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The U2 of the 1990s was the most interesting and innovative of their many incarnations (and there have been so many of them, hasn't there?), as they reached their artistic zenith with the trilogy of Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop (you can even throw in their ridiculously underrated collaboration with Brian Eno, Passengers, into this list). Song such as "Mofo" and "Lemon" are much more fresh and challenging than "classic" tracks like "Desire" or "Bullet the Blue Sky." How many more times do we really need to listen to Bono rhyme "fire" with "desire?" Give me the flawed genius of Pop over the pretentiousness of Rattle and Hum any day.
I still have the original 1994 VHS of the Sydney show, which has definitely worn out over the years, and the difference in quality between the VHS and new DVD is astounding. The new film is much clearer than its predecessor, and the sound quality is amazing. I used to have to turn up the volume when watching the old VHS, and the instruments sounded fuzzy. But the new mix is superb, and the experience of watching this concert is completely different with the re-mastering. I could actually hear individual instruments, down to Larry Mullen, Jr.'s cymbals. This is a true audio and visual experience well worth the admission price.
The show itself is fairly standard in terms of Zoo TV: dozens of television screen assaulting the audience with pop culture and ironic statements; Bono as audacious as ever; and a collection of new and old songs spanning their career up to that point. One thing that I've never been able to reconcile about the Zoo TV Tour is how that during this period of experimentation, when U2 was supposedly breaking free of their preachy, bombastic, guitar-driven selves for a post-modern, electronic-tinged, ironic image, the band included such hits from the 1980s as "Angel of Harlem" and "Pride (In the Name of Love)" along with the new sounds of "Zoo Station" and "Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car." If they were truly breaking away, why was it necessary to cling to the past? If you're truly trying to chop down The Joshua Tree, as Bono claimed the process of making Achtung Baby was, why play a half dozen songs from the era you're trying so hard to get away from?
Regardless, Zoo TV is an excellent snapshot of a band at their best and most interesting. From the nearly five-minute introduction, where the dozens of televisions explode with images of the end of the Cold War and the new technological age, to the opening riffs of "Zoo Station," to the appearance of the devil-turned-lounge singer, Mr. Mephisto, this is a show that encapsulates U2 at a crucial moment in both their career and at a time when the world was becoming a new place, with the end of the Cold War completely shattering preconceptions and offering a future with boundless possibilities. No band captured the excitement of this time better than U2, and this DVD is but a small glimpse into that world that today seems so far away. SEE ALSO: www.u2.com
Eric J. Morgan
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Eric J. Morgan is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Colorado. He has an orange cat named Nelson and longs for the day when men and women will again dress in three-piece suits and pretty dresses to indulge in three-martini lunches and afternoon affairs.
See other articles by Eric J. Morgan.
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