U2: The Best Of 1990-2000 appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Actually, aspect ratios varied. While most of the videos went fullscreen, four of them – “Stay”, “The Hands That Built America”, “Discotheque” and “Stuck In a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” – looked to be 1.78:1. In addition, “Numb” and “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” appeared to be 1.66:1. To further complicate matters, the movie clips seen during “Hold Me” jumped to 1.85:1.
Every time I review a collection of music videos, I complain about how tough it is to fairly grade picture quality. Not only do the videos come from a range of years, but also a lot of times they look terrible due to the director’s intentions. Even given those considerations, I felt somewhat disappointed by the visual quality of 2000, which suffered from some problems that didn’t seem related to the original clips.
Sharpness appeared erratic. At times the videos came across as reasonably accurate and distinct, but those qualities didn’t seem consistent. Some of the clips displayed rather soft visuals; for example, “One” looked noticeably fuzzy. Shimmering and jagged edges marred some of the videos, and I also noticed surprisingly intrusive edge enhancement during many of the clips. “Beautiful Day” really suffered from this tendency, and the edge enhancement most likely caused much of the softness I observed.
Source flaws displayed occasional example of speckles and marks, but otherwise the material seemed to be acceptably clean. Colors varied dependent on the director intentions, and the tones occasionally came across as slightly messy and drab. However, the hues generally appeared acceptably concise and distinct. Black levels also depended on the intentions of the original footage. They mostly seemed deep and tight, though, and shadow detail looked appropriately heavy but not too thick most of the time. Really, the softness and edge enhancement created the biggest problems, and they caused me to give 2000 only a “C-“ for image; while there’s a limit to how good music videos can look, I think this set could have offered superior visuals.
On the other hand, the PCM stereo soundtrack of Best of 1990-2000 provided a positive sonic experience. It surprised me that the U2 set didn’t get the full 5.1 treatment, but it didn’t bother me at all, as the music sounded quite good. (The packaging indicates the presence of a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, but it doesn’t appear.) Stereo imaging seemed solid across the board. Of course, those elements depended on the original tracks, but for the most part, the instrumentation and vocals appeared neatly delineated and easy to distinguish within the mix. It all spread across the front well and seemed to aptly reproduce the source material.
Audio quality also seemed fine. Vocals sounded clean and distinct, though again, the original production affected this; for instance, “Hold Me” is supposed to offer a very thin and processed tone, which it does. The various instruments sounded clear and nicely defined, and bass response came across as appropriately deep and tight. Overall, the audio of Best of 1990-2000 more than adequately replicated the music.
Best of 1990-2000 packs a fine roster of extras, and we start with a collection of bonus videos. Don’t ask me to explain what constitutes a “bonus” video. I think a few of them never were officially release, but I know that’s not true for all of them, so that doesn’t explain the distinction. Perhaps the producers of the set just didn’t want to include them on the VHS version of 2000 so they’re considered a bonus for DVD fans. I couldn’t find a tracklisting for the VHS version to see if they differ, but this thought makes sense, I suppose, especially since the much-maligned Pop dominates this section; four of these seven videos come from that album.
As an aside, here’s how 2000 breaks down via album if I combine the standard program and the “bonus” videos. (This doesn’t count the alternate clips I’ll soon discuss.) From Achtung Baby, we get six tracks. Zooropa offers three videos, while Pop knocks out a whopping seven clips. Only two numbers come off of All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and we also find two new songs. “Hold Me” and “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” emanate from soundtracks, while “Miss Sarajevo” stems from Soundtracks, the Passengers album. Basically, all of this means that Achtung and Pop fans will feel happy; if you don’t like those albums, you’ll not find much to appease you here, since 13 of the 23 tracks come from those two releases.
We get seven of these “bonus” videos. Arguable the best song off of Pop - and a killer in concert - Please presents a mix of Bono’s lip-synching and images of folks on their knees in the street. Frankly, the thing confuses me, but it seems intriguing and unusual nonetheless. 7 out of 10.
Another Pop number, the video for If God Will Send His Angels will already look familiar to owners of City of Angels, as it also appears on that DVD. It shows funky time lapse photography. Bono lip-synchs in a diner booth as the patrons around him rapidly change. It uses splitscreen, with Bono’s side of the booth on the top and the other bench on the bottom. The concept seems creative and interesting, but the piece doesn’t go much of anywhere. 7 out of 10.
The final single from Achtung, Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses? provides a simple affair. Basically we see black and white band lip-synch shows integrated with a concert montage. It seems cheap and fairly cheesy. 3 out of 10.
Much better, Zooropa’s Lemon offers a creative piece of work. Based on the photography of Eadweard Muybridge, it consists on a series of quirky motion studies like “Man Playing Pool”, all of which are acted out by the band. Bono’s parts alternate between MacPhisto and the Fly. The theme gets a little old by the end, but it still seems clever and amusing. 8 out of 10.
The third single from Pop, Last Night On Earth offers vaguely post-apocalyptic visuals that match the tune. U2 pick up a babe and drive through this moderately nightmarish world. The video seems interesting and enjoyable, though it feels a bit predictable for the song. 7 out of 10.
