As spectacular as the ZooTV concerts were, even that stage wasn't big enough to contain Mr MacPhisto. Here's a look at some of the other things he's gotten up to over the years.
In his wonderful book U2 At The End Of The World, Bill Flanagan recounts an amusing post-concert incident partway through the Zooropa tour, on 12th June 1993 in Cologne, Germany. When the Zoo crew find themselves starving hungry and unable to attract the attention of the hotel staff, MacPhisto takes matters into his own hands...
A Visit to the Vatican
After playing two nights in Rome during the Zooropa tour, MacPhisto and his colleagues decided to do a little filming before they left town. This began with a photoshoot at the Hotel Majestic on 8th July 1993, and the recording of a special video message which (to my knowledge) has sadly never seen the light of day – if you know better, please get in touch! B.P. Fallon describes it all in his book U2 Faraway So Close:
The following day, locals and tourists were confronted by the peculiar sight of the Devil wandering around the Vatican City. Bono recalls the occasion in U2 By U2:
B.P. Fallon once again accompanied him on this mischievous outing, and shares the amusing details in his own book:
Rare video footage of MacPhisto posing with fans in the Vatican Square ("I think there should be photographs of me with the children from all over the world"), and by the mirror in the Hotel Majestic, can be seen at 11:13 in a Naked City feature about the Zooropa tour, broadcast in the UK on 6th August 1993. It appears as Bonus Material in the Super and Uber Deluxe editions of Achtung Baby released in 2011, and also includes an exclusive backstage video message from MacPhisto, in which he quotes Irish poet Brendan Kennelly at 5:30 ("'To serve the age, one must betray it'... or something like that. For these and other pretensions, tune in to the Naked City") and Louis XV at 16:31 ("Après moi, le déluge").
This sublime Zooropa track is surely the U2 song most strongly associated with MacPhisto. Not only did he bring it to life marvellously on the Zoomerang tour, he also played a starring role in the song's promotional video, released in September 1993.
Directed by Mark Neale, the video is an homage to the Victorian photographer Eadweard Muybridge, the first person to successfully capture fast motion on film (and the inventor of the appropriately-named Zoopraxiscope!). The Lemon video was filmed mainly in black and white against a grid-like background in tribute to his work, and imitates his studies of humans performing a variety of tasks, each described with a simple caption at the foot of the screen.
Bono as himself is almost completely absent from the video (visible only in a couple of brief group shots) – instead it's his alter-egos MacPhisto and The Fly who feature alongside his bandmates. MacPhisto takes on singing duties, while The Fly is seen getting up to his usual antics of posing with a mic stand, channel-hopping, spinning around with a handycam and so on.
MacPhisto appears in the video without his horns, but is instantly recognisable from his suit, make-up and theatrical behaviour! He sings up close to the camera, smirking devilishly in between lines, displaying his full range of facial expressions from playful to tragic. At other times (mainly during the atmospheric chorus), MacPhisto and the band members are seen amid swirling smoke, standing apart from one another as the camera glides around them. These scenes are particularly beautiful, with MacPhisto drifting elegantly between them, even clinging tightly onto Adam at one point. The video wonderfully captures his exaggerated movements as he gestures to an imaginary audience or throws his arms into a statuesque pose. Another nice moment is the slow-motion shot as he sings "slowly, slowly, slowly..." after the first verse. MacPhisto is given the descriptive captions "Man singing", "Man gesturing", "Man holding hand over face", "Man waving", "Man putting hand to brow", and the best one: "Man fluttering fingers"!
In his commentary on the Best Of 1990-2000 DVD, director Mark Neale opines: "The MacPhisto side of it is probably the most remarkable thing about the video. Muybridge was originally doing what he called studies of the human figure in motion. And I think that this is a study of MacPhisto in motion." He goes on to say that "Bono as MacPhisto, I think, did something that he'd never done before, which was to become unrecognisable", and that he's struck by the combination of him looking "so utterly bizarre" with the use of the wide-angle lens. He reveals that Bono was initially "freaked" when he saw the footage and seemed unhappy with the video, to the point where Neale was worrying it would be scrapped. Thankfully when Larry arrived, he simply told Bono "I think this is the most amazing performance footage I've ever seen of you", which was enough to change the singer's mind and save the video!
