My copy of the new U2 live compilation arrived surprisingly early. It's an official fanclub exclusive, the best one so far, because this time the subscribers were allowed to vote for their top 22 songs out of 46, culled from the band's two-year 360 world tour (2009-11), the highest grossing tour of all time. The two cds are stored in this vinyl-size booklet, filled with high-res photos taken from various shows, and they got Adam Clayton to provide the liner notes for each song. If only they put this much effort into the sound.
I'm a stickler when it comes to sound mixes for live albums. It's always a difficult thing to get right; engineers are always striving for a good balance of crowd noise and music. In this case, you can barely hear the crowd during the quieter moments (I like that), and for the louder, high-energy ones, the crowd volume is turned up, sometimes a bit too overpowering. The instrument mix can be a bit uneven, varying from song to song. Overall the guitars sound good; at times I can almost feel as if Edge were playing in front of me. Bono's voice resonates too. But I think Larry Mullen's drums are just too far back in the mix. For those who don't know, U2's rhythm section happens to be one of the tightest in rock & roll, and on official live recordings when Adam's bass is much louder than the drumming, it can get kinda annoying.
For the most part, the music is better live than on the albums. The 22 songs are sequenced in a way that it feels like a typical 360 show. Towards the end of the tour, the band started breaking out more Achtung-era stuff -- Even Better Than The Real Thing (great disco-rock rendition), The Fly (always great to hear), the return of the acoustic version of Stay and the rarely-played Zooropa....in my opinion, U2's sexiest song (just listen to those sick bass lines and echo-drenched guitar).
I'm glad the fans chose Bad (voted no.1), All I Want Is You, One Tree Hill, Out Of Control, and The Unforgettable Fire (I voted for them too, and other rarities like Miss Sarajevo, Your Blue Room, Electrical Storm, Spanish Eyes and 40). The other songs are the standard hits that U2 had to play every night. No Vertigo, thank God. Ultraviolet isn't a hit, but a fan-favorite, so it's inclusion here is no-brainer. Also it's nice to hear something taken from the show I attended; Moment Of Surrender at Perth's Subiaco Oval, in which I totally forgot Bono sang a bit of Party Girl at the start!
At the end of the day, no matter how many times I listen to this compilation, it's never ever gonna be the same as being there in person, and it's all thanks to the CLAW. Even watching the Rose Bowl DVD, you can't fully replicate the majesty of the claw at home. It's the claw, together with the accompanying lights and LED screen, that provides you with that 'in-your-face' experience. I'm not complaining though; I couldn't think of a better tour souvenir than this. Well done, U2.com team!
1. Even Better Than The Real Thing
2. The Fly
3. Mysterious Ways
5. Until The End Of The World
6. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
7. Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
8. One Tree Hill
9. Beautiful Day
12. All I Want Is You / Love Rescue Me
13. The Unforgettable Fire
15. City Of Blinding Lights
16. MLK / Walk On
18. Where The Streets Have No Name
19. Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
20. With Or Without You
21. Moment Of Surrender
22. Out Of Control
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