is an astounding number. I loved the show from start to finish, as I did when I saw it live in person. I must admit that it was a different experience in those days, seeing a couple of shows live and one online, vs seeing most of the tour online. Yes, kids, it wasn’t that long ago when you couldn’t watch every single show. And get off my lawn.

I never figured out why Breathe was cut from the DVD, when it was the original opener for the show. Given that Breathe was my favorite song from the album, that was very disappointing. As for the rest of it, there is a surprising correlation between the show and the current tour, roughly half of the songs have been repeated on a regular basis this year. I guess I shouldn’t say surprising, they are the standards, the songs that the band pretty much has to play each time since they are expected by the fans these days. Maybe I should therefore be surprised that they managed to get so many of the songs off the new album into the show.

And again, this is the first experience of seeing many of these songs live, watching them on this tour. I remember seeing some bootlegs of I’ll Go Crazy, and realizing that they were playing it in an entirely different manner than what was on the album. Then going to the show and seeing that version, and loving it, and being surprised that it was so different and so good, and wondering how that version came about. When I watched 360 in person, the two songs I recorded on my camera were Streets (as always) and Crazy, because I liked it so much.

I have talked before about the shows, how any live show automatically gets a perfect 10, and this is no exception. This is now the definitive version of the show, the one that will be remembered for all of history. 360 was a stadium show, and this video shows them in a great stadium setting, and shows off the Claw in a great way, and so we will remember this tour this way, and I think that’s a really good thing.

My rating for U2 360 At The Rose Bowl: 10 / 10

Outside It's America

Outside It’s America was a documentary following U2 on The Joshua Tree tour, a behind the scenes look at what’s going on when a band is touring. This is the kind of thing I like, the thing I’ve talked about a number of times this year as being interesting to me, seeing what’s really going on when the cameras are off (although of course the cameras are on here, so they do a little mugging here and there). But again, that inside look, so you can watch and dream about being in the band, hanging around backstage, or with the band, doing this and that.

The documentary contains videos for Streets and Spanish Eyes among others, and of course a lot of shots of the band playing different things, whether live, in rehearsal, or even in a bar somewhere (we get to see them playing I Walk The Line in a bar, I kept thinking of the Blues Brothers, where they are playing the local songs so that the locals don’t get mad and start throwing bottles at them). 

There are other bits, like the photo shoot for the Time magazine cover, which has part of it on stage in front of a crowd, part of it backstage in a set of some kind (and the amount of people and production that goes on just for that is crazy), and then part of it outside on top of buildings here and there, which is fairly repetitive and odd, as Bono says boring. Those I guess are the parts of the job that really feel like work, rather than like the fun that being in a band should be. Other parts, which are the fun parts, are the parts we imagine when we think about being in a band, you never think of the grind to get to the shows. Flying in planes, which they make look like a lot of fun, although I guess it could end up being monotonous when you end up doing it every day for a year or more on a large tour. 

Seeing them in rehearsal isn’t completely uncommon, there are regular shots of that happening, and even occasional bits from fans outside listening to the rehearsals. What’s interesting is again the amount of work to get there, when they are trying to solve a problem like the feedback that happens when a certain piece of equipment is turned on, or Bono complaining about the gigantic drum sound he is getting just in front of his head (I don’t know why that would be a problem when you’re in a band).

One of the more interesting parts is when they’re in one of the bars, and we see Bono at the jukebox in the background, he is listening to whatever song it is that is playing, and you can almost see the wheels turning in his head as he is trying to get that sound, that lyric, that feeling, whatever, and keep it there, stored perhaps for another day when he is going to write a song like Heartland or something similar, talking about the time he spent in a bar in the middle of nowhere, or perhaps about the people who live in the middle of nowhere and yet they don’t leave. Who knows what inspiration that moment will bring him some day in the future.

Interesting note: today I passed 200,000 words for this blog this year. That’s like two novels of writing right here. All yours for free. And as they say, if you don’t like it, double your money back.

Achtung Baby Video Collection

I have talked a lot about Achtung Baby this year, as befits one of the greatest albums of all day, an album that resonates to this day through the U2 universe. The album produced so many hits, so many bits, and so many different looks at the band from that time. One of those looks was the video collection that they released for the album, which showcased a lot of the period, a lot of what was happening around the band, and a few other bits and pieces, along with a whole lot of interference.

The thing of it is that not only have I spilled a lot of words about Achtung, but so have so many others. Even though The Joshua Tree is the better album, I would guess that Achtung has had more written about it. I think this is a function of the times, the wider availability of the music, of the ability to write and be published, of the whole ecosystem around the album. I think there were many more releases for Achtung Baby, official releases that is, than there were for Joshua, which means more opportunity to talk about it. This might have been the period when the U2 marketing was at its peak, and perhaps before there was the public backlash which caused them to back down a little (even if it didn’t seem like it). So yeah, more things to write about means more writing, and it seems that I have followed suit this year. I don’t think it has been a detraction within this project, like I said there have been plenty of things to write about, each of them worth it.

