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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 11/29/01



U2: Elevation 2001 - Live from Boston
2001 (2001) - Interscope (Universal Music)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Elevation 2001 - U2 Live from Boston

Program Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/B-

Specs and Features

Disc One - The Concert
107 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), custom slipcase/gatefold packaging, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 64:28, in chapter 13), The Making of the Filming of Elevation 2001: U2 Live from Boston featurette (24 mins), liner notes booklet, animated program-themed menus with music, song access (19 songs - see track listing below), languages: English (DD 5.1 & LPCM 2.0), subtitles: none

Disc Two - Another Perspective
Multi-angle concert presentation (66 mins, 3 angles for 12 songs), custom slipcase/gatefold packaging, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), Road Movie time-lapse featurette (5 mins), 3 bonus tracks, 2 promotional clips, credits, DVD-ROM features (including weblinks and a screensaver), animated program-themed menus with music, languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none

Bono: "I'm the blind ambition of the band. You need to be blind sometimes, know what I mean?"

My musical education began on August 1st, 1981, when some guy in New York flipped a switch and MTV came blasting into my living room. There was Peter Gabriel, shocking his monkey. The Police were walking on the moon, complete with bleached blonde hair. A bar band named REM loudly proclaimed Europe radio free. And there were four punk-ass, Irish teenagers celebrating New Year's Day out in the snow. My love of U2, and all of the above, began then and has lasted to this very day.

So earlier this year, when I learned that U2 was coming to Anaheim, CA on the first leg of their Elevation tour, I eagerly sought out tickets. And then the reality of trying to get tickets to the hottest show of the year set in. Prices were out of sight, well over $100 a piece even for the nose-bleed seats. So I gave up and tried to put it out of my mind. But the day before the show, my wife managed to score me a single floor ticket for just $50 (knew I married her for a reason!). It would be standing room only, but what the hell? I'd be in the house. So imagine my surprise when, having gotten to the concert early (the April 27th show), I was one of 350 people allowed inside the band's heart-shaped stage. INSIDE!! Ultimately, I watched the show from a position about 3 people deep from the stage, halfway between Bono and Adam Clayton, who were not even 20 feet away. There are no words to describe what a lucky sonofabitch I felt like, let me tell you.

So why is any of this important to a review of U2's new Elevation 2001 DVD? Well... it's absolutely critical, and here's why. I'm a huge fan of this band, and I experienced U2's Elevation tour up close and personal. So I'm in a pretty good position to be able to evaluate how well this new DVD captures the live experience. And I'm thrilled to say that it succeeds in a big way. Being there live was an absolutely thrill - probably the best concert experience of my life. And this DVD brings back all the fun and energy of those couple of hours very well indeed.

Can a concert performed in a sports arena reasonably be called intimate? Well anyone who saw the show knows that that's exactly what this was - Larry, Adam, Bono and the Edge mixing it up with their audience, right in the thick of the crowd. The concert on this DVD delivers U2 in a stripped down version - gone are most of the glitzy trappings of the band's previous tours. Here, the band is singing and playing their instruments with collective flair and naked honesty of emotion. Bono's magnetic swagger is plugged in and lit up like the spotlight he uses to pick out faces in the crowd during Bullet the Blue Sky. We get a fine mock battle between Edge and Bono's dueling egos in Until the End of the World. You get In a Little While, performed in tribute to the newly late Joey Ramone, and an acoustic rendition of Stay (Faraway, So Close), with Edge and Bono right out in the middle of the arena. The band even rounds out the show with a ripping version of The Fly, and closes with my new favorite, the stirring and hopeful Walk On. But easily the highlight of the night is a terrific performance of Bad, with its electrifying transition to Where the Streets Have No Name, in which the crowd is chanting with almost religious frenzy. When I experienced this moment live, you could have powered Disneyland for a month with the energy in the place. And I'm happy to say the I got chills re-experiencing it on DVD.

A few fans have complained about the concert on this DVD, however, which was recorded at Boston's Fleet Center on June 6th, 2001. Their chief complaint is that a few songs that were performed that evening were omitted from the show (specifically Mysterious Ways, Pride and One). Very likely, this was for technical or quality reasons. There is, after all, only so much room on one DVD. And the production could have had technical problems as well, that meant certain songs had to be cut. So be it. At the concert I saw, the band performed 8 or 9 songs that aren't represented on this disc, including hits like New Year's Day and Angel of Harlem. That said, what you do get here is terrific - this is an undeniably a great show, cuts be dammed.

