The Virtual Road: Innocence in Paris

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2021-04-11)

Yesterday was the fourth and final episode of U2’s The Virtual Road a four part series of concerts being streamed on YouTube as part of an ongoing project to refresh U2’s online video properties. This fourth show was a 2015 show filmed in Paris France at the end of the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE tour, and released on DVD and Blu Ray in 2016.

The show premiered at 2:00pm EST. This was a similar start time to the first show on The Virtual Road and much earlier in the day than the previous two shows. Each show aired at a time which made them air close to when a show would have been held in real time. Thus the European shows (Slane from Ireland, and this show from Paris) happened in the early evening in Europe. The two North American shows (Red Rocks from USA, and PopMart from Mexico) both happened in the early evening in their respective time zones.

Paris was shown with a four song performance by French band Feu! Chatterton, who performed at the Montparnasse Tower in Paris. The tower was the tallest skyscraper in France until 2011. The band played on the observation deck, and the Eiffel tower could be seen in the distance behind the drum kit. There was no introduction in any way, and the band was not interviewed. (During the first show in The Virtual Road The Edge had interviewed Dermot Kennedy before his performance.) The Feu! Chatterton performance lasted about 20 minutes, at which point users were directed to a new URL.

The U2 performance was released in Blu Ray and DVD formats in 2016, but had been filmed using 4K cameras. In advance of the show, a 4K version of “Cedarwood Road” was shared on YouTube, getting our hopes up that the full show would be shown at 4K, unfortunately this was not the case, and the premiere was in 1080p video quality. (For those who are interested in 4K, the band has now uploaded a standalone version of “Raised by Wolves” at that quality on their YouTube channel.)

This airing appears to be very similar to the original home video release, including the footage introducing the show, and explaining how U2 had to return to Paris, and showing footage of memorials that had happened in the days after the Paris tragedies that had originally caused U2 to postpone the show. The show also ends with the Red Rocks 1983 version of “40” dedicated to Dennis Sheehan, which also appears on the home video release. We will do additional comparison between the home video release and the streaming release as time permits.

Viewers were reduced from last weeks PopMart show. At its peak, the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE premiere had 11,299 viewers. In the previous weeks, PopMart had peaked at 14,000 viewers, Red Rocks had peaked at 8,000 viewers, and Slane reached just over 20,000 viewers. During the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE show from Paris, viewers continued to join the premiere throughout the broadcast, as opposed to PopMart and Red Rocks where a peak was reached mid show and then started to drop off. The peak number of 11,299 was seen just as the Eagles of Death Metal appeared on stage for “People Have the Power.” Numbers did drop off at the end for the Eagles of Death Metal performance after U2 left the stage, and dropped further through the credits of the DVD. Approximately 8,000 viewers were left as the credits ended. These are numbers for those tuning in during the premiere. These are not overall view count numbers, and we will share those in days to come.

The video can now be reached for 48 hours after the end of the initial airing and is now available for anyone who wants to watch:

For more information on the entire The Virtual Road event, including a summary of links and viewer information for all shows you can find a special The Virtual Road page in our videos section.

As well as the premiere of the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE video on YouTube, a few items went on sale in support of the performance.

A four track EP of live songs taken from the Paris performance was released in audio formats to streaming services and to digital stores such as iTunes and Amazon. Some have reported difficulty finding these on iTunes, and if you are looking, we suggest searching for “The Virtual Road” as well as U2.

The tracks released include “Vertigo,” “Song for Someone,” “Until the End of the World,” and “Every Breaking Wave.” None of these tracks from Paris have been released in an audio-only format prior to this. All four are edited such that they form a continuous EP, with crowd noise filling in between the tracks, and no fading out between songs. As these songs did not originally flow together, they have been edited to do this.

The EP was released in a high resolution audio at 24-bits and 96kHz. That is a quality higher than that found on CD. At this point there are no plans for physical releases of any of The Virtual Road in any physical formats. Our discography entry for the Paris EP is available here.

Merchandise was made available for all of The Virtual Road shows. These items were available through U2’s USA and UK stores. Three T-shirts are available, where the first two shows in the series only got two shirts. These included a black T-shirt with the yellow light bulb design, a black T-shirt with the band (coloured in the colours of the French flag, but in reverse), and a T-Shirt with the images from the Cedarwood Road video being washed away in the waves. Also available is a limited screen print which is limited to 300 pieces worldwide. The print uses the yellow light bulb logo, over the same photo of the band that is on the T-Shirt mentioned above.

All four items are available now via U2’s website. Unfortunately these items are not available in U2’s Japan store, and fans in Japan are no longer able to order from the UK and USA stores. We hope this over site can be fixed, but for now it continues. When Elevation in Boston streamed last fall many complained about delays on items, with some items taking months to start shipping. That does not seem to be the case with the newer merchandise for The Virtual Road. Fans are reporting merchandise showing up already from orders placed in the UK, with some people already reporting receiving last week’s PopMart merchandise.

Although the full show will only be available on YouTube for 48 hours after the initial airing there will be some content that is around permanently from this show. Three videos have been uploaded in 4K resolution to YouTube from this show. This includes “Cedarwood Road,” “Raised by Wolves,” and “Until the End of the World.” And although not yet upgraded, there are two other videos from U2’s performance on YouTube, which will likely be upgraded in the next day or so, “I Will Follow“ and “Invisible.” The first three videos mentioned are also available on streaming services such as Tidal, or to purchase on storefronts such as iTunes. These other services contain the video at standard definition however.

With the fourth and final show out of the way, that brings The Virtual Road to a close. In the last year since the pandemic has started, U2 have shared seven of their previously released shows via these streaming events in an HD format. The first three were on U2.Com, and the four more recent have been via YouTube.

2020-04: ZooTV Live from Sydney
2020-07: Vertigo Live from Chicago
2020-10: Elevation Live from Boston
2021-03: U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle
2021-03: U2 Live from Red Rocks, Under A Blood Red Sky
2021-04: PopMart Live from Mexico City
2021-04: Innocence + Experience Live from Paris

Out of the commercially released, standalone videos the band has released, all have now been streamed with the exception of the U2360 Tour video from the Rose Bowl. (This list does not include non-live videos, or videos which were only released as part of a bigger package such as the Zoo TV Thanksgiving concert and the Live in Paris 1987 release.)

With these shows complete it is expected that U2 will return to the refresh of their video content on YouTube which has been ongoing since last September, a joint project by Universal and YouTube. You can find out more about this project here in our video section.

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