The Joshua Tree 2017: Live from Mexico City Film
Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2019-05-18)
One of the most common questions we are getting these days is what has happened to the home video releases from the last two tours. We are still being told that both will be released. There are still plans to get these out. And we are told that The Joshua Tree 2017: Live from Mexico City will likely be the first one to be released. While we haven’t had any new information for a while, other than it should be announced soon, we wanted to take a look back at what is expected, what we have heard so far, and maybe add a few interesting tidbits about other things.
In September 2017, we were able to reveal that Anton Corbijn had been selected to film The Joshua Tree 2017 tour and would film shows on the upcoming leg of the tour. It was Anton who had photographed U2 in locations just outside Death Valley and at Zabriskie Point in 1986 for use on the cover of the original album, The Joshua Tree. And it was Anton who the band turned to and asked to create the backing video for the 2017 anniversary tour celebrating The Joshua Tree. Anton is not just a photographer, although he’s worked extensively in that capacity with U2. He has also worked in music videos, feature films, and even in concert films, having been the director on Depeche Mode’s Devotional film in 1993 and Live in Berlin in 2014.
Pre-production work for the film may have started as early as the second leg in Europe. The first night in Amsterdam a promotional video was filmed by an unknown director, for “You’re the Best Thing About Me”, which has never been released. The venue had ballast added to block out light from above and to provide a darker atmosphere for filming. Corbijn was present that night and was seen taking notes as the concert progressed. The second night was also filmed in Amsterdam, and we were told it was preliminary footage to see how the screen could be captured for film. Corbijn was present but did not seem to be working that evening.
Corbijn was seen on September 19 at a show in Glendale, Arizona, working at the B-Stage of the stage. He was working with a small camera rig, and only worked at the B-Stage itself. He was later seen watching the show from the mix desk and again taking notes as the show progressed. He was also working the B-Stage at the show later in San Diego. Again his focus was at the B-Stage, although it appeared that some additional cameras had been installed at the main stage among the lighting for the stage as well.
Bono would tell fans outside the stadium in Mexico that the two shows there were being filmed for a home video release. The Edge also confirmed that the shows were being filmed for the home video market, telling the newspaper Reforma “We decided to film the DVD (Joshua Tree Tour 2017) here and also the video of our new single because it is important to let the world know that the energy of this country is inexhaustible and fabulous”. Corbijn was present in Mexico and both of the shows were filmed in full.
In Mexico there were additional cameras visible throughout the venue. This included a camera that ‘flew’ over the crowd suspended from three cranes (two on either side of the stage and one at the rear). There were cameras elevated on either side of the audience nearly parallel to the tree stage, and another two sets just back from the corner of the stage on either side, and other cameras were noticed throughout the two nights including some hand held cameras in the crowd.
There were filming notices throughout all of the shows in South America, and we can confirm that band filmed two shows in Buenos Aires and the show in Bogota, as well as shows in Sao Paulo. One of the camera men was asked about the video in Brazil and he claimed that the home video release would include shots from most of the South American shows including the four in Brazil, suggesting all of the shows this leg have been filmed.
These shows were filmed in October, and the promotion for the release of Songs of Experience was underway at that time. The first single had been released, and the band were gearing up for the release of the album. The video release was never planned to happen before the album promotion was finished, and indeed, was planned to wait until after the tour had finished. Anton initially worked on the film for a Fall 2018 release date. Steve Lillywhite was brought in to work on the soundtrack for the film, mixing and producing the live music in the late summer last year. We have been told that the film will be based around footage from Mexico and San Diego. The footage from Mexico will be used for the wide shots, and for the main stage footage. while the footage from the B-Stage will mostly be from footage filmed in San Diego. Originally the plans for 2018 included a tour of Australia after the completion of the Experience and Innocence tour, and we were told at the time that the film would be tied into that tour.
We received confirmation that the tour plans for 2018 would end with the European shows, and the stadium tour rumoured for Australia would be put on hold. Shortly after that news we also received confirmation that the release of the video would not happen in late 2018. Which brings us to today. We expect that tour of Australia is finally being announced on Monday, and we are still hopeful that the film will be released and will be used for some promotional tie-ins to the tour.
Isn’t it odd to release a video while a tour is still underway? Not always. U2 has done it on a few occasions. The 2010 release of “360 Live from the Rosebowl” happened before the 2010 leg in Europe, and the 2011 leg in North America had started. And it was released before the Australian leg of the tour was even announced and sold. The video filmed in Chicago for the Vertigo tour was also released prior to U2’s visit to Australia. Even the video filmed in Boston for the Elevation tour was released before the Elevation tour was finished. So it has happened before.
At an event in December 2018, Corbijn mentioned that the film was almost complete and would be released in 2019. U2Tour.de reported that Anton said, “U2 – yeah, that’s sort of in the finishing stages. And that should be released in 2019. It’s a concert film with bits at the front and bits at the back that are different.” He also confirmed that it would be a concert film, not a documentary. Corbijn would later also confirm that the plan was to show the film in limited theatres, on the big screen, prior to a home video release.
IMAGE: Selfie after a day of work in California (Source: Anton Corbijn, Instagram) (Click to enlarge)
We know that additional material was worked on throughout 2018 for this release. Anton filmed the band in California in May 2018. From this photo shoot, the new promotional shot of the band walking in the desert originated. Anton had published a selfie with the band at the shoot, and the clothing is the same as what was used in this new promotional shot. No word confirming that the band actually revisited the original tree, but its a fun thought to wonder about for now. The photo was taken not by Corbijn, but by Ross Andrew Stewart, who was with them that day. (The band were between Innocence and Experience shows in California and Nebraska when the selfie was published on Instagram.) They were joined at that shoot by Hoyte Van Hoytema, a cinematographer.
How might the theatre release work? Depeche Mode did something similar with their Live in Berlin concert video, which was also directed by Corbijn. That film was launched with theatre screenings in select cities around the world. That included over 40 cinemas in Germany where the concert had been filmed. The film previews were held in the weeks before the home video was released, with showings starting on October 28 in Germany, and as late as the week prior to release in Los Angeles. The release of the home video was November 17. The version that aired in cinema was missing some of the content that would be in the home video release. So even if the film version is going into theatres, it may follow quickly after with a home video release.
We can’t say for sure when the video is coming. But we have spoken to some of our sources and they expect that it will be announced soon, and do not expect that the announcement of a new leg of The Joshua Tree Tour to hold up releasing this video, which they have told is complete and approved. In fact one source commented to us that it would be the perfect way to draw attention to a new leg of the tour.
Many thanks to Joe and Benji for some of the inspiration this week to put this together. We realise it doesn’t answer the question of when it will be released, but we hope it does provide some insight into the project and where it may currently sit.