Live From Chicago

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Bono, Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen. Jr.
Director:  Hamish Hamilton
Audio:  Dolby Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Interscope Records
Features:  None
Length:  132 Minutes
Release Date:  November 29, 2005

“Is it getting better, or do you feel the same?
Will it make it easier on you, now you got someone to blame?
You say one love, one life, when it's one need in the night
It's one love, we get to share it
It leaves you baby, If you don't care for it…”

Film ****

U2 has continued to avoid the usual early death of so many rock legends, and they actually got into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of fame before they became a relic.  They continue to write and perform at the highest level with their original four members.  While the “Pop” and “Zooropa” albums made many fans wonder if, like R.E.M. they were no longer relevant, those CD’s suffered from overproduction and are excusable and partially successful experiments which every great band has to try.

“Early morning, April four…A shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life…The could not take your pride!”

In my early days of playing bass in garage bands, I really did not like U2 very much.  Their music seemed so simplistic to me, even for pop.  Often the basslines were just eight note ostinatos with maybe three or four chords in all.  But in time I realized that their biggest inspirations were from punk rock and folk music, both of which feature a lot of power and meaning in small packages.  They also make the most of minimal chord changes.  And I owe Adam Clayton a huge apology.  Had I been playing bass on The Joshua Tree I would have been foolish to play any differently than he did.  Simplicity is beautiful. 

“Wipe your tears away…

It seems every day that there is another celebrity mouthing off about their pay, they way they are treated, etc.  Then Bono gets up and dedicates Running to Stand Still to anyone who has a brother or sister serving overseas.  Somehow he manages to make every song about each of us, in a soulful way, rooted in country music and folk, but he writes about modern challenges.  His three band mates seem to know just how much to give him to raise the music up to new plateaus, and like all great bands, the whole is much more than the parts.  This concert, which was filmed in a stadium in Chicago, still sounds as though it could have been right in front of me in a coffeehouse or school auditorium. 

”In the name of love…What more in the name of love?
In the name of love…What more in the name of love?”

The tone of the entire concert is very intense and serious but not in an overbearing way.  The song list stretches back to Electric Co. from the Boy album, New Year’s Day, through their most recent recordings. 

Sunday Bloody Sunday has a new twist, rather than preaching as he sometimes does, Bono pleads for peace in the Middle East, saying that David, Jesus, and Muhammad are all sons of Abraham.  I have to admire Bono nor preaching less and encouraging more, and staying out of the politics of modern life, more like a missionary than a politician.

Probably the most minimal song they ever did was Bullet the Blue Sky, and the trio does a quick blues lick the middle to give it yet another variation.  With Bono singing a snippet of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and Hands that Built America, their improvisatory skills are mysteriously fascinating. 

I am not sure if this performance (or any) can top the “U2 Go Home” concert in enthusiasm, but this one is worth getting simply because it has different material and performances than the prior DVD releases.   We get to enjoy the underrated “Zoo Station” and “The Fly” instead of the overplayed (on radio at least) “With or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found…”

DVD TRACK LISTING:  1. City of Blinding Lights; 2. Vertigo; 3. Elevation; 4. Cry/Electric Co.; 5. An Cat Dubh/Into The Heart; 6. Beautiful Day; 7. New Year’s Day; 8. Miracle Drug; 9. Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own; 10. Love and Peace or Else; 11. Sunday Bloody Sunday; 12. Bullet The Blue Sky;  13. Running To Stand Still; 14. Pride In The Name Of Love; 15. Where The Streets Have No Name; 16. One; 17. Zoo Station; 18. The Fly; 19. Mysterious Ways; 20. All Because Of You; 21. Original Of The Species; 22. Yahweh; 23. 40

Video ****

Just perfect, well-directed and shot, and no artifacts I can see, which is especially remarkable considering how many different angles are shown throughout the concert, with video footage and constant lighting changes making this a very difficult concert to record, let alone with such quality. 

Audio ****

An excellent DTS mix.  Everyone who knows me knows that I am a real nit-picker when it comes to sound, and this DVD is the kind of disc that made me want to get a surround system to begin with.  The DTS mix is as good as any I have ever heard, with the bass frequencies making the room shake even at average volume.  The other mixes are OK but with less bass.  While U2’s music is harmonically very simple, their overall sound has so many hues and leaves so much space that good sound quality is worth the expense.  Somehow, they still put out great CD’s and concerts year after year. 

FeaturesZero stars (none)

But so what?  They are not really needed.   One special “feature” of this disc though is that the concert starts right when you load the disc (albeit only in stereo) and shows minimal credits, then the usual FBI warning is the very last thing on the disc after the concert.  Since the price of the disc is pretty low, and the sound quality is so good, I don’t know why any fan would copy it anyway. 

There is a special edition of this package which includes behind the scenes footage and other performance “elements.”

Summary :

Amazing Grace is still amazing, but when I go, I want the choir to sing Where the Streets Have no Name.. And maybe, just maybe, the world really will be half as good by then as Bono wants it to be.

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