U2 – Let Them Be: The Second Chapter (2010)
Studio: Chrome Dreams DVDIS020, 2 discs [7/27/10]
Video: 4:3 color
Audio: PCM stereo
Length: 136:00 (68:00 each)
The U2 double DVD package Let Them Be contains two previously released Chrome Dream U2 titles. Achtung Baby: A Classic Album Under Review – An Independent Critical Analysis was released in 2006, and The Rebirth of Cool – U2 in the Third Millennium: A Review and Critique was issued in 2008. Both digital endeavors put different aspects of the Irish band’s multi-decade career under the microscope and are geared toward hardcore fans rather than casual listeners.
The 68-minute documentary Achtung Baby, as the title implies, takes a close look at U2’s seminal 1991 album that re-energized the group and reinvented the four piece as no other record in its discography ever did. Although no U2 member or anyone closely associated with the band is interviewed, music journalists, critics and others zero in on the album’s importance, lasting legacy and pivotal emergence. There are three bonuses: U2 aficionados can check their sharpness and acumen with an interactive digital quiz that gets progressively harder; there is a five-minute extended interview sequence; and contributor bios.
The Rebirth of Cool, which also clocks in at 68 minutes, is a comprehensive examination of latter-day U2 in the new century as the Irish quartet struggled to find relevance in their third decade of existence. Like the Achtung Baby DVD project, interview subjects are used to forge a semblance of commentary and critique concerning U2 CDs All That You Can’t Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb as well as the band members’ growing social awareness and activism. Snippets of U2 interview footage, music videos, archival videotape and live performances allow respite from the recurring talking heads. Despite moments of pedantic academic posturing by mostly British pundits, viewers will discover some interesting tidbits about U2’s intentions, inspirations and revitalization during the previous ten years or so, including lead singer Bono’s charity work and other non-music ventures. Bonus features include another interactive challenge, a short segment on U2’s Millennium tours and obligatory contributor background data.
Both DVDs have their problems. U2’s non-participation in the two undertakings provides a point of view similar to an outsider trying to look in, akin to someone writing a biography without the consent of the personage in question. The differing source elements furnish occasionally diminished video quality: for example, some visual components are on a level with sub-par Internet downloads.
Overall, Achtung Baby: A Classic Album Under Review and The Rebirth of Cool – U2 in the Third Millennium would make great gifts for any devoted U2 fan; or a decent rental for those inclined to curiosity who do not want to purchase the titles. These are not essential ingredients to a U2 library, but are better produced than, say, a VH1 “Behind the Scenes” episode. If nothing else, these DVDs make a good way to add appreciation to U2’s musical accomplishments.
— Doug Simpson