This video is enjoyable, one of those ones that I can put on when I want to just relax and see some old U2. The problem I have is that I have it in VHS, believe it or not, in fact I’m not sure it’s even available on DVD. If it is I should probably get it sometimes (hmmm, wonder if there’s something coming up that I might have a reason to ask for it?), since my VHS recorder is getting pretty long in the tooth, and becoming kind of difficult to use any more (bottom of the rack, requiring some switching of wires, so it’s not just a pop it in and run thing).

I have said several times this year that I like when we get to see behind the scenes, I have talked about that especially with the books about the band. The videos here show a similar thing, they are not just a collection of videos, but all the interference parts in between actually show little clips from here and there within the recording and the tour, just a slice of life of the band if you will. There are of course parts when it gets a little too much, it wouldn’t be Achtung Baby if it wasn’t at least somewhat over the top, but they are few and far between and usually can be laughed off pretty easily. I remember saying once earlier in the year that I cringe at the thought of Bono dressed as MacPhisto, and I do, but that flush of embarrassment can be covered up just by singing along when the next video starts (which leads to an entirely different flush of embarrassment).

My rating for Achtung Baby Video Collection: 8 / 10

Vertigo (DVD)

Each time I watch a U2 concert video I think of it as the definitive version of the tour. Having watched or listened to many of the Innocence + Experience tour shows either online or in person, I question myself as to which show would be the definitive version of any tour. You can mke the argument that there are maybe twenty songs that are in every single show, but what about the rest? There are another couple of dozen songs that were played throughout the tour, how do you decide which of those songs would make the cut on a tour video? I mean, think of People Have The Power, which turned out to be a really good ending to things, but reality is that it was only played three times at the end of a show. Even One was only played half the time.

So when you look at a show like the Vertigo tour, it makes you wonder which version of the tour are you getting? Well, doing a little sleuthing through the U2Gigs.com database, I compared the listing on the Vertigo DVD with the listing of songs played on the tour, and it wasn’t too bad a match. The biggest miss was With Or Without You, played 104 times on tour out of 131 shows, then Still Haven’t Found at 91, Miss Sarajevo at 85 and on down. An Cat Dubh/Into the Heart was on the DVD but only played 16 times, with a number of songs higher than that. In general I think that the DVD did a good job of making it a representative show, and I think that any differences are just random luck. I think that when we get to the Innocence + Experience DVD it will be something similar, a large portion of songs from the regular tour with a few differences (although hopefully not the HBO version).

The video does showcase the Vertigo tour, but I don’t get the feeling of being there like I have on the latest tour. There is definitely an in-the-moment feeling of being at a live show, and it is amazingly well replicated by watching the show on Periscope or Mixlr or wherever. Watching Vertigo though, I had the feeling of it being a bit of an archive, rather than being there or being involved. The latest show has, in Bono’s words, been an attempt at bringing the band closer to the audience, and I think I’ve been a little spoiled by that idea. Looking back on Vertigo, and probably all the other shows I’ve got on DVD, it’s more of being out in the audience somewhere, and not the close seats but up in the crowd. Like I said, the current tour may have spoiled me for all future times, how are they going to top that and how am I going to look back at the old stuff?

But it’s U2 and it’s live, and it’s got that moment when Bono ends up drumming out on the edge of the heart, at the end of Love and Peace/beginning of Sunday. It’s great and it always will be.

My rating for Vertigo Live From Chicago: 10 / 10

Films Of Innocence

Films Of Innocence was a release of videos for Songs Of Innocence, apparently U2 had commissioned a bunch of artists to make these videos, then put them together to make the film. Never heard of any of them, except maybe the first.

Oliver Jeffers does Every Breaking Wave, I think he’s the guy that did the Ordinary Love video, and he uses similar techniques, with stop motion, moving around a bunch of pieces. It looks good, but it gets more interesting when you start seeing the process he used, and then even better when you see them painting a mural on a wall. I guess I’m a sucker for seeing the behind the scenes stuff, as I’ve mentioned it several times this year with the band.

Next is Robin Rhode with Every Breaking Wave, fun, again with the animation, but a little more literal for the song (holding a surfboard at the start for example), although I do like the surfing on the wall.

DFace with California, entirely computer animated, weird driving scene, didn’t understand or like it much at all.

Mode2 does Song For Someone, back to live action and closeups of the painting process. Similar to the first video in the way they hide the result until the end, but in this case we never seem to see the full final picture. I really liked this one except for that.

Chloe Early brings us Iris, and Ron Weasley, who is taking a walk through nature, happy as he can be, at least until we get to the end and it appears he has drowned himself (sorry, spoiler alert). I know it’s a slightly dark song, but that was really creepy. Disappointed in it.

Ganzeer has Volcano, again animated, at least this time we see Bono, or at least a cartoon of him, and they also seem to follow the lyrics, which is a first. But not that great, about average I think.

Raised By Wolves is by Vhils, and amazingly enough features wolves. I like this one, they get to the explosion (not following along with the song, but sort of), and it explodes and shows a pattern and that was really well done.

Then Cedarwood Road, by Maser, and it starts psychedelic, then switches into interesting. I think I saw something once that showed how they were doing those lights, not just computer generated, but I may be wrong about that. But if this is the result, I like it, artistic and interesting having lights crawling all around Dublin.

ROA does Sleep Like A Baby Tonight, cartoony and dinosaurs, another not like (biased because of the song though).

