Zoo TV:
Live From Sydney

U2

When U2 released Achtung Baby!, their industrial-strength studio follow-up to The Joshua Tree, they rewrote the book on just about every preconceived notion of how a band should harness the fallout of a Grammy-winning album. The Zoo TV spectacle that accompanied the album distanced the band even further away from the 80s. Parodying the media by using the media was an assault on the senses unlike any other, and U2 held nothing back, lathering up stadiums with jagged spotlights, numerous television screens, and loads of odd noises. Now available on DVD, Zoo TV Live From Sydney encompasses the environment of this pioneering tour with unswerving accuracy.

The Zoo TV tour set a precedent for the ensuing bigger-than-life, over-the-top presentations from the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Madonna, and every other major act that would follow in its wake. By the time they arrived in Sydney for the November 27, 1993 show that comprises this DVD, U2 and their crew had the production down cold. The opening sequences play out like an Oliver Stone movie — a heavy dose of news clips, sound bytes, and spin doctors before The Edge peels off one giant cob of “Zoo Station.” Bono hops, skips and marches down flight of stairs, stirring up the crowd like a boiling cauldron of porridge. Soon, they will bow and respond to his every whim.

Dodging a belly dancer (aka Mrs. Edge) and waltzing with female fans keeps Bono on his toes. But when he brings things down to earth during the emotive “One” and “Running To Stand Still,” the charismatic Irish pied piper croons to the tens of thousands as if they were gathered together in a small and intimate room. The creative upswing that surrounded U2 during the Zoo TV tour produced another album called Zooropa, a loopy experiment in techno that must have kept everyone in stitches between shows before 50,000 and more. When some of the new tunes are slotted into the set list, things take a decidedly strange turn. Bono dons a little make-up, a flashy suit, and a set of devils horns to portray Mister MacPhisto, a churlish amalgam of rock star and devil that did little to make songs like “Daddy’s Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car” and “Lemon” as novel as they are forgettable. In the end, the MacPhisto character melts away as Bono leads the crowd in a chorus of “I Can’t Help Falling In Love.” Then U2 slowly abandons the stage, exiting as dramatically as they entered.

~ Shawn Perry

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