The Virtual Road: Slane Castle

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2021-03-18)

Updates: (March 20, 2021)

Just a few updates about the Slane Castle performance now that it’s been taken down from YouTube:

  • The show was removed from YouTube approximately 60 hours after the original broadcast ended. That’s an additional 12 hours over the 48 hours originally promised.
  • The final view count on the video shortly before it was removed from YouTube was 448,614 people who watched the video.
  • The performance was frame for frame the same as the version released on DVD, upscaled and colour corrected. Only difference was noticed in a side by side viewing of the DVD and the stream, and that was some additional credits in the stream, listing the members of U2.

Many thanks to Sergio LikeASong for the screen by screen confirmation that the visuals were the same.

Original Story: (March 18, 2021)

Yesterday was the premiere of The Virtual Road, a four part series of concerts being streamed on YouTube as part of the ongoing project between YouTube and Universal to refresh U2’s video properties online.

For those who didn’t watch, things kicked off at 7:30pm GMT. It started with an online conversation between The Edge and Dermot Kennedy. the artist tasked with opening the first of these four performances. It was followed by a pre-taped performance by Kennedy in the desert in California, which lasted about twenty minutes. At the end of that performance, there was a brief pause before the U2 video commenced. You were directed to a new web address automatically at that time.

The U2 performance was the Slane Castle performance that we have all become familiar with over the years. The performance, like the DVD released in 2003, omits “Mysterious Ways” from the running order. The shots and the angles are all familiar, this is a cleaned up transfer of what was released previously, although it looks like some colour adjustment has been done. We did not see anything that stood out as different from the original shots from the DVD, but may have missed something, there was nothing obvious on a first watch. The video has been upscaled to a 1080p resolution. It makes many of the close-ups look very clear on a big screen, however it doesn’t seem as effective on the large crowd scenes. The credits from the original film are unaltered at the end of the broadcast, and the video still contains the 2003 copyright.

The film was originally shot with a mix of cameras including 35mm cameras, 16mm cameras and DV Cameras. Some of these cameras are better able to support a transition to a HD format than others, but it appears in the case of the video shown yesterday, they went back to the original edited version of the film rather than treating each of these sources individually.

At the height of the broadcast yesterday over 20,000 people were tuned in viewing the film. Now, just over 12 hours later, over 250,000 views of the film have been logged. The video can be watched for 48 hours after the initial airing, and is available now for anyone who wants to watch.

  • Pre-Show (Edge with Dermot Kennedy, Dermot Kennedy Performance)
  • Main Show (U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle)

Also yesterday a few items went on sale relating to the performance. A four track EP of live songs from Slane was released to streaming services and digital stores. Many of us have the audio from an earlier fan club release, but this new EP is also available in 24-bit audio, which is a better sound quality than CD for those who are interested.

The four songs released are “Beautiful Day,” “Stuck in a Moment,” “All I Want is You” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.” All four tracks are edited so there is a continuous live feel to the tracks, with no fades between the tracks. However, on one service, Qobuz, the compressed versions of the tracks, in mp3 format, add an annoying 0.05s of silence at the start of each track breaking up this illusion.

Our discography entry for this EP is available here.

To celebrate further, a limited number of merchandise items have been added to U2’s USA and UK stores on U2.Com. This includes a black and a white T-Shirt with The Virtual Road poster artwork on the front of the shirt. Specific items to the Slane performance are two T-shirts, a heather grey shirt with the DVD artwork on the front, and a second shirt in black with the heart in a suitcase logo. As well a limited edition screen-print featuring the DVD artwork is also available.

Some of these items are now listed as sold out in the USA store. They do still appear available in the UK store. Expect the show specific merchandise to be limited. For the Elevation broadcast last fall, items were only available to purchase for a little over a week, before they were removed from the store.

Please note these are pre-orders, and are listed as shipping in April. In October, when items were done in a similar manner for the Elevation Live in Boston screening, there were numerous reports on delays on items, with some items taking months to arrive. Bad news for our friends in Japan, since the introduction of a Japan U2 store last fall, shipping items to Japan from either the UK or US store is blocked. And the newer merchandise is not showing up in the Japanese store. We hope this issue can be resolved quickly so fans in Japan once again have access to the store.

Also to tie into the event yesterday, Bono recorded a new “fan letter” to Dermot Kennedy. This aired on U2 X-Radio a number of times yesterday. Since the station launched, Bono has been heard on the air discussing the songs that have “saved his life” – working his way through the sixty letters that he wrote and shared on his 60th birthday. To date twenty-eight of the origin sixty letters have aired.

This letter to Dermot Kennedy is a new one. The song featured is Kennedy’s “Outnumbered” which wasn’t on Bono’s initial list published in 2020. For those who are not subscribed to SiriusXM, or do not have the station available the letter to Kennedy was read by Bono and stated:

“There are a few men in the queue for the mantle of great Irish voices that can touch the power of Luke Kelly from the Dubliners. Dermot Kennedy is one of them. The thing that he has that gives him an advantage on anyone is as well as owning a folk singers heart, an eye of detail, is a great ear, for great soul melodies. The ones you felt always existed but didn’t. Eternal melodies. Here’s one of the great prayers of protection I’ve ever heard, it’s either that or a great goodbye song. This is ‘Outnumbered’.”

Kennedy also received a gift basket from the band with a note that said “Dermot, Thank you for coming on the ‘ROAD’ with us! Bono, Edge, Adam & Larry”.

The next opening act is Fontaines D.C., an up and coming band from Ireland, recently nominated for their first Grammy Award. The opening acts for PopMart and Innocence and Experience will be acts local to the original performance country, with Carla Morrison from Mexico and Feu! Chatterton from France participating in the other two broadcasts.

We’ve seen some questions online…and from what we know:

  • The video refresh project over at YouTube may be on hold while they promote this event but definitely isn’t over. Expect that to continue soon. They initially promised over 100 videos would be part of the project and it was scheduled to continue until September. We saw the Rattle and Hum videos sped up to three per week to allow some of these broadcasts to fit the schedule.
  • In the meantime videos are being posted to the YouTube account which will stay up after the 48 hours that these full streams are available. For Slane, “Beautiful Day”, “Elevation”, and “Where the Streets Have No Name” have been posted at 1080p.All will remain on the channel permanently.
  • We are not aware of any additional performances that will be streamed after these four. The Elevation Live from Boston, Vertigo Live from Chicago, and Zoo TV Live from Sydney were all presented in upscaled versions via U2.Com in 2020.
  • Not all of these “The Virtual Road” shows are on Wednesdays. The next one will be next Thursday, and they move throughout the week.

The upcoming shows are:

You can view all of the shows in one spot here.

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