This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now by DALeast, this is the story of a homeless vandal. At least he does good art. I’ve always wanted to find and explore an old abandoned building though. 

Todd James with The Troubles, one of my favorites. Reminds me of Keith Haring somehow. Another video following the lyrics a little, oddly compelling.

Overall I liked these videos. Different takes on things, some better than others, but all interesting in their own way. I also like the idea, a collaboration on a grand scale. This is broken up by each different song, but imagine if it was a whole movie directed in this way, with each scene taking a different direction. That could be cool, or it could be confusing.

My rating for Films Of Innocence: 5 / 10

Million Dollar Hotel

So I finally got around to watching the Million Dollar Hotel movie, which clocks in at around two hours long, and unfortunately that’s around two hours of my life I will never get back. I have seen a few references to the movie here and there and how good it is, and the answer is that all those critics are correct, that this is a terrible movie and you should run away from it. The only redeeming thing is the music, and even then there’s only a few parts of the soundtrack worth listening to (yes, you are correct, it’s the U2 parts). I don’t know why I am reviewing this, other than that U2 had a significant part in the soundtrack and that Bono allegedly came up with the idea for the movie (I bet he denies it now though).

The movie starts with The First Time as the opening theme, while things begin happening, and when you hear that you think wow, maybe this won’t be so bad after all. But then you get to the action, and as the guy jumps off the roof he looks through all the windows as he falls, and all I could think was why everyone was awake and doing things so early in the morning.

The scene cuts to images of a man walking into the hotel, and it only shows his feet as he walks, along with everyone’s reaction to him. I must admit that as I watched that part I kept hoping that they would eventually pan up his body and we would discover that it is Bono, but of course no such luck, it turns out to be Mel Gibson. I liked Mel a while ago, he was good but crazy in the various movies he made his name in, although now he’s known just for being crazy. There’s a line in the movie where the Jewish billionaire is talking to Mel, and he says “My people decide the truth in sixty countries every morning,” and all I could think was about Mel’s recent history and controversies, and how that would play right into his wheelhouse of crazy.

The movie is not good, it is an artsy-fartsy movie, although we know that since Wim Wenders made it. I know he did interesting stuff here and there, I liked Wings Of Desire and Faraway, So Close, although I admit that I didn’t follow all the story lines in them. In Million Dollar Hotel the story doesn’t make any sense other than from a crazy person perspective, which is appropriate since they’re in a crazy person hotel. Maybe it’s because I’m not much into art movies, and I’ve never been in a flophouse hotel, but I don’t like the lighting, the staging, or much else about the movie. I don’t understand it, as the kind of people who make and like these kinds of movies would say.

Two other lines stood out for me, the first was “He was playing dumb too, but he was out of his league,” which strikes me as interesting and funny. The other was something that resonates through this whole year, two people talking to each other: “You missed the show.” “Saw it on tv.” “It’s not the same.” That could be an interesting theme for U2, watching on tv or online is definitely not the same as seeing them live. And it does remind me of Zoo TV, Bono’s line that you haven’t come out here to watch tv now, have you?

My rating for the Million Dollar Hotel: 1 / 10

U2 Go Home

It seemed appropriate to pick today, the day U2 begin their Dublin shows, to take a look back at the U2 Go Home video from the Vertigo. Any time U2 appear in their home country it is a big deal of course, bringing out huge lines of fans but also huge lines of detractors. As with anyone who gets famous, the “tall poppy” syndrome exists with U2, where there are people only too willing to insult them, be rude about them, or generally take shots. As a fan I always find it irritating to see, but lately I have taken to ignoring those people. Haters gonna hate, as they say, and why should I take my time to listen to them? So, on to the show.

Slane Castle is a huge venue, I don’t know how many people are there but it seems like all of Ireland (okay, 80,000 according to the liner notes). The problem with that is that it makes the stage tiny when you are standing at the back, some of the shots from way back are terrible, a sea of people with the stage an inch tall. Now I know that tv makes everything look smaller, but this is ridiculous. Goes back to recent days when talking about the band trying to get closer to the audience, and you look at something like this and realize why. I don’t remember being at any stadium show where I felt as far away as it looks there.

It is crazy to look at the history of the show, that just a week before Bono’s father had died, and just a week later 9/11 would happen. I guess if I were to go all poetic, I would look back at this as a more innocent time, but the reality is that even though this was pre-9/11, I am looking at it post-9/11 and projecting my own thoughts and fears onto it. So when they hit the One/Walk On section, it doesn’t matter that they don’t know what’s going to happen, what matters is that I always connect those songs at that time with the attack, and with scrolling names on the wall. I don’t think I’ll ever get past that.

Sunday Bloody Sunday has a particular power, Bono making a speech saying that “we’re not going back there” amid the sea change in Irish attitudes toward the conflict. Saying “compromise is not a dirty word,” something he has been saying on the current tour. Listing names of the dead at Omagh, perhaps the most powerful moment, not the list of names that you see after 9/11 but their own power in their own country.

It feels like a local show, but then it doesn’t. There are parts - mentions of Ireland’s soccer team, which qualified for the World Cup that afternoon - where they’re talking to the crowd like old friends, but then there are parts where it seems more global. I guess that’s understandable, after all they’re bringing the show they’ve played around the world to town. We see that today, with them back in Dublin, and they have some references to local places and events, but overall it’s the same show as they played everywhere else. I suppose that’s a good thing, I would feel like I’m missing out if they played different things to their local fans than the rest of us.

