Big Bono


The IMAX movie "U2 3D," currently on view at the Natural History Museum, adds new dimension to the age-old concert movie. This is not Scorsese's "Last Waltz". This is a rock and roller coaster ride where a pair of red plastic glasses is the keypass to a whole new musical realm. This is U2, the band, with vocalist Bono, bass player Adam Clayton, guitarist The Edge and drummer Larry Mullen Jr, bigger than ever, playing in a manner that's as up close and personal as it comes, musicians three stories tall.

The 3D experience is not yet perfected, there's still something about it that makes it more novel than normal. Even so, the camera takes the viewer on a soaring sweep 15 feet above the crowd, or to a kneeling perch just under the drummer's drums, or right up on stage with the musicians. It's an hour and a half of exhilarating camera angles of a 14-song performance filmed during the band's 2005-06 Vertigo tour.

The view from the stage is breathtaking. Tens of thousands of concert goers, a teeming crowd, moving as one giant organism in a massive surge of love and admiration for the band. It's enough to make you wish you were a performer.

The frustration is still there though when the camera gets down into the crowd at that place that's satisfyingly close to the stage, but furiously blocked by thin, pretty girls who get to sit on their boyfriends' shoulders. Honey, please get down, I can't see Bono! But then fortunately, we're buoyant again and swiftly cruising over crowd and stage, leaving the girls behind.

So what's this film got to do with Natural History?

Well, nothing really, it's a crowd pleaser. Says Jerry Sachs, the museum's manager of guest services, "It provides us the opportunity to bring in a demographic that otherwise might not come to the museum." But then with a smile adds, "Musicians. . . call it an anthropological study."

(Photograph Courtesy of 3ALITY Digital)

About Beth Py-Lieberman
Beth Py-Lieberman

Beth Py-Lieberman is the museums editor, covering exhibitions, events and happenings at the Smithsonian Institution. She has been a member of the Smithsonian team for more than two decades.

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