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DVD Reviews

HTF Music DVD Review: U2 POPMART

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#1 of 4 ONLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted October 20 2007 - 10:00 AM


Title: U2 POPMART: Live in Mexico City
Rated: Not Rated
Screen format: 4:3 native Standard Definition
Studio: Island/Interscope/Universal Music
Year first released: Filmed December 1997
DVD released: October 2007
Director: David Mallet
Sound Formats: PCM 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Length: 2 Hours 6 Mins
Subtitles: NA

You’ve got to hand it to U2, they have managed to reinvent themselves more times than Madonna has and each time they come out bigger than before and always larger than life. This concert, filmed at Mexico City’s Foro Sol Autodromo stadium, is able to perfectly capture all of the disparate elements that defines U2: Their politics, art, humor and the mirror they turn back on to modern life. Opening to a remixed version of ‘Pop Music’, M’s Pop Muzik starts the show off like a boxing match, and then it blasts off like a rocket making stops to appear like a funeral, supermarket, disco, or soccer game along the way. All along it is completely dominated by a 50’ long video screen that blasts pop culture references and animated live effects layers that colors and distorts the band in ways that would have made Andy Warhol extremely jealous.

It’s almost too much, that sometimes it seems that the music becomes secondary to all of the other antics and then there are moments where the crowd and band just unite through the lyrics that it becomes clear that the music still is in control. And thank goodness for that, since this is a veritable “best of” from the band mixed in with the Popmart album, and there are plenty of surprises to be found in among the consumerism.

Sound Quality: 4.5/5
One oddity of this disk is that it starts up without taking one to the menu. Doing so, it put me in the PCM 2.0 channel by default and it took a bit before I realized that there WERE other tracks to be found. Skip the 2.0 it’s mediocre to horrible. I finally pulled up the 5.1 options and put on the DTS 5.1 and was suitably impressed. The opening Pop Muzik track is only the start, and each track beyond is fully immersive and feels like a spectacle held in a stadium should: full crowd presence felt on the sides and rears with a broad front sound stage that wraps around with lingering echos behind. There is a palpable presence that really grounds the viewer here and is one that I haven’t felt in most other concerts, it’s quite impressive. Despite all the over the top posturing of the band it really is the music that’s the star here, and four tracks in particular make this disk worth multiple viewings: The Edge’s solo rendition of ‘Sunday bloody Sunday’, a heartfelt version of ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’, the sublime re-imagining of ‘Hold me, thrill me, kiss me, kill me’ and the drama of ‘Discotheque’.

Visual Quality: 3/5
While the box notes that this disk was originally filmed in 4:3 and should be watched that way, I alternated between widescreen cropping and the fullscreen and found the widescreen to be as pleasant (tho a bit grainier as it was blown up) and remarkably well framed. OAR diehards feel free to toss your pitchforks at me, but I blame the technology as my deck defaulted to this mode and I wasn’t even aware of the issue until I actually put the menus on.

As noted above, the two visual stars here are the technology driven mammoth video wall and the antics of the band, and they appear to be really relaxed, playful and responsive to the crowd. This disk captures both very well, but the nighttime filming and over-processed effects piled up on top can be exhausting. Overall there is a very grainy and blooming/overblown look that doesn’t always look particularly good but it is interesting.

Extra Features: 0/5
Not a single extra feature to be found here!

Overall: 3.5/5 (not an average)
While the audio is pretty killer here and the overall vibe of the disk is entertaining, the video end of things is a little bit too dramatic and over-processed for my taste and the total lack of any extras at all is a definite bummer. Add on top of that the wonkiness with the menu and the defaulting to absolutely lame 2.0 track which will confuse the less tech-savvy viewers and this disk ends up a mixed bag but with a pretty positive overall result. True U2 nuts will find plenty to be happy about here but for the more casual fans this disk is just short of being great.

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#2 of 4 OFFLINE   Steve Meskell

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Posted October 21 2007 - 09:42 AM

I would knock one point off the Visual Quality. When this show was broadcast live on Showtime in 97 I was pissed at the softness of the video...so things haven't changed much. And there is a 2 disc set that includes some fun extras but YMMV depending on your fondness of U2.

#3 of 4 OFFLINE   Tim Hoover

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Posted October 27 2007 - 10:46 AM

I always thought the Please/Streets segue was one of the high points of this release - Please actually being one of my fav U2 songs, and the segue into Streets being equally as beautiful. Sam, would you place the audio quality on par with U2 Go Home, or perhaps the live at Boston DVD? I ask because the Zoo TV in Sydney disc had the same paper-thin sound as the VHS, and I want to make sure the same hasn't happened with the Popmart release.
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#4 of 4 OFFLINE   Brett_B


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Posted October 30 2007 - 03:34 AM

I remember when DVDs first came out that when this show (Popmart Tour) was first being planned for an eventual DVD release that it was to have multiple angles of the show. I guess they decided to scrap that whole idea.

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