From the Sky Down

From The Sky Down ,would make a worthy Christmas present for a music-loving friend, family member or, even better, a treat for yourself. It ranks alongside Pearl Jam’s Twenty and Kings of Leon’s Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon as one of the top rock DVD releases of 2011.

From the Sky Down is a documentary focusing on the recording of Achtung Baby, which is seen as the crucial transition of the biggest rock band in the world.

Achtung Baby is the reason we are still here now,” says guitarist The Edge in the doccie.

The doccie is told via the band in present time with scenes in and around the recording of the album.

Achtung Baby found the band in a rather bloated position. With 1987’s  The Joshua Tree U2 went from just an Irish alternative rock group to being the biggest band in the US. The media and fan worship that borders on idolatry, and comes with making it big in in the US, went to their heads. They were absorbed in the consumerism and fast-paced materialism that comes with that country’s culture, which resulted in the terrible Rattle and Hum album. This was a group that had lost their identity as a band and as individuals.

The opening lines of the doccie begin with the words: “They say that a band is a clan. You may not be related, but you have pledged loyalty to each other.”

It then goes on to show band members Bono, Adam Clayton, The Edge and Larry Mullins jr waiting to go on stage at Glastonbury. (Of course they have to do it in slow motion, it being U2 and all.)

The narrative includes earlier footage of the band and shows exactly how much creative input Daniel Lanoi and Brian Eno, in particular, had on their creativity both in their music and emotional well-being. In fact, from the very beginning one of the secrets of the band’s success was the number of super-talented and intelligent people who surrounded them.

Bono initially comes across as a pretentious twat. But as the doccie evolves into a musical exploration you remember that he is essentially a musician, and a good one at that.

The doccie strips away all that bloated bull U2 are known for, and just as what Achtung Baby did for them then, this DVD brings out the real musician in each of them.

In parts the explanations are musically technical, but user-friendly enough that the average fan won’t get bored.

The story is told with frank honesty from all four members’s perspectives.

When they decided to record in Hansa, Germany, it was 1990, just after the Berlin Wall had been pulled down. But, say the band, it was a very dark time for them. They couldn’t find their groove. The breakthrough finally came when Bono found the chords to the song One. The rest of the creative process then flowed organically.

But what was interesting is that even though they had a straight-up rock sound with no special effects, their ensuing tour, ZooTV, was anything but.

“If we’re accused of megalomania then let’s do something to enhance it,” says The Edge. “Let’s give them rock star.”

Enter The Fly with his Lou Reid glasses, Jim Morrison leathers and Elvis Presley attitude. Throughout the tour U2 took on the role of the media, the concepts of truth and democracy, and Bono as we know him was born.

The question is: was Achtung Baby the way back to the roots of U2, or the beginning of a bigger and more bloated U2?

U2: From The Sky Down is available online