My rating for U2 Go Home: 10 /10

Making of The Unforgettable Fire

There was a mini documentary a while back, half an hour long, it was called the Making of the Unforgettable Fire. A slice of life in the history of the band, it showed a little of the recording process, a little of the studio work, and a little of them messing around here and there. I’ve seen it several times over the years, it is always a fun time watching it. The sound quality isn’t that great, it tends to go up and down in both the ability to hear and understand them, and the volume, which is surprising given that it came from a recording experience. But it is certainly an enjoyable video to watch.

At the very start of the video Bono says “I believe the song’s already written,” and I think that’s something that I have discussed over the last several months. The idea of him trying to get the words out, that he is singing the words that haven’t formed yet, that’s been a bit of a theme. He starts by making noises, sounds like words, that slowly as they go back and forth making the song, that I think is what he is getting to here, and it is a really profound thing to say. The idea that you’re not creating it, that it already exists and you’re just revealing it. It’s like the infamous block of marble, where the sculptor just chips away all the bits that aren’t the statue he’s carving. Really interesting thought.

They all look so different today, of course. Larry as always looks like a little kid hanging around with the grownups. Edge, hair receding, looks surprisingly like Brian Eno. Bono with the mullet, how fun was that, how stylish? I’m doing a program with some kids at my son’s school, they’re supposed to create a play set in the past, I wonder if I can convince them to do the 80s and have them dress up with Bono mullets? That’d be great. And Adam, he’s changed by far the most from this, I don’t remember him looking like this in photos, he looks positively normal in many ways. The dark hair is what throws me, it makes him look so different.

It’s funny watching Bono singing in the film, there are a few times (when he’s wearing these crazy looking boots) when he looks like he really needs to pee. Like he’s so desperate to pee, and his voice keeps getting higher and higher as he tries to hold it in. So funny to watch. But then you see other shots of him, and he looks like this earnest young man (remember they are mid 20s at this point) trying to make music history. I don’t know, I guess this is good based on the results, but I can’t help feeling that if I’d been hanging around there at the time I would have thought he was a bit of an ass.

The video really shows how much influence Eno and Lanois had on the band, them playing or singing or telling the band what to do, pointing them in the direction they wanted them to go. There are parts of the video when I’m wondering which of them is actually in the band, these two guys at the mixing board or those bunch of punks laying on the sofa behind them.

And it ends with “I hope you don’t mind a bit of volume boys” as they roll into the Pride video. A neat ending to the film, which is in many ways a deconstruction of how Pride was created. An enjoyable stroll through music history you might say.

My rating for The Making of the Unforgettable Fire: 7 / 10

Linear

This is a summary of what happens in the movie Linear by Anton Corbijn, which is based on all the songs off No Line On The Horizon. Basically he took the songs and created a movie with each of the songs being a different section. There’s no sound in the movie other than the songs.

The first song is Unknown Caller, which is a black and white view of Paris at night, various scenes. We know it’s Paris because the opening shot is an overview of the city and we see the Eiffel Tower off to one side. Otherwise it could be any generic city. It’s basically an artsy video, kind of boring really, waiting for something to happen which never does. Get used to that feeling.

Next comes Breathe, which starts with a bang when a motorcycle cop knocks his cop bike to the ground then sets it on fire. The rest of the song is wasted though, as we spend the entire time just watching the bike burn. It ends with the cop getting on his own motorcycle, so we realize he doesn’t have a thing against bikes, maybe just against the police. As Winter plays, they finally turn on the color, and we see the cop (ex-cop?) going on a road trip. We know it’s a road trip, and we know he’s making progress, because the film keeps showing road signs with Bordeaux getting closer each time. Otherwise it’s a lot of pictures of roads, with snapshots of the stuff beside the road, making me wish I could go there and see some of it for real.

He stops for a rest in White As Snow, laying on his bike and looking at the sky before falling asleep (I don’t know how he didn’t fall off the bike while sleeping). Amazingly the clouds come together to form a map of Africa, is it magic or is he dreaming? We get a little fancy with No Line On The Horizon, this time they hired a helicopter to follow him down the road for a bit. Then he gets hungry in Fez/Being Born, so he stops at a cafe where he eats while the girl working there chews her nails and watches him eat. Wow, exciting stuff here.

Magnificent sees the two of them watching U2 perform the song on the tv in the cafe, which lends a surreal air as the color on the tv is messed up. Stand Up Comedy shows a weird angle as he is back on the bike, it’s either some kind of fisheye lens or a reflection from the bike itself, I can’t tell which. But it ends with another road sign, showing he is in Spain now. Get On Your Boots is in some kind of nightclub, where he has a drink and watches a woman dance, then goes and looks through a peephole at women in mustaches dancing. I’m really missing something here, I don’t get the point of this at all.

Moment Of Surrender goes back to black and white, this time walking through the town, down various alleys. Is this supposed to be a comparison to Paris at the start? After a whole lot of mood shots, where he stands and leans against walls for a while, he ends up at the beach, where he lays down to sleep. He wakes up in Cedars Of Lebanon, where he sits on the beach for a while, then sees a convenient rowboat which he gets in and starts rowing to Africa.

