The last time I watched something in 3D was over 20 years ago when GMA 7 showed the 3D version of "King Kong" (the Jeff Bridges one, probably). In the weeks leading to that they ran ads teaching viewers how to make 3D glasses using cardboard and red and blue cellophane. So we made a couple, stayed up for the show, and fell asleep midway. It was late and I got a headache from watching 3D on a small screen.
Fast forward to yesterday at the SM Digital Cinema. The 3D glasses weren't colored but polarized (according to the fine print) and the screen was huge. We were seated near the screen (mas maganda sa malapit, said the girl at the box office) and we waited for the rest of the crowd to trickle in (about 30 people, total, in a theater with 10x capacity) while they were playing Ronan Keating and Stephen Gately songs pre-show (Bakit? Dahil Irish din sila?). There was only one trailer -- the Miley Cyrus 3D concert -- and I can't help noticing she looks even uglier in 3D.
And the movie starts.
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Kicking off with "Vertigo" the band is in top form. As well they should -- the film was a composite of their entire Latin American tour. 3D is difficult to shoot so they had different camera set ups per leg. They caught the Argentinian leg live, with footage from other shows used to show alternate angles, and a shoot on an empty stage for the close ups.
"Beautiful Day" follows, with the lyrics altered to fit South American geography, while "New Year's Day" has The Edge playing keyboards and Bono introducing "the genius of Adam Clayton*" on bass solo. The pace slows down with "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" but picks up again when Mullen walks to a B-stage with a floor tom and crash for "Love and Peace or Else," while singing backup ("release, release, release, release").
The political songs continue with "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (although nothing compares to the Red Rocks version with the white flag) and "Bullet the Blue Sky," where Bono mixes in "Johnny Was" with an admonition for Johnny to "come home" (the tour was shot during the height of W's Iraq War). No mid-song poem but the image of a fighter plane is shown on the screen behind.
[It must be noted that The Edge changes guitar almost every song (he reportedly owns over 200 and brings around 40 on tour). And any gearhead would salivate at his custom-made rack.]
The Edge moves back to the keyboard for "Miss Sarajevo" with Bono singing the Pavarotti part adequately. The sequence ends with a reading of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on screen followed by "Pride"
Then a familiar chord on an organ follows, broken by The Edge's signature riff. It's "Where the Streets Have No Name" followed by "One." The band then takes their bows, steps off the stage, only to come back for an encore consisting of a funkier version of "The Fly" and "With or Without You."
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U2 is still the "greatest band in the world" if only for the fact that after 30 years they're still not a nostalgia act. You don't go to a U2 concert shouting (Homer Simpson style) "no new stuff." Their set list has enough to keep any fan of any era happy.
But more than that they make you proud. True citizens of the world, there's something about their sound and the overall tone of their shows that transcends nationality. They could come to Manila (cross your fingers), say something about dead journalists during "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and have us all shouting "No more!" Then show that Aung San Suu Kyii footage at the end of "Walk On" and pick a girl from the audience to sing "With or Without You" to.
A concert is more than just a band singing their songs live; it's supposed to be a performance and (since David Bowie) a spectacle. U2 delivers, at least on a huge screen in 3D.
*Which had me rolling my eyes. In U2 Bono is the band leader, Edge is the musician, Larry Mullen is the founder and the cute one, while Adam Clayton is the lucky one. His genius is in letting the others shine.