Along with its fellow Zooropa singles Numb and Stay (Faraway, So Close!), Lemon certainly stands out as one of U2's best videos ever. You can watch it on Dailymotion here or here. There is also a video for the Bad Yard Club Mix, which includes some extra footage.
Bono's fabulous duet with Frank Sinatra was released as a double A-side with Stay (Faraway, So Close!) in November 1993. In the promo video, Sinatra can be seen briefly morphing into MacPhisto and back again at the 0:20 mark. There is a further clip of MacPhisto in concert at 2:23, raising his arms to the crowd.
In his Sydney speech, MacPhisto promised to be with us always – and he has indeed outlived the original tour.
Sometime after ZooTV came to an end, Bono and his demonic alter-ego seemingly had a bit of a falling-out. The singer was interviewed at the Q Awards on 9th November 1994, with the transcript published in the magazine's 100th edition. It included the following exchange:
More on the Batman story in a minute...
Happily, it appears that Bono and MacPhisto managed to resolve their differences. When asked again about his stage persona in March 1996, Bono told Juice magazine:
Altogether now: awww. :)
It's true: Hollywood beckoned for Mr MacPhisto, when the creators of Batman Forever expressed an interest in giving him a movie role.
There are conflicting stories as to what exactly they had in mind, and who eventually decided against it happening. Director Joel Schumacher told the media that Bono "asked to be in the movie" and that "I wanted him in it", but there wasn't a role for him. An old U2 FAQ states that the film's producers "very much wanted Bono to make a cameo appearance as MacPhisto, supposedly singing his heart out atop a piano". They are said to have been fascinated by the character and felt they could make him fit within the movie, but alas Bono declined the offer, instead proposing to contribute a song to the soundtrack. Schumacher confirms they discussed the idea of him performing in a party scene, although he says nothing about Bono refusing to resurrect the persona: "I thought I could have him standing on a piano in costume as MacPhisto. But I wasn't sure it would work out for him to sing an entire song and advised him the idea wasn't a good one for him. He agreed."
ShowBiz Ireland go one step further and suggest that Bono was "up for the lead role as an evil villain", but Schumacher was forced to drop him after casting the roles of The Riddler and Two-Face. The director is quoted as saying: "I met with him while I was putting Batman Forever together and he wanted to play a villain in The Riddler's world. But we had Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones and I didn't have a part for him. He understood my reasoning and then he wrote that fabulous song for us which was wonderful."
Whatever the size of the role, it would have been truly fantastic to see MacPhisto immortalised on the silver screen, but sadly it wasn't to be. This decision wasn't all bad, though, as it did result in U2 contributing one of their greatest songs to the film's soundtrack – Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, released as a single in June 1995. And thanks to its animated video, MacPhisto got to become a comic supervillain after all!
The video, directed by Maurice Linnane and Kevin Godley, combines clips from the movie with cartoon scenes of U2 in Gotham City. The Edge has said that the band were interested in "Batman, the icon" and the fact that superheroes are the ultimate stars: "So we wrote the song kind of about stardom. And when we were thinking about doing the video, it occurred to us that it was kind of interesting and legitimate to include some of the superhero characters that we've created along the way: MacPhisto and The Fly. And we felt that the best way of doing that was animation."
MacPhisto is the first animated character to appear, grinning evilly and dancing on a rooftop that resembles the ZooTV stage, where the rest of the band are performing (à la the Streets video). Lightning flashes and "The BAT must DIE" is seen scrawled on a wall, mimicking the film's original (deleted) opening scene in which Two-Face escapes from his asylum cell, leaving this message behind. MacPhisto and his bandmates seem to be in league with the villain, whose helicopter is flying overhead; The Edge's guitar playing shatters a mirrorball, revealing a disguised wrecking ball that smashes through the wall of a bank.
While Bruce Wayne jumps into action as Batman, another black-clad persona – The Fly – is also on the move, crawling like a fly on a wall down the sheer face of a neon sign that reads "THINGS" (sliding down the surface of things?). He drops to his feet and is immediately ambushed by MacPhisto, whom he turns to face, but the showdown is interrupted by another scene from the movie, now throwing Edward Nygma (The Riddler) into the mix. Bono's two alter-egos take it in turns to sing lines from the chorus, smirking as they emerge from the darkness and disappear again.
