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

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.