A number of the videos on 2000 use remixes of the songs, but most stay reasonably close to the source material. Not so for Mofo, the seventh and final Pop clip. The remix seems cheesy and annoying, and the video itself merely provides a crude montage of live elements from the PopMart tour; some come from “Mofo”, but many other songs appear as well. The annoyingly loud overdubbed crowd roar knocks a point off my grade. 3 out of 10.
A lovely and elegant little song, The Ground Beneath Her Feet offers a collaboration between U2 and writer Salman Rushdie, and it comes from the soundtrack of Million Dollar Hotel. While a nice song, the video seems predictable and dull. It offers the standard mix of band lip-synch elements and movie clips, and it does nothing to elevate the format. 4 out of 10.
Next we move to a collection of five alternate videos. The “Dance Mix” of Even Better Than the Real Thing mostly comes across as a series of outtakes from other videos, and there’s really not much to this bland mélange. I don’t much care for the remix either. 3 out of 10.
As I alluded earlier, One experienced an unusual route to the MTV screen, and this clip offers the third of the three versions. Directed by Phil Joanou, it seems pretty simple, as it mostly just shows Bono as he lip-synchs at a bar table and smokes. It also includes some live clips from the then-nascent Zoo TV tour. (Not “Outside” yet, it started in arenas in the late winter of 1992; that’d be the last time would play venues smaller than stadiums for nine years.) The video doesn’t do anything special, but it fits the song acceptably well. 5 out of 10.
Apparently the first video created for Stuck In a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of, the Kevin Godley-directed piece aired mainly in Europe, while Americans got the football one. Basically it shows Bono as he repeatedly gets tossed from a moving van. I much prefer the American edition, but this one seems decent. 6 out of 10.
Much less interesting, the Morleigh Steinberg-directed Staring at the Sun looks like a home movie travelogue. It just shows the band as they wander a vaguely tropical locale. It seems quite boring. 3 out of 10.
Credited to “Emergency Broadcast Network”, this version of Numb mainly consists of stock footage and sound effects edited together, and it appeared during the Zooropa tour when the band played the song. Edge lip-synchs some as well, but the collage of snippets makes up most of this moderately interesting video. I like the alternate version of the song, though. 5 out of 10.
Most of the 28 videos on 2000 offer audio commentaries. These come from their directors; unfortunately, unlike the Smashing Pumpkins’ Greatest Hits Video Collection, the commentaries don’t involve the band. Still, they provide some god information. Some of the directors concentrate on technical elements of their clips, while others go more into the dynamics of the shoot and/or what they wanted to achieve. Of course, given the length of the videos, the directors don’t have much time to elaborate, but they usually offer good information about their work.
Note that no commentaries appear for the following videos: “The Hands That Built America”, “Mofo”, “Gone” or “Until the End of the World”. In addition, the Steinberg “Staring at the Sun”, the dance “Even Better Than the Real Thing” and the “Emergency Broadcast Network” version of “Numb” also lack commentaries.
However, we find two commentaries for “The Fly”, as it offers a second discussion from co-director Richie Smyth. Some folks have wondered why 2000 includes an apparently empty third audio channel. Smyth’s chat is the reason for that; it offers the sole element of the extra track.
After this we locate three documentaries. “U2 Sur Mer” consists of video clips, shots from the filming of the video, and comments from Bono, Larry, director Anton Corbijn, and actor Samantha Morton. The seven-minute and 22-second piece doesn’t fully get into the creation of “Electrical Storm”, but it features some good behind the scenes images as well as some informative remarks.
More worthwhile, “A Story of ‘One’” takes 14 minutes and 42 seconds to get into that video’s sticky history. We learn of how the song aided the band’s reinvention and then go through the creation of the three different videos. We also learn why various clips didn’t make the cut. Comments appear from directors Mark Pellington and Phil Joanou as well as the Edge. The program nicely covers the whole process behind the making of the three videos, and it offers some interesting behind the scenes footage as well.
Another good little program, “Missing Sarajevo” looks at U2’s September 23 1997 concert in Sarajevo. Mostly traced with narration, the 11-minute and 39-second piece relates the show’s origins during the 1993 Zooropa concerts and also discusses the Bill Carter documentary that inspired the Passengers song. Edge and Bono offer the occasional impromptu comments, but mostly the narration and the candid visuals make this a compelling piece.
A few minor bits round out 2000. The set provides cool packaging, as it includes a slot for purchasers of the “Limited Edition” CD set to place that release’s “History Mix” DVD. It also includes a very nice booklet that features photos as well as credits for all of the “standard” videos. The booklet’s text gets into some history and remarks about the videos as well, so it merits a look. One oddity about the packaging: since the buffaloes from the original version of “One” dominate 2000, shouldn’t the set actually include that video? Unless it’s buried somewhere, the Mark Pellington edition of “One” goes missing here.
One of the best compilations of music videos on the market, U2’s Best of 1990-2000 provides a lot of entertainment. Including “bonus” and alternate versions, we find 28 videos here, and most of them work quite nicely. A few duds pop up along the way, but I like the majority of the videos, and an even higher percentage of the songs remain solid. Unfortunately, picture quality seems erratic and somewhat flawed, but the audio represents the original music well, and the set packs a fine collection of supplements. Purchase of Best of 1990-2000 falls into the “no-brainer” category. Fans of U2 will definitely want to add it to their libraries, and those with a less active interest should also pick it up, as it offers a fine primer for the band’s Nineties work.