Predictably politically-fuelled and thoroughly space-aged. Littered with hits that – love them or loath them – have become staples of what the world believes it is to be Irish. Full of Bono’s rants and a 97,000 capacity stadium’s raves: U2’s latest live effort – first broadcast as YouTube’s first live concert in Autumn last year – is everything you’d expect from Dublin’s aging rock stars. Introduced with an almost Star Wars-esque zooming sequence which allows the viewer to enter the Pasadena Rose Bowl from ‘outer space’ right before U2’s opening track, ‘U2 Live At The Rose Bowl’ goes on to deliver in every respect. Providing, that is, you’re a big U2 fan.
You may already have caught the best of this particular DVD in edited-down highlight form on satellite television recently. If you have, and enjoyed it as much as us, you might well be eying up this purchase with a fair amount of anticipation. In truth, though, the recently-aired hour-long highlights package is of a much more watchable length. Great as a show of well over two hours is when you’re actually there, on TV it’s far too much, and by the end we couldn’t help picking holes in it. The crowd, for example, often sound better than Bono, who’s suffering from some flat ‘end of tour’ vocals, and based on this effort would score fairly heavily on the Eurovision ‘bum note’ scale. The ‘claw’ stage, whilst a great concept, also has a weird effect on band chemistry: most of the time Bono, The Edge and Adam Clayton are so spread out over the stage that they may as well each be a solo performer. It’s a feat that must take a lot of rehearsal but – if anything – detracts from the overall feeling of the gig in this format: a stadium was never going to be hugely intimate, but this is even less involved than you might expect.
Still, as much as it’s flawed in places, 97,000 make a serious racket, and few bands evoke this kind of passion. The crowd alone are worth a viewing: next time we’ve been away from Irish shopping centres for a few weeks we may well be throwing this in for a quick reminder of how ‘One’ goes, courtesy of California’s loudest. Both crowd and band camera work is extremely well executed, and – as far you can be on screen – the viewer really is transported into the thick of things. When the classic do come round, the energy rising from the audience is palpable; the mutual appreciation between band and crowd undeniable. We can’t accuse U2 of not giving us our money’s worth, either: The Rose Bowl show is a full 23 tracks in length, and – even with an extremely heavy dose of the old classics – has a good go at summarizing the band’s entire career to date. For a fan, the depth is superb, though the less enamored might find themselves pushing on to the twin pleasures of ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and ‘With Or Without You’ at the expense of the less memorable ‘Unknown Caller’, ‘In A Little While’ and latest title-track ‘No Line On The Horizon’.
The disc comes in several formats, and we haven’t had the chance to check out the ‘bonus disc’ material, which for fans might well be a serious redeeming feature. Otherwise, though, this is effectively a U2 ‘best of’ in live televised format. it would be a pleasure to watch live, but – recorded at least – is just far too much to handle in a single sitting. In other words, the Rosebowl DVD is one for the fans and a solid preview for those yet to catch the imaginative 360 tour, space-communication stunts and all. For all its creative efforts, though, we doubt it’s going to win too many new admirers.