A common complaint about live albums is that they can't replicate the experience of actually being there. The same applies to concert films, which often fall short of distilling the special buzz that comes from seeing great music performed live and in person. U2 3D doesn't feel like going to an actual U2 show—in fact, it's probably better. The first-ever live-action 3D concert movie, U2 3D is a vividly immersive document, moving from breathtaking aerial shots of packed stadiums to the band's massive stage, with a view so up-close and personal, you can count the hairs on The Edge's arms. Factor in the lack of high-ticket prices and jerky fellow concertgoers, and U2 3D could have the unintended affect of dissuading U2 fans from ever seeing the band in the flesh again.
Shot at nine different concerts during the fourth leg of U2's "Vertigo" world tour in 2006, U2 3D is a technical triumph, deftly integrating 3D technology throughout to give an uncommonly intimate look at the world's most messianic rock band in the least intimate of settings. When the cameras prowl through twisted throngs of sweaty fans, the film also taps into the infectious energy of the audience, where most concert films would cut it out completely. It's enough to make even the umpteenth live version of "New Year's Day" seem compelling.
Well, almost compelling. The problem with U2 3D is that the U2 part is rarely as thrilling as the 3D part. Now in its Steel Wheels period, U2 has evolved into a solidly professional money machine. While top-tier 2D concert films like Stop Making Sense and The Last Waltz captured their subjects at critical moments in their careers, U2 3D is culled from yet another hugely profitable, not particularly historic world tour. The band's classics—"Pride," "Where The Streets Have No Name," "With Or Without You"—were all performed more passionately 20 years ago in 1988's underrated Rattle & Hum, not to mention several other concert videos taken from various U2 tours over the years. While there's novelty in seeing Bono belt out "Sunday Bloody Sunday" while appearing to literally touch the audience, there's also weariness in hearing a well-worn song you would just as soon never hear again.