Reviewed by Brian Orndorf, June 14, 2016, Blu-ray.com
It was supposed to be just another night on the highly successful "Innocence + Experience" tour, taking the band U2 to Paris for a concert intended for cable and internet broadcast. Unfortunately, plans for entertainment were quickly set aside to deal with the November 2015 Paris Terrorist Attacks, an event that shocked the world and forced U2 to rethink touring plans. Not wanting to disappoint loyal fans and preserve their reputation as one of most socially and politically-minded bands of all time, U2 returned to Paris three weeks later, refusing to bow down to terror-minded folk and put on a big time rock show to help heal a shattered city. "Innocence + Experience - Live in Paris" isn't a radical reinvention of the U2 live event, keeping to the essentials of stage presence and widescreen sound, but there's a special level of power to the show, a searing emotionality that runs through the whole endeavor, with Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr., and Adam Clayton trying their best to bring joy and catharsis to the world through their exquisite song catalog and a brilliant visual display.
A band that loves their conceptual tours, U2 digs deep to visualize the "Songs of Innocence" album for a new stage show. Trying to make the evening as personal as possible when playing to an arena crowd where everyone is clutching a glowing cell phone, the presentation emphasizes the themes of the record, which touch on U2's origin story, musical development, and deep-seated issues with grief and awareness. The centerpiece of the show is an enormous screen in the center of the arena, dividing the audience as colorful stylistics, animation, and home movies are presented to back up the songs, with U2 also using the system to project more direct advertisements for their causes, with this round including HIV eradication and the Dublin-Monaghan Bombings. The screen provides a neat magic trick for the band, who often play inside the set-up, interacting with the visuals to help underline biographical examination, creating movement with digital assistance. For a rock show, the screen delivers diary immersion to go along with select theatrics that find Bono slipping into actor mode, teasing "The Wall" extremes at times.
Thankfully, bloat is not felt during the viewing experience, which moves from the introspective work on "Songs of Innocence" to the U2 catalog, with hits such as "Pride (In the Name of Love)," "Vertigo," "With or Without You," and "Until the End of the World" generating outstanding musical energy. A highlight arrives with a boisterous rendition of "Elevation," which brings members of the audience onstage to help U2 record the show for social media purposes, while providing a moment of connection between the band and the fans gets the juices flowing. Performances are committed and tight, with the unit finding a vibe immediately, shaking up the routine with a few stripped-down takes on classic songs. Also of note is an opportunity to follow U2 into the bowels of the stage during a brief intermission, watching costume changes and chiropractic updates, while Bono maintains vocal command with a microphone as make-up attendants clean him up for another round of stage dominance.
"People Have the Power"
"The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)
"I Will Follow"
"Iris (Hold Me Close)"
"Song for Someone"
"Sunday Bloody Sunday"
"Raised by Wolves"
"Until the End of the World"
"Even Better Than the Real Thing"
"Every Breaking Wave"
"Bullet the Blue Sky"
"Where the Streets Have No Name"
"Pride (In the Name of Love)"
"With or Without You"
"City of Blinding Lights"
"Mother and Child Reunion"
"People Have the Power" (with Eagles of Death Metal)
"I Love You All the Time" (Eagles of Death Metal)
U2: iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Live in Paris Blu-ray, Video Quality 3.5 of 5
The AVC encoded image (1080i, 1.78:1 aspect ratio) presentation returns U2 to HD, and does so with pleasing clarity. Sharpness is never in doubt, delivering a substantial amount of detail for band member shots, finding close-ups picking up on stress marks and sweaty enthusiasm. Backgrounds are also clear, allowing viewers to examine the audience and their varied levels of enthusiasm for the show. Colors are equally impressive, finding vibrant primaries carried to satisfaction (coming alive during shots of the big screen), and skintones are spot-on. Hampering the viewing experience is trouble with banding and periodic moments of more aggressive posturization. Artifacts are common and can be distracting, but they don't swarm the image. Delineation is comfortable, preserving deep distances.
U2: iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Live in Paris Blu-ray, Audio Quality 4.0 of 5
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA sound mix is meant to be a powerful weapon, putting listeners into the arena with the band and the crowd, and that balance is pleasing, if a little artificial at times. Perhaps audiophiles and U2 scientists who study every rubbed guitar string will walk away with a different appreciation for the listening experience, but the essentials are comfortably communicated, offering performances with detectible instrumentation that falls just short of complete precision. Vocals are clean and direct. There's a wall of sound style to the track that carries the mood, with surrounds generally regulated to audience support and backing vocals (check out "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Vertigo" for broad examples of this). Low-end rumbles along accordingly, but there's more bass response than percussive thunder, diluting the bottom just a little bit. Distortion isn't detected.
U2: iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Live in Paris Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras 3.5 of 5
- Booklet (22 pages) features photos from the concert.
- "Cedarwood Road: A Gavin Friday Narration" (4:26, HD) provides a complete look at the autobiographical animation from the show.
- "Out of Control (December 6th, 2015 - Paris)" (5:23, HD) is a particularly slow version of U2's first single.
- "The Future Better Hurry Up" (1:14, HD) is a commercial for the tour.
- "The Electric Company (November 11th 2015 - Paris)" (5:46, HD) is a performance clip from an earlier, pre-tragedy stop on the tour.
- "1+e: Behind the Scenes with the Director" (5:11, HD) is a brief conversation with Hamish Hamilton, who discusses the challenges of pulling off a live broadcast and celebrating the band's strengths.
- "Bad/People Have the Power (with Patti Smith - December 6th, 2015 - Paris)" (15:19, HD) offers deleted participation from the famous singer, who joins U2 for two songs.
- "The Wanderer" (4:44, HD) is screen animation featuring a CG-manipulated image of a "singing" Johnny Cash.
- "The Troubles" (4:46, HD) is another screen presentation.
- "Ordinary Love" (3:39, HD)
- "Invisible" (4:09, HD)
- "The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)" (4:14)
- "Every Breaking Wave -- A Film by Aoife McArdle" (13:03, HD)
- "A Song for Someone (Directed by Vincent Haycock)" (8:45, HD) features actor Woody Harrelson and his daughter, Zoe Harrelson.
- "A Song for Someone (Behind the Scenes)" (4:30, HD)
- "A Song for Someone (Directed by Matt Mahurin)" (4:00, HD).
U2: iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Live in Paris Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation 4.0 of 5
"Innocence + Experience" is poignant work, frequently referencing the terror attacks, projecting the names of victims as the band tries to lift spirits with the healing power of music. It's a dazzling show, inventively staged and enthusiastically performed by Bonobos, Adam Claytwothousandpounds, Larry Mullen Sr.'s Son, and Thedge, but this particular stop on the tour holds significant meaning to everyone in the room. Sure, U2 has had a weird last couple of years, but set aside the iTunes debacle and their bizarrely truncated touring schedule, egos and strange corporate bedfellows, and here's a pack of Irishmen who know exactly how to move a mass audience, periodically knocking them flat with sheer sonic power.
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