Sundance - The premiere of U23D

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By Nick Purdy

Paste took in a groundbreaking music-on-film event at Sundance on Sunday night. The greatest band in the world, in 3-D, up close and in hi-definition. As Bono told the audience at the Eccles Auditorium during an introduction given by the band (minus Larry Mullen, who fell ill), U2 has always been interested in advancing technology. U23D is the band’s multi-year effort to merge the best of hi-definition digital and new 3-D filming technology to create what is the first live 3-D concert film.

You can read all about the technical details and who produced the film, but make sure to see it in an IMAX theater with 3-D digital projection. It won’t be released on DVD, but the U23D site has a list of theaters.

While the band’s previous movie release, Vertigo 2005 — Live From Chicago, is a dandy concert film, replete with multiple cameras and close-ups, it doesn’t compare to the immersive experience of floating inches away from the band members at various points during U23D. The film takes great pains to emphasize the interplay of the audience experience with the band, and the digital 3-D experience allows for a level of detail previously unseen. Everything is in focus.

The entire film is made up of live performance with no behind-the-scenes footage, and the focus is on U2’s biggest hits (“Beautiful Day,” “Pride,” “Vertigo,” “One,” “With Or Without You,” “Where The Streets Have No Name,” “Bullet The Blue Sky,” etc.), though we do get “Miss Sarajevo” with Bono filling in for the recently deceased Pavarotti.

One can’t help but wonder if the intimacy of the visuals (like hovering directly above Mullen’s drum kit or feeling close enough to Edge’s guitar that you almost reach out to pluck the strings yourself) somehow beats being at a live show. Nothing can replace the physical sensation you can get at a well-executed live gig, but in the right setting, a film of this nature gives us and future generations a pretty accurate sense of what this particular band was like at the height of its prowess. The cost of production was clearly high, so it’s not clear if we’ll see a sudden rush of 3-D hi-def concert films. But here’s hoping we do.