Now I haven’t told you anything you couldn’t have read yourself, except maybe how boring it all is. It’s apparently very artsy, like I said, but I guess I don’t get most of it. The idea of the guy leaving his life and heading back to Africa, not sure how interesting that all is. It’s certainly not made interesting by the movie.

My rating for Linear: 2 / 10

Rattle and Hum (movie)

Oh, Rattle and Hum, how do I love thee? Seeing the movie in the theater when it was released was one of those seminal moments of my life. It was truly the first time I had seen the band live in concert, if you can call it that. I remember seeing it in the theater and being enthralled, being stunned by the sound and the vision. I saw the movie eight times in the theater, and countless times since, if I said I’ve seen it a hundred times I don’t think I would be exaggerating. I love this movie.

It is the opening song that I think is possibly the worst song in the whole movie, partly because it’s not a U2 song, partly because of the controversy around it, people complaining they were comparing themselves to the Beatles. Now honestly I think they’ve passed the Beatles these days, although I’m a little biased, but back at the time the Beatles were definitely bigger.

We then switch into Van Diemen’s Land, which is a beautiful song and introduces us to the second main theme of the movie. The first being the live stuff, the second being behind the scenes and out of the public eye stuff. I keep mentioning this but that’s what often really interests me, seeing the lives beyond the stage, whether it’s recording in a studio, or just hanging out somewhere. The books I’ve liked the most this year have been the ones that show that stuff. The movie shows it in spades, with everything from little excerpts like Adam sitting in a bar talking about mixing music and politics, or the band touring Graceland and seeing Larry’s infatuation with both Elvis and Harley.

The movie has the dichotomy between the color and black and white sequences, and to this day I don’t really understand why the director chose to do that. I think I read about it sometime but I don’t remember what it was. But it was an artistic choice so I’ll respect that. The first half of the movie is in black and white, and when it turns to color at the beginning of Streets it really brings in a wow factor. I think that moment is perhaps my all-time favorite U2 moment, with the lead-in to my all-time favorite U2 song, the explosion of color and sound is just wonderful. I don’t remember a moment that could beat that, but if I mentioned one already this year then it would have to be good.

Artistically I can see hoe some people didn’t necessarily like the movie, the band - Bono especially - do come off looking a little pretentious. You’ve got to remember though that they are singers, not public speakers who are going to do everything right. They are being natural, in other words. Anyway, for the U2 fan, it doesn’t really matter, does it? What other people think of them shouldn’t matter to me if I like them, it doesn’t diminish from my like in any way.

The movie has that other most powerful moment in Sunday Bloody Sunday, with the absolute raw emotion in the song coming through in a great way. I think - correct me if I’m wrong - this has to be the definitive version of Sunday.

Great songs, great movie, and it finishes with All I Want Is You running over the end credits, the long version with all the violins and stuff, yet another of my favorite songs. This whole movie really is a depiction of the band at their height, at least that early height, where most everything is going for them. A must see for the dedicated U2 fan, and probably even for the casually interested fan.

My rating for Rattle and Hum (movie): 10 / 10

From The Sky Down

I always want to see backstage, I’d love to see the bit from “okay, let’s go,” leaving the dressing room to getting on stage. Basically the part that is while People Have The Power plays. I saw one setlist this tour that showed a couple of times at the top, and I think they were meaning when each of the guys has to go. Which is why From The Sky Down grabbed me at both the start and end, showing them heading onstage at Glastonbury. At the end they show the stage manager, and he’s literally reading a stopwatch and telling each of them to go at certain points. How detailed do you have to be to get that detailed? Very.

From The Sky Down is a documentary about the making of Achtung Baby, although it ends up being much more than that. There’s a lot of material about the early days, through The Joshua Tree, in fact the Rattle And Hum segment doesn’t end until almost a third of the movie is over. I actually think that was a weakness of the show, a little too much concentration on the earlier stuff. Now sure, you want that part about tearing down the Joshua Tree, that’s what kicks off Achtung, but much of the rest of it was fairly superfluous. In terms of the movie, not the band’s history. I mean, I could watch it all day long. It just didn’t fit the point of the movie that much.

There’s a scene near the start of the four guys on a stage, with everything and everyone revolving around them. I looked at that as amazing, it reminded me of the scenes from It Might Get Loud, the amount of work that has to happen around the band to get them just to play.

There were several parts, especially early in the movie, where Bono was playing up to the camera a little. “More abstract, sonic abstraction” kind of bullshit that he was saying to Edge. I didn’t like that much. He says he doesn’t know how they put up with that, and I don’t either. Doesn’t put Bono in a good light.

Interesting to see them walking into a hotel without a horde of people watching. They couldn’t get that today. Or rather they might be able to, there would be times when they’re away from the tour where that could certainly happen. I mean, if they walked into a hotel here in Dallas tonight, how many people would be around to see them, how many people would recognize them? Not too many I don’t think.

Most interesting part was listening to the DAT tapes of the Achtung sessions. Hearing the DAT and realizing it’s Mysterious Ways (before Bono did BTW) was fun. And then hearing the actual birth of One, that was outstanding. And calling it “Young Blood” on the tape, the first name it ever had. A whole bunch of work, having it come out of a guitar strand in Mysterious Ways, taking that one sound and pushing it into an entire new song. That’s got to be a great feeling to have that happen.

