PARK CITY, Utah - The hot ticket at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend wasn't an edgy Hollywood indie. It was a slick, super-saturated 3-D concert flick from Dublin.
Park City's Eccles Center was pulsing with an arena-sized dose of anticipation Saturday night for the premiere of U2's "U2 3D." Fans whooped and hollered at any and all signs of the band. Scalpers drove tickets far above face value. The red carpet was choked with press outlets stacked four deep, while the theater was packed with Sundance founder Robert Redford, former Vice President Al Gore, plus actors Ben Kingsley, Anthony Michael Hall, Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid and many other ticket holders.
The outsized, all-digital film was shot over the course of several South American shows during the band's 2005-06 Vertigo Tour. Pint-sized digital 3-D cameras swoop over the stage, sway with the crowd and create a vivid visual experience.
Guitarist the Edge said it was the first time he'd actually seen a U2 show, and admitted that he was surprised to see the just how far apart his bandmates were on stage.
"Are you saying you felt lonely up there?" Bono joked.
"No, I felt lonely for Larry," Edge said.
But why 3-D, and why now?
"We always ask the same question when we're thinking of something to do," the Edge said. "And that is, 'What's never been done?' This was another thing that's never been done, so we were immediately up for it."
Bono, always stumping for votes, also offered another motivation.
"U2 tickets can be a bit expensive," the singer said. "We fight to keep them reasonably priced, but you know how it goes. And people who are going to high school or college don't always have the cash. So my hope for people who are thinking, 'Well, I'm kind of into that band,' is that they'll give us a shot and see what we've got."
If "U2 3D" (which opens nationally on Wednesday) propels U2 into the future, the band's decision to tap Joshua Tree co-producers Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno to helm its forthcoming album is rooted in the intersection of past and future.
"Daniel Lanois is about the ancient," Bono said. "And Brian Eno is about the modern, the future, the things that haven't happened. And where they join - [a place] where something feels like it's always existed but you've never heard before - that's what those two seem to bring out in us. Daniel Lanois has this tradition and respect for folk music and respect for black music and gospel and blues. And Brian is still trying to make music for if the band had formed on Venus. Somewhere between that is our next album."
"If we don't make a truly great rock 'n roll record," he concluded, "Somebody should come after us."
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