More film clips introduce Nygma's 'Box' invention, which beams immersive TV images directly into people's brains while stealing their neural energy and secret knowledge. The same fishing programme is on the ZooTV screen behind Adam as The Riddler joins them on the roof, hooking his device up to U2's equipment to mesmerise the crowds below while MacPhisto watches from the shadows (perhaps an idea for the planned alliance between the two characters). The band play on while Two-Face's helicopter carries off a safe with Batman locked inside. The Bat-Signal shining in the sky morphs into a similar logo depicting MacPhisto, which then appears on all the screens.
During the bridge of the song, The Fly loses his sunglasses whilst leaping between buildings, and finds himself vulnerable to the dazzling glare of approaching media flashbulbs. This cuts to a flashback scene about the character's origins, after the backlash against U2's earnest '80s image. Accompanying the lyrics "They want you to be Jesus, they'll go down on one knee / But they'll want their money back if you're alive at 33", a comic strip portrays Bono complete with saintly halo, declaring "This man is a so called rock star. So Pure! So Righteous! So Honest! SO WHAT!" The singer rips up a newspaper article about himself and seems to be in free fall, having tumbled off his pedestal – until he removes the halo and cleverly fashions it into those famous bug-eyed goggles, representing the shield of irony and humour the band adopted in the '90s. This impenetrable mask made his real personality much harder to read.
Back in the present, the cornered Fly falls off the roof, but is saved when Larry switches sides and throws the shades of power back to him – turning him into a confident, agile superhero as soon as he puts them on. He returns to confront MacPhisto, who looks stunned to see his rival irreverently swinging from his telephone line! At that moment, the Batwing bursts through one of the 'BatPhisto' screens (just as it flies through the Bat-Signal in the film), and is amusingly attacked by Edge and Adam wielding guitars that double as flamethrowers. MacPhisto jumps into his own flying car with hubcaps bearing his symbol, and flies through the city with Batman in pursuit.
The next sequence is another flashback, this time focused on how MacPhisto came into being. The four band members are walking outside Mr Pussy's Café De Luxe (the Dublin cabaret club jointly owned by Bono and Gavin Friday – renamed 'Mister Swampy's' for the American video), when they are caught up in a car chase involving the Batmobile. Larry, Edge and Adam leap out of the path of a speeding vehicle, but Bono wanders across the road with his head buried in a copy of The Screwtape Letters, and is consequently run over... by Elvis! The singer is strapped into a hospital bed with electrodes attached to his head, in a scene reminiscent of Frankenstein; he appears to flatline, but is revived by a mysterious bolt of red lightning that strikes the building. His shirt turns red, his head sprouts a pair of horns, and he is able to break free of his constraints (a metaphor for the freedom the character allowed him). As he clicks his fingers to a new rhythm, the hint of a gold lamé sleeve indicates the transformation is complete – much to the shock of his bandmates and doctors!
Clips from the film show Batman's final battle with The Riddler, during which the hostages – his sidekick Robin and love interest Dr Chase Meridian – are dropped towards their deaths. Batman dives after them, but not before MacPhisto's flying car has zoomed down there too. As the song draws to a close, an angry and frightened Chase, still bound and gagged, finds herself dancing with the Devil in the pale moonlight – for a jubilant MacPhisto has brought her onto his rooftop stage for a waltz, with his crashed car on its side in the background. The lush strings of the outro are played by an orchestra of identical shadowy Batmen, and MacPhisto tears off a series of masks and outfits, repeatedly switching forms between himself and Batman until it's impossible to tell which is the disguise and which the true identity – hero or villain. This was, of course, the whole intention behind the ZooTV characters: leaving people unsure as to where the shady caricatures ended and the "real" Bono began.
The conflict between Bono's two personas was apparently intended to parallel a major theme of the movie; Dr Meridian is a psychologist specialising in dual identities, hence her fascination with both Two-Face and Batman. Interestingly, a later music video based on a film – 2001's Elevation, from the Tomb Raider soundtrack – would revisit the concept of Good U2 versus Evil U2.
