Reviews

U2: Zoo TV, Live From Sydney [DVD]

A new DVD from U2's Zoo TV tour is a worthy testament to the powers of one of the greatest live acts of all time.


U2

U2 - Zoo TV, Live From Sydney

Label: Island
US Release Date: 2006-09-19
Amazon
iTunes

A rock band simply cannot survive for three decades unless its members possess tremendous chemistry. In an age where albums are tweaked and artificially synched, recordings are often poor indications of this chemistry. When it comes to judging the way a band plays and stays together, there is no greater proving ground than the live show. Few bands in history have enjoyed a reputation for live excellence comparable to that of U2. On a new concert DVD, Zoo TV Live from Sydney, the band members demonstrate how one of their most famous concert tours helped establish that reputation and fueled one of the most prolific rock careers in history.

After a band has existed for several decades, critics can sometimes look back on the group's work and identify different stylistic phases. In the case of U2, one can identify three distinct periods. The first found an eager and idealistic band in the '80s experimenting with a new sonic approach that culminated in the classic album The Joshua Tree. The second, which carried the band through the '90s, stretched from the excellent Achtung Baby to the poorly received Pop, and the third, which began in the new millennium, saw a group reinventing itself on All That You Can't Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. The Zoo TV DVD comes from the second period, a time when U2 was using its increased celebrity status to mock the excesses of major media, and the band's satirical touch directs the concert.

U2 has four members, Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen, Jr., but the concert DVD stars a fifth member of sorts: a massive stage featuring several hundred video monitors. This awesome stage is the focus of the camera's attention at the beginning of the video. After showing a montage that includes video footage of people striking giant bass drums, the sound system launches into the "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's ninth symphony, and the band members take the stage.

U2's performance can be neatly divided into three sections and an encore. Bono assumes a different persona for each section, and he uses these characters as part of his satire. In the first section, he is "The Fly", a character who wears large sunglasses and shiny black clothing and who mocks the excessive lewdness of the traditional rock singer. In the second section, he is merely himself, as he and the other band members relocate to a smaller, monitorless stage, where they deliver mostly acoustic versions of some of their songs. In the last section, Bono plays the part of a fighter pilot. He begins the encore by donning red horns and makeup to play the devilish Mr. Macphisto, but he tosses away the props before the last few songs and finishes the show as himself.

Musically, Zoo TV Live from Sydney shows a band at the absolute height of its power. Each member puts out an excellent performance, and everyone gels together. The band's energy level throughout the concert is almost unbelievable. During the approximately one and a half hours before the encore, the group takes only a few short pauses while hurtling through physically and musically demanding songs. Despite this grueling show, the instrumentalists never falter, and Bono's voice holds out well throughout the songs.

Highlights on the disc abound. Some of these are visual, as in the opening footage or in the rapid-fire messages that flash on the screen during "The Fly"; phrases such as "Everything You Know Is Wrong" and "Watch More TV" flash rapidly on the monitors, criticizing the extent to which television moderates public discourse. Other highlights are musical, such as the stirring acoustic songs, which, in addition to the acknowledged classic "Angel of Harlem", include the sometimes-overlooked love song "Stay (Faraway So Close)" and a cover of Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love". Long-established U2 concert favorites such as "Where the Streets Have No Name" and "Pride (In the Name of Love)", which come at the end of the main show, are especially powerful.

One of the elements of U2's Zoo TV stage show that distinguishes it from other live acts is its thematic consistency and symbolic content. The show features over-the-top production, but the larger-than-life presentation serves a deeper purpose. By fully exploiting their available technological capabilities, Bono and the band satirized the messages and the strategies of broadcast media. At one point in the concert, the monitors start showing a cable television feed, and Bono flips through the channels criticizing what he sees until he finally settles on a cricket match.

The Sydney Zoo TV concert appeared on VHS in 1994, but the new DVD is a must-purchase for U2 fans. The sound and video quality are excellent throughout the show. The DVD is available in two formats, a single disc concert-only version, and a two-disc limited edition featuring documentaries, bonus tracks, and extras such as a video confessional and karaoke for the song, "Numb". These extras make purchasing this already-outstanding concert even more appealing. Even people who don't consider themselves U2 fans will find much to appreciate, and maybe even love, on this disc. Few bands possess the consistency, the chemistry, the musical energy, and the political depth of U2. All of these elements were in full force on the band's Zoo TV tour, and they make the concert's DVD practically essential.

8

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image