Review: ‘U2 3D’ makes rockers' arena concerts feel like an intimate experience

Leave it to U2, whose fascination with technology has transformed their concerts into brilliant celebrations of multimedia light and sound, seamlessly entwined to create a spectacle both decadent and graceful. Sixteen years after the Rolling Stones unveiled their Steel Wheels tour in the larger-than-life IMAX format, the 32-year-old Irish quartet has upped the ante, assembling footage from the South American leg of their 2006 world tour into a 3-D performance piece that is visually arresting and musically vigorous, a bold affirmation of the group's vitality.

Unlike 1988's “Rattle and Hum,” the beautifully shot but frustratingly self-absorbed documentary that mixed the band's live recordings with a series of unrevealing interviews, “U2 3D” is straightforward and mostly unpretentious. It is a concert film devoid of any introspective chatter, featuring 14 of the band's hits and, lest your mood become too carefree, a somber recitation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At the center of it all is Bono, U2's ubiquitous frontman and outspoken political activist who rarely misses an opportunity to lobby for world peace from his extravagantly illuminated pulpit.

If “Rattle and Hum” depicted a band slightly overwhelmed by the trappings of superstardom and seeking, however prematurely, to establish themselves as heirs to Elvis and the Beatles, “U2 3D” makes a more credible statement. It captures the group in its natural environment, performing for thousands of rabid fans from atop a massive stage and making it all seem somehow intimate.

As a testament to their undiminished prowess as a live act, it is a rousing achievement. Watching U2 tear through a spirited set that deftly juggles their latest singles (“Vertigo,” “Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own”) with signature hits from as early as 1983's “War,” it's easy to forget that this is a band whose contemporaries once included Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin and even The King himself.

While Bono and The Edge, whose subdued, everyman charm runs in refreshing contrast to his colleague's rock-star persona, remain formidable performers even as they approach the half-century mark, the unseen stars of “U2 3D” are directors Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington, who first worked with the band on their video for “One.”

Shooting the band from every conceivable angle, from the midst of the frenzied crowd to scaffolding high above the stage, Owens and Pellington thrust moviegoers headlong into the film in a stunning 3-D experience.

By the time Bono turns to the camera during a searing rendition of “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” reaching out to his audience in a typically theatrical plea for peace, love and understanding, one half expects his outstretched hand to surge through the screen and seize one of your own.

CREDITS

U2 3D

***1/2

Starring: Bono, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr, The Edge

Directed by Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington

Rated G

Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Just Posted

Climate strike organizers say SFUSD blocked student participation

The organizers behind Friday’s Climate Strike in San Francisco are accusing the… Continue reading

City puts closure of long-term mental health beds on hold

In response to public outrage over a proposal to suspend 41 permanent… Continue reading

Here we go again – new dog rules in Golden Gate National Recreation Area

The GGNRA released a 2019 Superintendent’s Compendium that makes significant changes that appear to implement parts of the ill-fated Dog Management Plan.

Thousands take to San Francisco streets in Climate Strike

The protesters are calling for urgent action on climate change, including putting pressure on local elected leaders to support more drastic steps.

Good Day Sept. 22-24, 2019

Mark Morris Dance Group, Presidio Theatre Open House, PUSHFest, Community Music Center Sunday, Making Faces-Portraits by John Kascht, WWE Monday Night Raw, Margaret Atwood, George Takei, Durand Jones, Kurt Ribak, Incubus

Most Read