In the directors' commentary on the Best Of 1990-2000 DVD, both Godley and Linnane express their appreciation of MacPhisto. At one point the former remarks: "Thinking back on it, alter-egos aside, MacPhisto ranks alongside The Riddler and The Penguin as a perfect Batman character, doesn't he?" Linnane replies "Absolutely".
Something of an "unofficial" appearance, this, but worth mentioning to followers of MacPhisto. The theme song to the 1995 Bond film GoldenEye, performed by Tina Turner, was written for her by Bono and The Edge, and the original demo versions sung by Bono have since been circulated online. He delivers the lines in a deliciously creepy faux-English accent, alternating between wistful and sinister, with plenty for falsettoholics to enjoy. Slash fans have also appreciated the homoerotic undertones as he sings lyrics written from a female POV. Though MacPhisto has never been formally linked to the project, a number of fans have commented on the similarity of the vocal, to the point of it being widely attributed to him. It's certainly a track that his admirers will love! One of the demos is accompanied by a slideshow of MacPhisto pics on YouTube; the other can be heard here.
The 1997 PopMart Tour was another multimedia extravaganza intended to rival ZooTV. Whilst Bono's stage personas no longer made explicit onstage appearances, it was clear that the band had not forgotten about Mr MacPhisto – his presence could still be felt during certain moments of the show, most notably when Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me was performed live. As the audience waited for the final encore in a dark and (relatively) quiet stadium, they were suddenly greeted with loud sirens – similar to the intro of the Bad Yard Club Lemon remixes – and MacPhisto's version of the Bat-Signal lighting up each section of the screen. This affectionate reference to an old friend was invariably met with screams of delight from the crowd. As the music kicked in, Bono would emerge cackling evilly before descending into a violent coughing fit.
Several more images from the promo video would be displayed on the screen, including MacPhisto's car and horns. During the bridge, with its lyrics about the pressures and contradictions of stardom, Bono often paused to mime a pair of devil horns and then a halo with his fingers, as if to ask the audience which suited him better! (I'd go with the horns every time...) This can be seen on the PopMart Live From Mexico City video, also available on YouTube. MacPhisto's spirit seems to pervade the rest of the performance, especially the doleful tone in which Bono sings "Star...", and the devilish smirk on his face after he stares deeply into – then kisses! – one of the cameras.
The song would then close with a rapid-fire montage of troubled and tragic celebrities such as Charlie Parker, James Dean, Buddy Holly, Marilyn Monroe, Patsy Cline, Judy Garland, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Ziggy Stardust / Aladdin Sane, Elvis Presley, Marc Bolan, Sid Vicious, Ian Curtis, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, Phil Lynott, Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain and Tupac Shakur. Completing this ill-fated line-up was none other than MacPhisto himself – the very personification of fame's corruptive influence, of rock 'n' roll excess taken to its most extreme. As well as including his cartoon image in the mix of famous faces, the gigantic screen would show a clip of the real MacPhisto preening in the mirror with an arrogant smile.
Thanks to one of his fans, MacPhisto even made a physical appearance at one show on the third leg of the PopMart Tour. At the concert in St Louis, Missouri on 8th November 1997, halfway through Bullet The Blue Sky, Bono picked out a fan in the crowd who'd come along in full MacPhisto costume. To everyone's surprise he pulled this lookalike up on stage (prompting huge cheers!), and as Bono recited the "So this guy comes up to me..." section, the two stared each other down as if preparing for a fight – 'MacPhisto' backing slowly along the walkway as Bono continued to approach him. The singer's body language was aggressive, defending his territory against this intruder and rival, while MacPhisto postured defiantly, challenging him to do his worst.
The pair circled one another as Bono intoned "And he's peeling off those dollar bills...", with MacPhisto miming the "Slapping 'em down" motion. Indeed, the fan was getting into the routine so brilliantly that Bono allowed him to perform the traditional dramatics as he cried "One hundred! ...Two hundred! ...Three hundred!" Knowing this was always followed by Bono's golf swing joke ("FOUR...!"), MacPhisto automatically adopted the pose, leaving Bono looking slightly taken aback – he briefly assumed the same position with his stars-and-stripes umbrella, as if to huffily imply "That's MY punchline!", then changed his mind and handed the umbrella to his demonic guest. MacPhisto did the honours with perfect timing, swinging it round delightedly before handing it back to Bono.
