If any of you, like me, had tickets to U2’s second leg of their American 360 tour, then you were sorely disappointed to hear about the cancellation due to Bono’s surgery. Yet, last week’s release of their DVD, U2 360 at the Rose Bowl, the recording of last Fall’s record-setting concert, should help ameliorate that pain and tide you over until the dates are rescheduled next year. After the jump, check out mine and Richard Lindsay’s review of the concert and the DVD.
It had been a long time coming for me. I had wanted to see U2 ever since my early years of high school well before I fully grasped their significance or realized how deeply influential their lyrics and music would be in my own life. As such, my experience of the concert and reflections on it are tainted by, pardon the pun, rose colored glasses. I was initially struck by two observations. First, I was interested to see the interactions between the four members of the group during songs that they’ve sung thousands of times. I am well aware that they are putting on an act…a performance…and therefore much of their interaction is staged, but the stage itself is, as everyone is well aware, big enough for them to never cross paths. Yet they frequently came together in what appeared to be needed support for one another. In his book, We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel According to U2, Greg Garrett highlights other examples of the ways in which their friendship plays out both on stage and off throughout their career.
Secondly, at times I felt like I was intruding on their own worship time/space, especially on songs like “Mysterious Ways” when Bono was pleading for the Spirit to move him and teach him. I heard from many people and read that attending a U2 concert is akin to a spiritual experience but no one ever suggested that, first and foremost, the band might be having one as well. The DVD only enhances this aspect of their concert as the cameras zoom in on Bono engaged in particularly worshipful positions or movements.
I’m also more and more aware that U2 are cognizant that they are in a pivotal position at this point in their career, and are using it to not only say something but to make something happen as well. I’m thinking about the French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin, who was an anthropologist and theologian, who believed that our technology would become an extension of human consciousness, causing us to form a completely independent, but completely connected species-wide consciousness. He believed that evolution, instead of branching outward toward greater diversity, was now, with humans, branching inward toward greater connection. His eschatology is that we will eventually reach an “Omega Point,” in which all things are brought mystically back to God. The diagrams he drew depicting this look strangely familiar. I think U2 is into this vibe of trying to create a world consciousness. It’s difficult to ignore the parallels between de Chardin’s drawings and the 360 set, regardless of whether or not the designers were thinking about this. As the four arms meet in the middle the do so at a point that rises to the heavens. In watching the DVD, I was also aware that the open air stage and the 360 degree video screen made everyone in the 90,000+ audience look in the same direction, thus enhancing the shared, communal experience.
This will continue to be a don’t-miss tour when it re-starts next year. Until then, check out the DVD. It is loaded with bonus features and the editing and the presentation of the concert footage is flawless. Being able to see the enormity of the crowd in motion and in song from helicopter flyovers only adds to the notion that their concerts are akin to worship experiences. Aside from the full length concert, the DVD features a documentary short about the creation of the stage, clips from the tour, a bonus concert track, a time laps video of the creation of the stage, video from both the European and North American tour openings, videos from three songs off their new album, No Line On the Horizon, and two making-of featurettes about these videos, and photos, screensavers, and wallpapers.