Thursday, June 05, 2008

A tale of two concert films - as close to musical heaven as a non-concert experience can get.

First, let's get the commonalities out of the way. The two bands - U2 and Rolling Stones come from across the pond - Ireland and Britain. Both have defied expectations in terms of how long a band is expected to last. In one case (the Stones), the key band members have unchanged for over 40 years. In the other , all members of the original line-up are still around after over 25 years. Even as age catches up with them, they are still vital, wowing audiences worldwide with their skill, craft, virtuosity and showmanship.

U2:3D plays on the near-myth status of U2 as one of the biggest rock acts in the world. Using latest digital technology, the dazzling visual feast that is a U2 concert is milked to the limits. Spare (there's no one on the dimly lit stage through the whole concert except the four band members) and grand ( huge video screens with dazzling visual effects) at the same time, the concert film too is akin to the religious experience that a U2 concert is purported to be.

Visually, it's stunning. The 3D effects that are used only for a few kicks in movies like the latest Harry Potter film are showcased to their full potential as Bono reaches out his hand and you high-five him in the middle of Vertigo. Vertigo does ensue as a camera on a lift zooms in on Larry Mullen Jr.'s drum calisthenics from behind him as the camera gives you stage access like you'd never dream.

Then there are the songs. Be it old staples like Sunday Bloody Sunday, Pride (In the Name of Love) and Where the Streets Have No Name or new favorites like Vertigo and Love and Peace (or Else), bombast isn't a term lost on the Irish quartet. I wouldn't tolerate this from any other band, but to paraphrase another superstar, they make this look good.

For a U2 junkie like me, it's manna from straight above.

Shine a Light is a complete contrast. While U2 has always been about changing the world and making a point, the Stones, it seems, are just out to have a good time. Musically inspired by the blues, they make being melancholy look like fun too. Brightly lit stages, red costumes for Mick Jagger and a whole retinue of backing instrumentalists all combine to make Shine a Light an absolute joy.

As Mick Jagger shimmies his way through classics like Brown Sugar, Miss You and does a twist with lesser known songs and covers of blues pieces, a different kind of genius shines through. The visual pace here too is frenetic with quick cuts from multiple cameras under the assured guidance of movie rock star Martin Scorsese. Old yet new, cocky yet respectful (of the blues) and sad yet happy only in the way blues (and ghazals) can be, the Stones show just why they are such a class act. 

As the encore winds down, they've also played a few radio and soundtrack staples including Start Me Up, (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction and that rocking ode to Lucifer, Sympathy for the Devil.

In the process, they win over a fan for life.

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