If you’ve ever experienced U2 in concert, you’re well aware that Bono can seem larger than life even when he’s physically in front of you. Beholding a three-dimensional projection of him on a massive IMAX screen quite literally solidifies that illusion. In a mind-boggling spectacle of sound and vision, U2 elevates the art of the concert film with U23D.
Recorded during the South American leg of the band’s Vertigo world tour, this film encapsulates much of the raw power of a U2 performance while pushing the boundaries of how a rock concert can be presented and ultimately appreciated. The visual tangibility generated by the 3D production draws the viewer not so much toward the screen as it does within the atmosphere of a packed stadium, amid the euphoria of transcendent rock and roll. Cameras zoom in and out from surreptitious angles and locations, yielding brilliant perspectives and fluid footage. Horizontal shots from the ground capture the sensation of being among the standing-room-only portion of the audience, watching the band while outstretched arms wave in front of your eyes. The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen, Jr. take their turns in the proverbial spotlight, their images and instruments gigantic and ostensibly within reach. Bono sings for you, to you, at you. He gets in your face when he wants some attention and you’ve no choice but to let the precocious frontman have his way.
While U23D doesn’t comprise a complete performance, at 80 minutes it does adequately represent the essential material and prevailing mood of the Vertigo tour. U2’s fundamental messages of advocating spiritual tolerance and defending human rights are certainly not lost or blurred in this elaborate and enthralling translation of technology. Indeed, the most remarkable aspect of this film is that the technology doesn’t distract from the actual performance. To the contrary, the integration of 3D and IMAX production facilitates a progressive way of perceiving and enjoying a thrilling rock concert.
At the top of their game on the most giant of screens, U2 can now quite earnestly lay claim as being the biggest band on the planet.