When I was in eighth grade, I lived a ten-minute walk from my friend Sarah's house. I used to play "So Cruel," from Achtung Baby, in my skip-resistant Discman, as soon as I reached the end of my block, I'd run lightly for two blocks, and I'd reach Sarah's house just as the last chords reverberated through me. It was a meditative ritual I never told anyone about.
I have no intention of describing or defending my fandom, except to say that the joy it brings me to see U2 live has not diminished in the fifteen years I've been going to concerts. That means I'm as excited now, rushing into an IMAX theater to see U23D, as I was at 13, rushing into Dodger Stadium, to see U2 ZooTV. That says just as much about the band as it does about me, I'll wager.
Because in truth, there is no other visual experience like this one, that I know of. The 3D reality is disorientingly real, even as you swoop in from the heavens to watch over Larry Mullen Jr.'s shoulder, or burrow into the depths of the mad, mad, gorgeously tan Buenos Aires audience.
I think about the people who will argue that it's "too big," and how many times U2 has heard that, and how frustratingly silly it is to think that rock and roll will ever be content as living-room size. It isn't the noise or the screen that makes U23D so large, I'll argue. It is that this 90-minute concert/art video lays claim to narrative, and musicians aren't supposed to have narratives outside of the ballad itself.
What's the narrative? Roughly: Men who know each other well do something beautiful together, try to help a crowd of people become better, more moral citizens, fiercer artists, and honest lovers, and never know if it's "worked."
At times, the people in the theater see through the eyes of Bono, the Edge, Larry, Adam. At times, they see through the eyes of the concert audience. At times, they become an omnipotent, flying, transcendent being with perspective no mortal human (without a crane) could have. We are given a gift of vision that is bigger, brighter, more distinct than those in the crowd. We are the bearers of dramatic irony--even Bono couldn't see the girls laughing or taking cell-phone pictures. Even they couldn't see Bono's shock when his flare lit up too quickly. We get to see everything.
This super-human perception is all-too-familiar in the standard omniscient narrator, and we slip into the position of all-knowing being as a reader without noticing it. But we don't get to do it quite as completely as movie viewers, usually, even with big panning shots and great sound. In 3D, on an IMAX screen, it is total. We are in the film. We are of the film. We are lost, and also, we are most powerful. This is a kind of moral stance, from which you feel utterly connected to all other human life, and that is why, when Bono sings Miss Sarajevo, when he sings Love and Peace (Or Else), when the great anger and grief at continued injustice coarses through, it is more moving than any romantic love song. Does U2 even do regular romantic love songs? I'd say no.
Love is always the higher power, which all people, even those in the throes of sexual jealousy or despair, must call upon and answer to. And Bono's hand-made headband, with the hypersymbolism spelling "COEXIST," is a demand that love makes on individuals, couples, families, cities, nation-states, religions, and so on and so on and so on...