The Real Thing: U2’s Zoo TV Tour – An Audio Visual Extravaganza!

The Real Thing- U2’s Zoo TV Tour - An Audio Visual Extravaganza!

The Real Thing: U2’s Zoo TV Tour – An Audio Visual Extravaganza!

As an audio visual extravaganza, U2’s Zoo TV tour in the early 1990s was truly ground breaking. Live music accompanied by film and imagery had never been done on such a scale before. These days most popular music artists deliver an audio visual feast for every show they play. Back in the early 90s bands filmed themselves only for once off televised concerts or for making recordings of shows to sell on video. Zoo TV changed all that. Every gig the band played was a multimedia event. It’s true to say that the tour raised the bar for all stadium popular music acts.

An Audio Visual Extravaganza

What was most impressive was the sheer spectacle of it. The massive video screens loomed high above the band and displayed film and imagery that had a huge dramatic impact. There was a kind of symbiosis between music and imagery. They dramatized each other and sparked suggestions and meanings off each other. Much of the film and imagery were random but the music lent them weight and symbolic import. Likewise, the visuals enhanced the power of the music.

Two key words here are symbolism and drama. Symbolism doesn’t say anything: it suggests, it says many things. This was essential to Zoo TV. Dramatizing these symbols was achieved by the sheer scale of the screens but also by the music. One particularly dramatic moment, which encapsulated the whole Zoo TV experience, was during the song, Bullet the Blue Sky. The video screens displayed a burning cross throughout the song until, at one well timed moment, the cross changed into a burning swastika. This kind of manipulation of symbols and music in one stark, dramatic moment summed up ZOO TV.

An Audio Visual Extravaganza - U2’s Zoo TV Tour

Another keyword here is ‘play’. Much of the music of Achtung Baby and it’s follow up, Zooropa, is playful and ironic, a bold departure from the kind of music that made them into global superstars – the direct, soulful songs of The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum. This sense of play was continued into ZOO TV. The most ironic aspect of the live show was the contradiction of critiquing the TV saturated society of the time while presenting an audio visual extravaganza: the ultimate TV show.

“You Didn’t Come All This Way To Watch TV, Did Ya?”

The interplay of music and video was kept up throughout the show but the most heavily ironic portion was the first half hour or so where the audience was bombarded with images and text. ‘Well you didn’t come all this way to watch TV, did ya?’ Bono says with tongue firmly in cheek. However, there are many sober moments, such as when the band performed Pride (In the Name of Love) beneath an image of Martin Luther King.

A Spectacular Multimedia Event

Love them or loathe them, U2 have to be admired for reinventing both themselves and the stadium rock gig with the Zoo TV tour. A spectacular multimedia event, it redefined the parameters of what a popular music show could be. It was infused with the irony, self-consciousness and playfulness of Achtung Baby and Zooropa but not without the seriousness of songs such as One and earlier classics like Pride and New Year’s Day. In this sense it was a well-rounded show that didn’t overdose on irony. The visual technology served the band well.

Spectacular Multimedia Events - U2’s Zoo TV Tour

Audio Visual For Live Shows

You may not be planning your own Zoo TV tour but if you want to put on an audio visual feast for your next live show then we can help. We’ve a wide range of screens, stages, lighting rigs as as well all the music gear you could need for your next event. Give us a call on +353 1 4133 892 or contact us online to find out more!

Images © Copyright Steve San Martino & StuFish

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