U2 belongs exclusively in larger-than-life arenas. The band’s appeal is too broad, its sound too pleasant, and Bono’s hyphenates too many to confine him and his band to any other type of venue. So how to explain what the artist/activist (/humanitarian/impresario/etc.) and his bandmates were doing performing at the National Museum of Natural History last night? Well, they weren’t really there there. But it was almost as if.
In fact, watching U2 3D—a concert film shot using digital 3-D multicamera technology during the South American leg of the band’s Vertigo tour—projected onto the museum’s giant Imax screen is perhaps the next best thing to actually being within fingers’ reach of the Edge’s ubiquitous wool cap. You’re standing in front of thousands of screaming Argentines, mere inches to the left of Bono. Man, does the guy sweat!
Visually, the film is stunning. No time is wasted in showing off the advantages of the 3-D technology, as a barrage of shots—from within the crowd, overhead on a crane, up close to the band—bombard you within seconds of the opening song, “Vertigo.” The film does, however, save the best for last: The encore performance of “The Fly” is heightened to delirious extremes by the endless shower of letters seemingly falling onto the band and the flashing of messages across the screen. Simply put, it’s epic.
But U2 3D’s true achievement comes less from its cool gimmicks and perfect simulation of an environment than from the effect this optical illusion has on your perception of the band itself: The sensation of physical proximity imparts a newfound feeling of immediacy to the songs, making the delivery of every lyric feel fresh, heartfelt, almost raw. Even if you don’t wholeheartedly buy the politics of the man in the cool shades and blazer, when Bono belts out “Sunday Bloody Sunday” onscreen, it’s like falling in love all over again with the band. Goosebumps included.
The film opens on January 23. Showtimes and tickets for screenings at the National Museum of Natural History’s Imax Theater are available here.