As Bono continued with "I can see those fighter planes...", they began to circle each other once more, MacPhisto cautiously twirling away from him. Clearly very familiar with the song's usual choreography, the fan even started confidently acting out the lyrics ("Turn the key, unlock the door... A man breathes into a saxophone... And through the walls, we hear the city groan"). Bono and his alter-ego stared into each other's eyes throughout this sequence, before standing so close together that when Bono said "Outside, it's...", he only had to stretch out his headset for MacPhisto to respond "America!" The second time, he gleefully yelled "AMERICAAA!" whilst holding his arms up to the crowd. Totally in character, he bowed and blew kisses to them while Bono looked on incredulously.
And then it happened. "Lights... camera..." Bono called ominously, handing his umbrella back to MacPhisto. The crowd cheered in amazement as Bono swapped his hat for the fan's devil horns, and the two exchanged jackets. "Action!" he concluded as he slipped into that old familiar gold lamé – and the true MacPhisto was back on stage for the first time since the end of ZooTV nearly four years earlier. As a fan from the U2 Wire mailing list remarked: "The Last Popstar is back, and as big as the PopMart screen." He raised his arms triumphantly, leading the crowd in a clapping rhythm. And with his doppelgänger still there as well, there was double the fun – the fan helped him to work the crowd, whilst still carrying the umbrella. (The eyewitness account describes how he "twirls it royally over his shoulder – he knows it's inside out and he doesn't care. In fact, he likes it that way".) Bono gave his old friend a final wave as he headed back toward the main stage and they went their separate ways.
This incident is mentioned as a highlight of the show by many people who attended, with everyone praising the costumed fan for playing along so wonderfully! You can see the whole impressive performance on his YouTube channel. (I once came across his own write-up of the experience, probably on this defunct website which unfortunately wasn't archived. Please email me if you happen to own a copy of it – I would love the chance to read it again!)
So, what ever happened to the original "very special jacket" worn by Mr MacPhisto? As the century drew to a close, his outfits began finding their way into various rock exhibitions where fans could see them up close.
From 1999 to 2001, items from U2's history were displayed at the Hot Press Irish Music Hall of Fame in Dublin, including a certain gold lamé suit, purple shirt and glittery platform boots (some pics here). This unfortunately closed down to due poor attendance.
Meanwhile in the USA, another of MacPhisto's suits – this time with the red shirt – was acquired by Jim Henke, chief curator of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. They had teamed up with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to create 'Rock Style', an exhibition celebrating the relationship between rock music and fashion. It premiered at the Met's Costume Institute from December 1999 to March 2000, then appeared in Cleveland from May to September 2000, before travelling to London's Barbican Art Gallery where it was on view from October 2000 to January 2001. The exhibition featured over 100 outfits from more than 40 rock legends, organised into five sections; the gallery Brilliant Disguise, dedicated to superstar stage personas, included half a dozen of Bono's costumes from the ZooTV and PopMart tours. A description and photographs can be found here.
In February 2003, the Cleveland museum unveiled 'In the Name of Love: Two Decades of U2', which Jim Henke described as "the most comprehensive exhibit the Hall of Fame has ever mounted on one artist". It occupied the building's top three floors: one for videos, photographs and graphic design; one for items from the early days to Rattle & Hum; and one for items from the '90s and '00s (including animation cels from the Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me video). Photography is banned in the museum, but Ruth Barohn was permitted to take photos of the band memorabilia for U2log.com, including MacPhisto's suit and other ZooTV costumes. The U2 retrospective closed in March 2004 so that other artists could be featured, but the outfits remain in the museum's collection, and can be seen in this video at 3:04 and 4:00.
MacPhisto's suit was loaned to Graceland from March 2012 to February 2013 for 'ICON: The Influence of Elvis Presley', which marked the 35th anniversary of the King's death by examining how he has inspired other artists. It can be glimpsed at 2:03 in this video, and was chosen to illustrate several articles about the exhibit, with one describing it as "a brilliantly detailed merger of Presley's famed double-breasted 'If I Can Dream' suit and his famed gold lamé jacket".