The video quality on this DVD is generally very good. It's in full frame, as one might expect, which is my only real complaint. I can't help but think that the emotional energy of the performance would have been much better conveyed anamorphically. Hey - my brain works in widescreen. So sue me. Still, color representation is excellent - lush and vibrant as one would expect from a concert video. Contrast is equally good, with deep blacks and sufficient detail throughout the image. This doesn't appear to have been shot on high-definition, which is a shame. You should also note that the video's been processed to look like film. So while it's not reference quality video, it's not supposed to be - it looks exactly as was intended by the producers.

The sound on the DVD is also mostly good, but will probably not impress more discerning audiophiles. This is not the best Dolby Digital 5.1 mix I've ever heard for a live music performance. It's definitely serviceable, but the center channel seems a little muddy, which means that it can be difficult to understand what Bono is saying on occasion (and it's not just because he's got an Irish accent either). The effect is mostly noticeable between songs, when he's talking to the audience. The front of the soundstage could also be a little wider and smoother, and there's not as much audience fill from the surrounds as you'd expect to see in most 5.1 concert mixes. As a result of these issues, the track doesn't seem as natural-sounding as it could or should. All that said, the music does sound very good throughout the entire performance. And the louder you listen to it, the more "realistic" it becomes in terms of recreating the live experience. I suppose nobody ever said music recorded in a sports arena could sound like the Royal Albert Hall. Most people will be happy with the 5.1 mix. And for those that aren't, the disc includes an excellent LPCM 2.0 stereo track as well.

This 2-disc set isn't exactly loaded with extras, and some obvious ones have been left out (song lyrics and a band discography are obvious omissions). But if what you do get seems a little thin at first... take a deeper look. Most of what's included here is pretty cool. Disc One includes a 24-minute featurette on "the making of the making of" the concert. That sounds a little funny at first, but capturing this concert on video presented distinct technical and creative challenges. The featurette includes interviews, insights and tons of behind-the-scenes footage with director Hamish Hamilton and his production team. The piece is a bit glossy in tone, but it's substantive and worth watching. Disc Two contains the real bulk of the extras. The most notable of these is called Another Perspective. It's basically 12 songs from the concert presented on the other disc (running about an hour), presented again here with the option to change to any of 3 different camera angles on the fly. There are two angles of the show itself (the final program and the show from the audience's perspective), and one of the director and his team doing their thing in the control booth. The quality here is not even close to what's on Disc One - all 3 angles are presented smaller and more compressed. You watch through the main window of a graphic interface, that also shows you smaller picture-in-picture views of what's on the other angles. You switch by selecting the one you want with your remote. You can also skip ahead or back to any of the 12 songs. I don't know that anyone would want to watch the whole show like this - I certainly didn't. But there are some very cool moments. Remember that amazing transition I mentioned from Bad to Where the Streets Have No Name? Well watch the director's angle during this moment. It's very clear that Hamish loves what he does and his enthusiasm is infectious. We should all be so happy at work.

The remainder of the extras are a mixed bag. There's a fun little time-lapse video (Road Movie) which runs about 5 minutes, that shows the entire process of setting up, running and tearing down the show. It's set to Walk On and hey - it sucked me in. There's also 3 additional tracks, including a time-coded video of Elevation shot live in Miami in March 2001 (a nice souvenir given that this was the first song performed on the first concert of the tour). You also get the band up on a rooftop again, this time in Toronto in May 2001, singing Beautiful Day, as well as the band performing Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of in the studio (along with various behind-the-scenes antics) in Dublin in September 2000. Next up are brief video trailers for a pair of other U2 concert videos (which, irritatingly, are not yet available on DVD), namely ZOO TV Live from Sydney and Popmart Live from Mexico City. Finally, there are DVD-ROM weblinks to various online sites (including causes the band supports - a nice touch) and a DVD-ROM screensaver (which I generally don't bother with and didn't here).

So there you have it. Elevation 2001 isn't the best concert DVD ever, but it is a terrific concert. And the DVD does a very good job of capturing the emotional energy of the performance. Having seen the real deal in person, I'm very grateful to be able to recapture the experience in my home theater, and share it with those who weren't there with me. I love U2 because these guys, in addition to being a great band, are undeniable optimists. They give me hope. And this DVD gives me a little bit of joy. Hallelujah.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com

Track Listing

Elevation
Beautiful Day
Until the End of the World
Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of
Kite
Gone
New York
I Will Follow
Sunday Bloody Sunday
In a Little While
Desire
Stay (Faraway, So Close)
Bad
Where the Streets Have No Name
Bullet the Blue Sky
With or Without You
The Fly
Wake Up Dead Man
Walk On




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