U2 - Vertigo Tour 2005 Review
They have a nose for chart success, access to the ears of presidents and prime ministers and, keeping with the theme of bodily parts, often act like four bollocks who understand that rock stardom may well be, outside of acting, the most ridiculous of professions. And indeed you should congratulate U2 for their careful balancing of Bono being a figure on the political stage whilst also being one who's got to keep the world's most successful rock band on those of stadia worldwide. Bono appeared at the Labour Party conference to flatter Blair and Brown with the suggestion that they were the Lennon and McCartney of politics, they opened Live 8 and still managed to get a number one with Vertigo.
Not at all bad for a band who were once peers, and were likely to become as forgotten as, The Virgin Prunes, half of whose members are named after the childhood invention of Lypton Village and who announced, fearing irrelevancy, on New Year's Eve 1989 that they had to go away and think it up all over again, which resulted in the best album of their career.
And it's the long-standing influence of Achtung, Baby! that's most felt here, being the moment where you can trace the change in U2 that saw the humourless, widescreen rock of The Joshua Tree left behind in favour of irony, leather and such rock star follies as giant lemons, Mephisto and phoning out for enough pizzas for an entire stadium. In the last couple of years - it feels odd to be admitting that Achtung, Baby! and Zooropa were not the most recent of U2 releases - they've realised, as did REM, that albums constrained by a concept would see them disappear into ironies of their own inventions, seeing All That You Can't Leave Behind and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb mixing the tech-rock of the Zooropa years with the grand rock of War and The Unforgettable Fire. Where their one-time peers stumbled, U2 have remained in the vanguard of rock bands, able to sell out continent hopping tours on a par with such legends as The Rolling Stones whilst ensuring that their creative bank account remains in credit.
This concert film sees U2 in Chicago from a date on their 2005 Vertigo world tour, mixing new songs and old in a set that looks to have sent everyone there home, some tens of thousands no doubt, feeling good. From their debut album comes The Electric Co. whilst their biggest hit of last year, Vertigo, is an early pleaser, coming second in the set list. Following on from that comes almost every one of their best-known songs, including Elevation, Beautiful Day, Bullet The Blue Sky, Pride In The Name Of Love, One, Zoo Station, The Fly and Mysterious Ways. What's most impressive is not Bono's playing of a rock star, something that he perfected on the tour following Achtung, Baby!, but that U2 manage a sound not unlike those of the albums with a bare minimum of instrumentation. Where you could have forgiven them had they bulked up their sound with a second guitarist or a keyboards player, a very eighties addition of a percussionist even, they manage with a live sound produced by only the four of them, with The Edge doubling up on piano and guitar for New Year's Day.
Of the twenty-five songs in the set list, those that sound best are the chilly, sparse songs from War - New Year's Day, 40 and Sunday Bloody Sunday - which occupy an odd spot in U2's history, being somewhere between the early post-punk sound of Boy and October and the big music of The Unforgettable Fire. Wisely, U2 leave such songs well alone from any post-Zooropa tinkering and they're all the better for them, sounding superb. They're not alone, though, as Mysterious Ways, Elevation and Zoo Station are all great, with the latter seeing Bono apeing the march of the East German guards as The Edge runs his hand down his guitar with the riff that opens both that song and Achtung, Baby!
On its own, that's probably the best moment in the set but this is a well-made concert DVD that's probably as good a document of the Vertigo tour as a fan could hope for. As regards the casual fan, they'd be better sticking with the albums, where U2 are almost as good as they've ever been.
This looks to have been filmed on High-Definition video but has been transferred here, obviously, on Standard Definition Interlaced PAL and looks to be a fairly typical concert DVD. There's a range of camera angles and there's enough of the audience to actually show them enjoying the concert. There is, however, a fair amount of digital noise in the image, the result of the amount of action in the concert, and it's occasionally easy to get distracted by it.
The disc comes with three audio options - PCM Stereo and two surround tracks, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS. Regular readers of DVD Times may well be weary of having me say this but PCM remains my favoured way of listening to music DVDs, sounding that much more natural than the surround options, which never sound as though they're doing anything more than using a rear-channel delay to haul the sound into the centre of the room.
There are no extras on this DVD release.