In 2001 the band embarked on the Elevation Tour, a stripped-down affair which could hardly have been more unlike their hi-tech '90s outings. Gone were the massive screens, outrageous wardrobe and tongue-in-cheek political humour... but despite this radical change of direction, Bono continued to acknowledge Mr MacPhisto by interacting with cosplayers in their audience.
Immediately after their second Toronto show on 25th May 2001, U2 travelled to the headquarters of Canada's MuchMusic channel for a live TV special called U2 Does Much, hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos. During a break in the interview, they ventured outside to meet the fans who were gathered there. One person in the crowd had come wearing horns, make-up and a gold suit – and Bono not only spotted him, but interrupted a group singalong to point him out and address him. It happens at 31:31 in the video.
Bono: "George... George... This is somebody I've always wanted to meet."
George: "Yourself? ...MacPhisto."
George: "As Bono goes in the crowd..."
Bono: [to 'MacPhisto'] "I just have something to say to you. One day, all of this could be yours." [gestures toward the CHUM-City Building, home of various TV and radio stations.]
The line is a humorous reference to the temptation of Christ (Luke 4:5-7), in which the Devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and claimed that if he would worship him, "all this will be yours". It would reappear three years later as a lyric in Vertigo.
Rather surprisingly, this was not the only conversation about MacPhisto in the programme. Shortly afterwards (at 38:09), George commented on Bono's reaction to an airing of the Lemon video, as MacPhisto's arm gestures had apparently made him laugh. Bono responded by explaining how they had "discovered" the character in a Madrid nightclub (with several fans clapping and cheering at the mention of his name).
Two more notable incidents took place on the European leg of the tour. At one concert, Bono reportedly recognised a fan who had worn a pair of horns at every PopMart show she attended – he mimed horns with his fingers and pointed at her, laughing when she revealed that she still had them on beneath a hat! When he saw her again at the Cologne show on 13th July 2001, he asked to borrow the horns during a performance of The Fly. This can be seen at 35:29 in a bootleg video; while singing the chorus, Bono makes a horns sign to the hat-wearing fan in the front row, who takes them out of her bag and hands them over. He poses in them for a few seconds, but takes them off and returns them before heading elsewhere for the second verse. Susanne Kempf and Matthias Muehlbradt both managed to snap photographs of him wearing the horns, uploaded here and here!
A couple of weeks later, there was almost a repeat of St Louis '97 when another MacPhisto impersonator was invited onto the stage. This time it was Hungarian fan Adam "LeMon" Horvath who hoped to catch Bono's attention with his homemade outfit ("the power of the Devil"!) at the concert in Berlin's Waldbühne amphitheatre on 29th July 2001. He certainly got himself noticed before the show, even getting a mention on the radio ("there's a bloke in a golden suit running around"!) – and the dream came true when Bono pulled him onstage for the start of The Fly. LeMon describes the amazing sight of "Bono's half kingdom at my feet", and took the opportunity to give them all a MacPhisto-esque wave. :) Bono stared into his eyes and the two danced in circles through the song's soothing intro, face to face, even singing into the same microphone – you can read the full story at his website (make sure popups are enabled). LeMon has also uploaded pics and audio to YouTube, and there is footage of him in a bootleg video, plus photos here and here. Sadly on this occasion, Bono didn't try the horns or jacket on himself!
Saturday 6th November 2004 was the date of a most unexpected return. Just when
MacPhisto fans had resigned themselves to the unlikelihood of him making any more
"official" appearances, an MP3 surfaced on the Internet which took everyone by surprise
– it was nothing less than a brand new, genuine MacPhisto phone call! Yes,
eleven years down the line from ZooTV, it seems that everyone's favourite showbiz devil
was still unable to resist the lure of an answering machine.
And that could have been the end of the story... but it turned out that somebody else had a few words to add! At 8:18pm, a second message was left, and this time it wasn't Bono's voice...
So there it was – proof, if any were needed, that dear old Mr MacPhisto was very much alive and well in the 21st century! Sounding older and more gravelly-voiced than ever, but apparently still enjoying that rock 'n' roll lifestyle. ;) The MP3 of the phone calls could previously be downloaded from the inTO the Heart website.
