Bono in Your Face

After 'U2 3D,' two-dimensional concert films will no longer suffice

Those of you who were aching for a 3-D concert cinematic experience, but didn't want to endure the sugary phenomenon that is Hannah Montana: Bono has come to your rescue.

After seeing U2 3D, you might decide to skip future live-concert films and wait for the 3-D movie of your favorite artist's show instead. The experience is that good.

I've been attending U2 shows since the Joshua Tree tour, and I qualify as a genuine U2 spaz. I've seen political Bono calling the first President Bush from the stage, sweaty Bono in his leather-vest thing, and disco Bono emerging from a giant lemon under yellow arches. During a recent tour show, I got to be on the floor, but I failed to win a berth to view the show inside "the ellipsis," the arched runway that Bono and the boys ran around on. I was bummed.

With U2 3D, we get to go inside, above and around the ellipsis, plunged into the audio-visual marvel that is a U2 show. I've been trumpeting the new 3-D technology--last year's Beowulf and a reissued A Nightmare Before Christmas floored me--and now Bono's hand is waving over my head at the movie theater. Neat.

Does the film do a decent job of capturing the U2 concert experience? In some ways, it's actually better. You pay much less for the privilege of being there; nobody spills beer on you; and nobody steps on your feet. The frustrating obstruction of a girl watching the entire show atop her boyfriend's shoulders becomes something fun to watch, providing depth-of-field perspective for the wondrous 3-D effects. Even some dumbshit holding up a cell-phone camera to record Bono seems like some sort of breakthrough special effect along the lines of the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars.

Visual fun aside, this is a great concert film, catching the band on some seriously good nights in Buenos Aries. The concert commences with "Vertigo" and closes with "With or Without You." (Stick around for the credits and footage of the band performing "Yahweh.")

Anybody who thinks Bono is losing some of his vocal luster might retract those thoughts after witnessing his take on the Pavarotti vocal break in "Miss Sarajevo" or his full-throated delivery of "Sunday Bloody Sunday." The concert was part of the "Vertigo" Tour, but one of the film's highlights involves another track from How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, a blazing rendition of "Love and Peace or Else." Drummer Larry Mullen pounds on a single drum out on the runway, eventually replaced by a spirited Bono on the instrument.

Speaking of Mullen, it's an amazing thing to see him working his kit in the 3-D medium. Not only do you find yourself marveling at his abilities, but also the intricacies of the equipment. I'm guessing he had a cold the night of the show, because he's got a prominent box of tissues and something that looks like a vitamin C drink next to him.

All of this U2 talk, and still no mention of The Edge: The guitarist is a marvel in the film, not only delivering his jangling guitar with full force, but also singing some decent vocals and playing the keyboards to boot. It's always amazing what sounds the guy can turn out, especially on tracks like "Bullet the Blue Sky" and "The Fly." He's never been the sort of player to impress with quick licks and pentatonic scales. His talents are more on the atmospheric side.

If you think U2 are a bag of dicks, then U2 3-D won't do much to change your mind. However, die-hard fans will have their dedication reaffirmed. Incidentally, the band is currently in the studio with producer Daniel Lanois, and has reportedly recorded enough material for two albums.