You'll find it hard to look at the live concert film in quite the same way after walking out of 'U23D'. In much the way that Martin Scorsese's 'The Last Waltz' and Sigur Ros' 'Heima' have creatively shaped the way music films are approached, Catherine Owens' and Mark Pellington's enthralling film shifts the goal posts as to what is achievable in capturing live performance.
On a host of levels, 'U23D' is a triumph. Shot over seven concerts in South America, as an audience we're brought closer to the band than ever before. We're on stage with them, next to them, behind them and over them.
The 3D technology - never before used to film live action - is a marvel, managing to show the band in a light beneficial to both the four piece's prowess on stage and to the viewer sitting in an auditorium with funny glasses on. At times, especially during the initial songs on the set list, it feels like you're actually at the gig. This reviewer for one nearly clapped in unison with the crowd after the first song, before remembering that he was in fact in a cinema and not at a gig somewhere in Buenos Aires. If cinema is meant to transport you from mundane reality to another world, than 'U23D' nimbly achieves just that.
Opening with 'Vertigo', Owen and Pellington hit us hard with a burst of 3D's capabilities as we're struck with the feeling of floating over Larry Mullen's drumkit; getting up-close-and-personal with Bono and actually placed in the crowd as hands swirl in front of our face and the fluid movement of the crowd dancing abounds around us.
While the initial burst of technology has the desired effect of overwhelming and impressing, Owen and Pellington are careful not to engage in too much trickery. So while on occasion we're moved to shifting our heads in case Adam Clayton's bass strike us, the format is very much kept on a leash with the idea being to keep things real as opposed to surreal.
Indeed 'U23D' has the effect of lending Bono, The Edge and Co that 'real' element as a band; something which has become enveloped by their celebrity and iconic status. Strip away Bono's self-cultivated image as a kind of pseudo-political global warrior and what you've got is a band - four men playing musical instruments and making an incredible sound - a sound which routinely sends audiences of 50,000-plus into ecstatic delight. It's just four men doing this, within these huge arenas, and frankly it's remarkable.
Other bands of their ilk use a host of other musicians on stage or hidden to the side. U2 don't, and Owen and Pellington's film captures the intimate connection the four members have. Without the need for documentaries, backstage footage or post-show interviews, 'U23D' reveals more about the workings of U2 as a band, than the group ever expected it would.
Not one entire show, the shots used in 'U23D' are cut from seven different South American concerts. The sound too is cut up. For instance if one shot sees one piece of audio used from Mexico, and another in Buenos Aires, the sound from each is spliced together to make one coherent track.
So, do you need to be a U2 fan to enjoy 'U23D'? No, but it's an obvious advantage if you're not averse to the group. The 3D effects are so stunning however that you'll be captivated and impressed enough to keep your bum on a seat for the 85-minute duration. Fans of the band meanwhile will obviously get much more from it.
Regardless, if the sight of Bono skipping around a stage enthrals or appals you 'U23D' remains a must for music fans and an entertaining way to rediscover the band solely as a group of fine musicians.
For a chance to win an official 'U23D' cinema poster signed by the film's director, Catherine Owens, see here.
To read Steve Cummins' interview with Catherine Owens, see here.