They weren’t convincing Larry and Adam about what they were playing because there wasn’t anything to show them, but then they get to that point and as they said the magic happened. But a lesson to everyone is that they had to put in the work to get to that point. It’s something you’ve heard before, lines like “luck is the residue of design,” or “the harder I work, the luckier I get.” It’s something I’ve been thinking lately because of some stuff I’ve been reading about motivation. Work hard and the rewards will come.

Really great moment in Berlin, where Larry is driving the Trabant and the cops stop them. Camera crew filming and the cop says turn it off, someone says those times are over, and he says “No. These times are not over.” Larry just standing there trying not to laugh. That was so funny.

They mentioned the drum machine during the show, but didn’t give any reason for Larry not drumming, except a short bit that he couldn’t even move. Nothing said about his back injury at the time.

I absolutely loved the model of the set, that was brilliant. Really want one of those. Maybe I could build one. Yep, just as soon as I get time.

My rating for From The Sky Down: 8 / 10

It Might Get Loud

It Might Get Loud is a 2009 documentary about three guitar players, Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge. If you’re reading this you’ve probably seen it, if not, well, although it’s a really interesting show for guitar players, it doesn’t have too much specifically U2 content to keep the interest. Now, I say that but there are a couple of photos that I hadn’t seen before, and there are a number of clips of early U2 (but you can see them on YouTube), but actually now that I think about it there are several interesting parts featuring Edge by himself. So it might be worthwhile for the U2 fan. It was for me, but I’m also a guitar fan.

Interesting that the movie starts with Jack White building a guitar out of a bunch of scrap, and later they talk about Edge and his brother Dick building their first guitar. Is that one of those rites of passage that you have to go through to become a successful guitarist? Shouldn’t think so, since they didn’t mention Jimmy Page doing it.

There was some interesting detail about Edge and the way he works. I’ve noted before that he seems to have a different guitar for every song, and that is somewhat backed up by shows like this (and any other article where they take a look at Edge’s setup), where they had Dallas saying that he has 23 effects settings for 23 songs. That’s a reason that I can’t perform like Edge can, because I have a single delay pedal and not all the others (yes, that really is the reason why I can’t play as well as Edge, it’s all about the equipment, right?).

Showing Edge working on a song in the studio brings an interesting point to his methods, namely that he is hearing something in his head and working the guitars and effects until he gets to the sound he wants. Also interesting when he played the start to Elevation and it sounds good, and then he turns off the effects and he’s playing just a ding, ding, ding and the effects are doing all the work. I have felt this regularly with my own experiments with delay, and with various tutorials I’ve watched online, kind of knowing that’s the way it sounds, but I still get the feeling of trying to play more notes than I should be.

On the other hand, Jack White made a comment in there that was kind of a diss of Edge, something about stripping back the sound to the basics and not trying to use all the same tech that Edge uses.

So for the U2 fan, the various video of Edge around Dublin was interesting. Was that his own kitchen? Seems weird, looked like a regular old kitchen full of the usual junk that anyone would have. You’d expect him to have a fancy house with a rockstar kitchen. And his car looked like a piece of junk, I noticed the check engine light was on (Big Bang Theory fans will laugh here). Then to the school, Mount Temple where they all met, where they played early gigs, and the infamous noticeboard. Good stuff.

There was an interesting piece for Jimmy Page, going back to one of Led Zeppelin’s early recording sessions, and noting that they had set the drums up in the hall and got a good sound, and then other bands had started copying that. I mention it because as you know U2 did the same thing on Boy, but it was because the drums were too loud, or they didn’t have enough room, and they moved Larry out into the reception area of the studio and got a great sound. Then other bands would come in and try to reproduce the great drum sound and be confused why they couldn’t. So, is there a conflation of stories there? Does Jimmy think U2 copied Led Zep?

Interesting part as well was about New York, Edge went there as a teen and thought it looked and sounded just like the movies. I went there for the first time just a few years ago, and I can tell you I had the exact same feeling. He continued on to the story of finding his Gibson Explorer in the music store there, and the best quote of the movie was that 20 minutes in that music store defined the sound of the band forever.

The final quote I’ll mention, this is a paraphrase actually, where Edge said that when he’s recording by himself that sometimes it doesn’t work. He said you get nothing and you come out feeling like you know nothing and you can’t play guitar. I have a message for you on that one Edge: I get that feeling all the time, and I can’t play. At least you get to come back tomorrow and have the possibility of coming up with something great.

My rating for It Might Get Loud: 7 / 10

Under A Blood Red Sky

The first thing that strikes you watching Under A Blood Red Sky is the pre-show video. I don’t remember too many concert films setting the stage like that, showing the rain and preparations for it. The second thing that strikes you is Bono’s hair, which is either an electrified mullet or a lost skunk that is snuggling up to him. On the other hand Larry looks like a twelve year old, and has a really goofy smile when New Year’s Day starts playing.

