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U2: Rattle and Hum

review by James S.


Rated PG-13

Running Time: 98 minutes

Starring Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr., Adam Clayton

Studio: Paramount

Directed by Phil Joanou

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Theatrical trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital English 5.1, Dolby Surround English, English Captions, Chapter Search

This movie had me waxing nostalgic. I remember well when U2's Joshua Tree was released. It was my senior year of high school (man I'm getting old) and this U2 fan picked up his vinyl copy on day 1. The album was great. That Fall, I picked up my bags and headed off to college, album in tow. Coming back for Thanksgiving, my high school sweetheart (and future wife), scored a couple of tickets to U2's show in Fort Worth, Texas. The concert was great, and the Joshua Tree tour was immortalized in U2 Rattle and Hum.

Plain and simple, Rattle and Hum is a concert movie. It captures the band during their North American tour, including footage from Arizona, Harlem, and even the Fort Worth show. Shot in both black and white and color, Rattle and Hum balances both stage performances and a series of short interviews and off-stage tour footage. A guest appearance by the incomparable B.B. King is included, and it's priceless as one of the best guitarists this world has known says he can't play chords. B.B. even picks up the axe to play for a song, which span their career (though heavily biased towards Joshua Tree cuts).

You could tell this DVD was a transfer straight from film. Plenty of film artifacts appear if you pay attention. In addition, the black and white shots accentuate the often grainy quality of some of the film. About two-thirds through the movie, the band rips into Where the Streets Have No Name. The film changes to color and the brilliance of the silhouetted band against a red background is captured on the DVD. While black and white is used for style, the color portions really look impressive. Unfortunately there just isn't enough of it.

I'm quite familiar with the Rattle and Hum soundtrack. I've listened to it many times over the last decade. It was because of this that I was shocked by the audio on the DVD. I heard things I never heard before on some songs. The audio captures more than I ever imagined. Listening through a set of Sennheiser 580 headphones, cymbals resonated and had long decay times. Furthermore, tambourines had a clear and pointed jingle to them, and the bass drum had a deep rich feel. When I compared tracks to the CD, I found the DVD to have a richer and deeper sound, yet the CD packed more punch on the drum kit. The soundstage was unimpressive, however. No matter how I set the sound up, I couldn't get a decent soundstage. I even through my vinyl copy of Joshua Tree on to compare similar songs. Whether I piped the DVD through the television, headphones, solid state gear, or a tube amp, the stage was flat. To get the best out of the DVD, I suggest headphones.

Rattle and Hum is a basic DVD. The only feature is the theatrical trailer. In this regard, the DVD was a disappointment.

If you are a U2 fan Rattle and Hum is a must buy. The audio quality seems better than the studio albums when compared to compact disc. The movie captures the band on the tail end of their rawness and represents the real turning point of the band musically. As a DVD, even though the film transfer is average, the sound is exceptional. Just turn the television off and listen to some great tunes.

(3/5, NOT included in final score)




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