For over a decade there were disappointingly few sightings of MacPhisto, although the band were clearly not averse to celebrating – and indeed recreating – some of the joys of ZooTV. On the Vertigo Tour of 2005-06, the nightly encore opened in the same way as the '93 concerts, resurrecting the brilliant Zoo Station / The Fly combination to mindblowing effect. (At the first Chicago gig in September 2005, The Fly ended with a rare snippet of Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car as requested by a fan.) Zooropa space babies popped up on a giant fruit machine, the dizzying rapid-fire slogans were back on the screens, and Bono even became The Fly once again, with his high-kicking, goose-stepping, Nazi-saluting routine. For those of us too young to witness the original tour, who feared we had missed out forever, it was a dream come true. Suddenly, anything seemed possible!
The group's autobiography, U2 by U2, was published in 2006 to mark their 30th anniversary, and gave both Bono and The Edge a chance to fondly reminisce about MacPhisto.
From December 2008 to March 2009, while promoting new album No Line On The Horizon, Bono experimented with wearing eyeliner for photoshoots and live performances. Intriguingly, he told Rolling Stone magazine that he was working on yet another Elvis-inspired persona:
Alas, the idea seemed to have been quietly dropped by the time the U2 360° Tour began that summer. There was also a sorry lack of MacPhisto despite the return of Ultra Violet (Light My Way) followed by With Or Without You in the show encores! As ever, though, some fans wore little reminders that occasionally drew Bono's attention and approval. At the second Toronto show on 17th September 2009, during a speech after Elevation, he pointed out a Mexican fan who had apparently come as MacPhisto: "Looking good, mate! ...Man here dressed up as the Devil." (The remark is caught on video here and here.) Days later, at the second concert in Foxborough, Massachusetts on 21st September 2009, there was a promising moment when Bono requested a fan's devil horns during the second verse of Vertigo. He made no direct references to MacPhisto, but wore them for a little while, put them round his neck for most of the bridge, then transferred them back to his head as he sang "Just give me what I want and no-one gets hurt", before throwing them back during the final chorus. Gerry Spear shared a photo here, and there are videos here and here.
On 4th October 2009, U2 and Joel Grey were among the artists at 'An Evening With Gavin Friday And Friends', a (RED)NIGHTS benefit concert held at New York's Carnegie Hall to celebrate Gavin's 50th birthday. Widely mentioned as a highlight of the gig was Bono's solo cover of The Last Song I'll Ever Sing, a dying showman's farewell, from Gavin's 1995 album Shag Tobacco. The song's poignant lyrics can be found here. One reviewer described it as "A perfect chance for him to release the tortured torch singer inside of him", and Bono seems to be channelling all of MacPhisto's passion and pathos towards the end – quite appropriately, since Gavin has said there is "an awful lot of MacPhisto in me".
When the 360° Tour resumed in August 2010, one old MacPhisto song was switched for another in the encore, with Ultra Violet (Light My Way) replaced by Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me on most nights – a further treat for fans who missed out on the '90s tours! The PopMart visuals were sadly absent, but a few distinct hints of MacPhisto were evident here and there. Bono sometimes gave a short cough before speaking with an English accent: in Helsinki he says "Why thank you!" during the intro and "Showtime!" at the end; in Edmonton he says "Good evening, how are you?" during the intro; in Cape Town he says "Oh yeah..." at the start of the bridge; and in San Sebastian he laughs like MacPhisto just before starting to sing. He often threw himself into the role of Batman villain, cackling and coughing while he swung on the microphone during the outro (see Athens and Perth for examples). He comes on laughing evilly in Miami, and sings a snippet of the U2 song Miami in MacPhisto's voice while swinging at the end. Some performances, such as those in Horsens, would end with a theatrical bow or perhaps a tired old pop star's hobble. On the last night in São Paulo, he changed the lyric to "In the headlights of a crashed car, you're a star".
For the 2010-11 legs of the tour, Bono also brought back his leather-clad Fly look; he would prance about the walkway during Return Of The Stingray Guitar, striking rock star poses and doing a version of his old Zoo Station sideways dance. His gold-suited alter-ego failed to make a similar comeback, but the Athens show on 3rd September 2010 provided an intriguing glimpse of a Fly/MacPhisto hybrid – or maybe the transitional stage between the two characters! – when Bono once again borrowed a pair of horns from the crowd. He posed in them at the end of Vertigo (video here and here), and kept them on for nearly 3 minutes while performing the first part of I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight. His moves during the "Everybody needs to cry..." verse were not unlike MacPhisto's, and were immediately followed by another of his pointed coughs and a smirk. He finally removed the light-up horns after the chorus, even giving them a kiss before returning them to their owner. There are photos by Matthias Muehlbradt here, here and here, and photos by solon99 here, here and here!