Even though it looks like it’s in the middle of nowhere, I had no idea that Red Rocks is so close to Denver, it’s maybe ten miles away from downtown. It’s a small and steep amphitheater, when you’re in that crowd it must feel like you’re almost on top of the band. And then there’s the closeness of the crowd to the stage, that doesn’t happen any more. At one point some dude reaches out and grabs Bono’s leg while he’s on stage, and yells something at him while Bono tries to pull away. That certainly wouldn’t happen, let alone the barriers nowadays there’d be security grabbing the guy and throwing him out. And then Bono falls back and crowd-surfs, I don’t think he’d make it out of the audience alive today, he’d be mobbed (let alone he’d probably break another shoulder).

In the early part of the show it’s daylight, and it darkens a lot as the sun goes down. I noticed at one point the flames on top of the set had gotten much bigger, and thought it was for Sunday Bloody Sunday, but then I realized that no, they were probably like that all the way through, they were just much more obvious when it was dark outside. Gave it much more ambience in the later part of the show.

People talk about the flare of the lights on the cameras during this show, and some comments about how it should be cleaned up for release. I think it adds to it, certainly defines the period and once again adds a little atmosphere. It did not detract in any way for me, at least.

I love Out Of Control, although I must admit to preferring the version from 360 that is on U22. That’s just a personal preference though, I could easily like this version better on another day.

Sunday Bloody Sunday is one of the classic versions of the song, with the marching, and the cover image of Bono holding the white flag up. The moment in the middle of Sunday, when Edge steps up to the front of the stage to play, that to me is the quintessential Edge, the perfect moment for a rock guitarist. I dream of being that guy when I play my guitar.

It amuses me to see Bono walking round with a microphone with a cord on it, certainly dates the show. There are several occasions where he almost gets tangled up or trips over it, and I keep wondering why he doesn’t have a cable wrangler. And when he goes up top to fly the flag during Electric Co., how does he get the microphone up there without it getting tangled on everything? It’s also fun to watch the band just play on while he is up there, filling in time until he can get back and continue the song.

Also fun to see Party Girl, there’s a moment in there where Bono and Edge start to sing together, and Edge sings “I know a boy” while Bono sings “I know a girl,” and Edge gives a little grin at whichever one of them messed up (probably Bono), then switches to the words that Bono is singing.

So, a bunch of notes about the concert, as I watched it last night. First time in years that I had seen it, it was very enjoyable. They all looked like kids, of course. It is, as Bono said during the show, a great moment of the band captured for posterity. I hope I don’t wait so long to watch it again. And I haven’t even mentioned the album, which I would rate the same, even though it’s not the same music and is much shorter.

My rating for Under A Blood Red Sky: 9 / 10

Every Breaking Wave (film)

A few days ago a short film called Every Breaking Wave was released. I didn’t know much about it, I’d heard about the filming in Belfast and the complaints surrounding it, that people thought it was a shoot for a U2 video and thought that U2 were using the Troubles for their own gain. Clearly not, and another example of why you shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

Spoilers ahead? Possibly. Watch the film before you read this, it’s only 13 minutes long. I hope the link above remains good, if not google the name with Aoife McArdle (director).

This is tangentially U2, based on the name and the music in the film (both Every Breaking Wave and The Troubles featured in it), but I’m reviewing it anyway. I already reviewed Every Breaking Wave the song.

I can’t say I know much about the troubles in Northern Ireland, I have a basic understanding of it from far away. I’ve never been in any situation like that, never want to be, but I can see it reflected all over the world. I can’t condone terrorism, I don’t see the need to kill others for much of anything, although there is that whole living under the barrel of a gun thing. Better to die on your feet than to live on your knees. I can very easily see myself being on either side of things in pretty much any war, simply depending on when and where I was born.

I have to confess I had no idea which character was which when it came to the skinheads. From scene to scene I couldn’t pick them apart, so I didn’t know which one was the lead for most of the early part of the film. And as I watched I kept looking for band members, was expecting Larry to be one of the skinheads (or their dad). I also kept looking at the posters on the walls, trying to see if there was a U2 poster (didn’t see one, probably not punk enough).

Amazing end, that he will help the enemy who had given him a beating earlier. And that there will be just as many civilian victims as military, which tells you something about the indiscriminate nature of bombings.

I didn’t like that they subtitled it, I understood the words just fine.

The film is meant to be powerful, and it is. I’m not sure it’s great though, but it’s good. Possibly too short, I think that it could have developed the characters and the love aspect more than it did. That might have broken the point of the film though. Hard to tell the timeframe involved, whether a few days or more (I think more, given that by the end his head injury has nearly healed). One thing I really didn’t like was that after the bombing, he opens the door and she is gone. My expectation was that she was dead, but no, she’s down the street. If a bomb went off when you were outside your boyfriend’s house, would you check on him, or wander off somewhere else?

I’ve actually had my own ideas about films/videos for both these songs while listening to them. I can say I wasn’t too far from the story in this film. Maybe I’ll tell you about them someday.

My rating for Every Breaking Wave (film): 6 / 10

U2 3D (movie)

I am on record many times in saying that U2 live is way better than any U2 record. Even Rattle And Hum, which is a live album and live movie, has moments of non-live performances, which drop it down a little. That’s not to say everything live is better than everything recorded, but I can’t think of anything that isn’t. There are probably some live songs where I don’t listen to the song, and skip to the next, I guess some of the top recorded stuff would beat that. To emphasize this point, I can tell you that I have two playlists on my phone, one is called U2 and the other is called U2 Live. Right now the U2 playlist has 162 songs on it, and U2 Live has 40 songs. I actually have many more than that, I just chop and change on a regular basis. So yes, I love listening to U2 live.

