U2 Go Home: Live From Slane Castle appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While erratic, Slane offered a generally attractive picture that definitely marked an improvement over the disappointing visuals of Elevation.
Sharpness still came across as iffy at times, though not with the frequency seen in the earlier project. Occasional shots looked a bit soft and ill defined, but those popped up on an acceptably rare basis. For the most part, the show looked nicely detailed and distinctive. Some examples of jagged edges appeared at times, and I noticed a little light edge enhancement as well. Periodic examples of video artifacting manifested themselves, but those also remained minor and didn’t create any real distractions.
As I noted when I reviewed Elevation, U2 circa 2001 didn’t present a terrible color-filled concert, so don’t expect a lot of dazzling hues here. Nonetheless, the tones looked noticeable more accurate and dynamic here than in Elevation. The latter displayed a flat, brownish feel, whereas Home looked accurate and concise in its colors. Blacks were reasonably deep and tight, and the program handled low-light shots surprisingly well. Some variations occurred, especially via one camera that made everything look brighter than any of the others. Nonetheless, that problem occurred infrequently, and the image usually appeared well balanced. Overall, U2 Go Home didn’t offer one of the strongest pictures I’ve seen, but it seemed generally solid.
Whereas Elevation presented only a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, U2 Go Home added a DTS 5.1 mix to the equation. That’s a nice touch, but don’t expect tremendous differences between the pair. The DTS track might seem slightly deeper and richer, but this didn’t present an enormous improvement. It also was a little broader and more encompassing in scope. I’d give the DTS version a slight nod, but I didn’t discern enough variations to award it a higher score.
The sound field remained pretty heavily anchored toward the front spectrum, but that seemed appropriate for the presentation. Vocals were well placed in the center, while instrumentation spread cleanly and accurately across the forward channels. The rears mainly added musical atmosphere as well as crowd noise. They didn’t feature much split-surround information, but they bolstered the music in a surprisingly strong and effective manner. This allowed the music to neatly envelope the listener.
Audio quality sounded excellent. Bono’s vocals maintained terrific presence and they always sounded warm and natural. Edge’s guitar displayed fine clarity and precision, while Adam’s bass received good support and depth. Larry’s drumming was clean and distinct and showed none of the “boxiness” that often affects concert percussion. Dynamics were very good, and the program presented some very warm and rich bass. Whichever soundtrack you choose, you should find a lot to like about the terrific audio of Slane.
Although Slane lacks the bells and whistles of Elevation, it tosses in a few nice components. The main attraction comes from
The Making of The Unforgettable Fire, a 28-minute documentary shot in May and June of 1984. Filmed during the Unforgettable Fire sessions at Slane Castle and subsequent work at Windmill Lane Studio in Dublin, we watch U2 as they work on the record and also get occasional interview snippets with the band as well as manager Paul McGuinness and producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. Mostly they work through “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, but some other tracks pop up too.
A very interesting program, the shots from the sessions stand out as the most compelling components. The interviews add some useful notes about the various songwriting and recording processes, but it’s really the candid elements that make the show special. We get to observe details of the band’s work plus some fun moments such as when a local girl asks Eno if Quincy Jones was there. It’s a solid little piece.
(In the “nice touch” department, note that “Making of” offers English, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles. These appear nowhere else on the DVD, even though it looks like the option exists for the main concert.)
Next we find a bonus track. This presents “Mysterious Ways” with a 16X9 enhanced 1.78:1 image and PCM stereo audio. The performance comes from the same Slane concert depicted on the main part of the DVD, which makes its excision from that program a mystery. Why not include it between “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “Pride” where it belongs? I have no idea, but I suppose it’s better to get it as a bonus than lose it totally.
Too bad the presentation’s more than slightly jarring. This cut of “Ways” looks more like something from the pseudo-documentary Elevation than the more traditional Slane. It shows lots of intentionally degraded footage and jerky camerawork. These make it borderline unwatchable at times. Still, it’s a decent performance.
Finally, DVD-ROM users will find a few additional components. The most intriguing promises a 360-degree view of Slane. This is available for three songs: “Elevation”, “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “Beautiful Day”. It allows you to pan all around the venue. In theory, this seems cool, but the execution becomes less scintillating because the image looks simply horrid. Technology hasn’t progressed far enough to catch up with the piece’s concept, as the picture looked terribly blocky and unwatchable.
Somewhat more interesting is the “U2 Elevation Tour Diary Calendar and Clock”. When you download this, it’ll show a clock with the current time and allow you to jump around the calendar to find out where they played each day of the 2001 tour. I found no “tour diary” elements, though; other than city and venue, I couldn’t discover any details about the shows.
Finally, we get some “weblinks” to U2’s homepage as well as some for causes they support; we get connections to DataData (“Debts, AIDS, Free Trade in Africa), ”Free (Leonard) Peltier”, Greenpeace, the Burma Project, and Amnesty International. In addition, we discover two screensavers and four wallpapers. All seem decent but pedestrian.
As one of my favorite bands, I was pleased to check out U2 Go Home: Live at Slane Castle. The DVD offered a very good concert in a solid manner that rarely suffered from gimmicks or silly editorial techniques. Picture quality was occasionally iffy but usually seemed solid, and the audio sounded consistently terrific. The package comes with a few extras highlighted by an interesting documentary from 1984.
When it comes time for recommendation, things become complex due to the pre-existing Elevation release. If you don’t already own that DVD, I’d advise you to get Slane instead. It doesn’t include as many extras, but it presents a better concert with superior picture and equally terrific audio. If you have Elevation but simply adore U2, you’ll also want to get Slane. I know that I’ll keep both in my collection, especially since a smattering of different songs appears between them.
More casual fans who already own Elevation will probably feel content to stick with it, if they’re content with it. If you have it but don’t care for the picture quality or other presentation aspects, Slane offers a nice upgrade. Despite a more restricted roster of supplements, Slane simply seems to be the superior U2 concert release of the pair from 2001.
One final note: if you peruse online retailers, you’ll find two different editions of Slane for sale. There’s a “Limited Deluxe Edition” that lists for $26.98 and an apparently undeluxe, unlimited version that goes for $19.98. As far as I can tell, the only difference between the two involves packaging. The more expensive release comes in a digipak, while the cheaper one gets housed in a jewel case. Otherwise, it appears that the DVDs themselves remain identical and the “Limited Deluxe Edition” includes nothing not found in the jewel case package. If you want to spend an extra $7 for a digipak, go for it. I’d recommend the cheaper one for everyone else, though.