U2 3D is a U2 concert movie, in 3D obviously, and is as close as you can get to being at a U2 concert without actually being there. Better than any of the DVDs for their various tours, better than Rattle And Hum, it is simply a live show for $10 at the theater instead of $100 at a concert. The part where the camera is flying over the stage from back to front, above Larry then across and above Bono, is just fantastic. That is my singular memory from the movie.

A great set, although at fourteen songs it is way too short. I prefer my concerts to be twenty-five or more, and sometime later this year in one of these reviews, I’ll create my perfect setlist (it might be a couple hundred songs long). But it is a good look at the Vertigo tour, even though looking at the setlist I can immediately pop a few obvious songs into it. No Still Haven’t Found? No Walk On? Well, they have said they don’t want to be a greatest hits band.

And yet I confess I only saw it once. I wasted too much time before seeing it, saw it one time and then it closed. It is not available to purchase, I don’t know of anywhere that it shows in theaters nowadays, and reportedly they have no plans to release it. I don’t understand that. Sure, the technology is advanced, but there are now people with 3D TVs, why not make it available for them? I’d almost be convinced to buy a 3D TV just to be able to watch this movie (hint to 3D companies, you could sell more TVs if you got the band to release the movie…).

I would normally give something like this very close to a ten. If you consider that any live show would be a ten, then this is the next best thing to being there, and even better than that, because you get views that no-one in an audience could ever get. It’s very close to that, though now that I rethink my earlier comments, I actually think I would hesitate to say it is the best U2 concert video. Mostly because it does lose something for the short set.

So how do we get them to play it again (and again)?

My rating for U2 3D: 9 / 10

Zoo TV Live From Sydney (video)

The opening to Zoo TV was overwhelming. Sensory overload is the term usually used, and it is totally true. The two times I saw Zoo TV live I was absolutely blown away by the opening, trying to look in every direction at once, trying to hear everything, and knowing that everywhere I was looking there were twenty things happening that I wasn’t seeing. It was wonderful.

Zoo TV Live From Sydney is the definitive version of the Zoo TV tour, of course. Everyone knows it, knows how the songs went and the words that were spoken. U2 is a very rehearsed group, as they have to be, and despite minor changes to set-lists you can just about guarantee what you’re going to see night after night, what Bono is going to say and when he’s going to say it, and so on. This is not necessarily a bad thing, like I said they’re so big they have to do it that way, but it means that this version of the show can stand in for any version that you were actually at. So I can watch and talk about this show, and reminisce about the ones I was at, and probably conflate many of the memories. Curious to see what happens in the Innocence & Experience tour, since the two shows are supposed to be different. How will they release a single concert video? Maybe they’ll do two.

The first time I saw Zoo TV I was near the main stage, about ten people back from in front of Edge. The second time I was by the second stage, just one person between me and the stage. My memory of that is pushing through the crowd to try and get to the front, and having people block me off because of the barrier in the middle (crush barrier I guess, so everyone didn’t rush the stage), and so turning and managing to get so close to the second stage. Ahh, good times.

I always wanted to get the words on screen during The Fly, write them down and put them into a screensaver. Still haven’t checked the Achtung Baby DVDs to see if it’s on there. I’d want to put it on my computer at work though, and then I’d probably get fired.

In real life the stage is so much bigger than it appears on tv. Long shots during the show suggest that they are ants way in the distance, but that’s not true at all. If you’ve ever been to any sporting event you know what I’m talking about, that the field looks much larger in person than it ever did on tv.

I’m not a big fan of Numb, but it’s good to see Larry get some singing time, breaking out of his shell a little. I think Bono is offstage for this song, right? His lyrics are taped I assume, since you never see him during the song. Which means that it really is scripted, because if it’s a tape you have to match it exactly. Let alone that if you have such a video extravaganza you can’t go off script too much because you’ll lose sync with the video.

Are there any definitive versions of songs on this video? Angel of Harlem certainly. I guess any songs not shown anywhere else would have to be definitive. Dirty Day is, and it’s a really good version too. The entire flashing of lights and banging of drums really has things pumping. Running To Stand Still I love, but the definitive version is still Rattle And Hum. Of course the whole thing is definitive for the Achtung Baby/Zooropa period in the band’s history. Which leads me to the last part of the show, with the uniform changes for the band - those blue military outfits, I don’t remember the point of those - and then Bono as a devil. Mr MacPhisto. I hope he looks back at that and cringes, I certainly do. He had a point to it at the time. It’s creepy now though. Amusing. Not quite so fun when it’s close up like that, better with a little distance.

It’s not a live show - in person live, I mean - but it’s the next best thing. As everyone knows, U2 live is the best show in the world, so this is close to the top of the ratings. Highly recommended for anyone interested in this period, and for any U2 fan anywhere.

And so to the unanswered question: What did the first punk rock girl wear to school?

My rating for Zoo TV Live From Sydney: 9 / 10