Like the Vertigo Tour before it, the last few months of the 360° Tour became increasingly ZooTV flavoured. The title track of Zooropa made a triumphant live return, with Bono rolling the R's in "Zoorrropa!" just like MacPhisto used to do. And U2 headlined Glastonbury Festival on 24th June 2011, with the opening act of their set described by Willie Williams as "restaging ZooTV in a farmer's field" – the first few songs of the '93 setlist (minus Zoo Station), complete with the original video sequences. Needless to say, it was awesome.
September 2014 saw the release of the excellent album Songs Of Innocence, exploring the band's formative years in Dublin and borrowing its title from William Blake. Bono soon began dropping hints about what to expect from the follow-up album Songs Of Experience and the Innocence + Experience Tour, which would start in 2015. In interviews with BBC Radio 6 Music and Rolling Stone magazine, he stated that SOE would feature a protagonist with a more contemporary perspective, sometimes having a conversation with his younger self from SOI. (As expressed in the second verse of Volcano, he feels that teenage Bono would not approve of the way he turned out 40 years later!) They also wanted the live shows to have "some sort of cross-talk" between the two characters, where they could appear together and argue with each other. In the official tour announcement, Bono mysteriously promised to "have some fun playing with the idea of innocence and experience". This suggested the intriguing possibility of rival stage personas – all the more interesting since Mr MacPhisto's last official public appearance had seen him mocking the lyrics of early U2 song Into The Heart and observing that "Innocence has turned to experience"! Could the voice of experience have an English accent, perhaps...? ;)
In the end it was nothing quite so exciting, but the tour was again reminiscent of ZooTV in many ways, and did include the first explicit references to MacPhisto for some time! There were strong narrative arcs in both halves of the show, some powerful anguished acting from Bono (not unlike 1993's "heart of darkness" set), impressive and sometimes playful use of the giant screen, fragments of book pages scattered over the audience like the Zoo money fired from cannons, and yet another reappearance of The Fly's quick-fire slogans when a remix was played during the intermission. (Is it too much to ask that they sneak MacPhisto's name or catchphrases into that video someday?)
A clear highlight of the production was its fresh take on Bullet The Blue Sky, which dealt with the subject of rock star activism and was used in Europe as part of an emotive sequence about the plight of asylum seekers. It was accompanied by a ZooTV-style barrage of images and text, too fast to process everything you saw – warzones and refugees, protesters with signs (some referencing the Eurozone debt crisis), police in riot gear, and the bodies of drowned migrants used to create a chilling parody of the EU flag. (Bono's sarcastic singing of the 'Ode To Joy' anthem strongly recalled the opening montage of ZooTV shows, which used that tune over a jumble of clips culminating in the flag's collapse.) This song was also where the promised argument between Bono's older and younger selves occurred, taking the form of a lengthy rap in which he alternated between the two characters, cleverly twisting some of the original lyrics into scornful criticisms of himself. Partway through the North American leg, he began delivering the more "experienced" Bono's response through a megaphone, and this prop was found to be hiding a very special surprise... not a subliminal Batman, but a subliminal MacPhisto! The face of a certain "very rich pop star" was spotted adorning the speaker, as can be seen in this photograph by Mark Peterson. We can only speculate on what this was intended to represent, but it seems he was indeed considered appropriate to the theme! The image disappeared when the megaphone's flag design was replaced for the subsequent European leg.
In a more light-hearted section of the show, fans were regularly invited onto the 'e' stage to play an instrument, dance, and/or film the band with a mobile phone for a Meerkat live stream. At the second Berlin show on 25th September 2015, Italian fan Mauro Tonon was chosen to dance and sing with Bono during Mysterious Ways... while dressed as MacPhisto! This was (as far as I'm aware) the first time such an imitator had been brought on stage since LeMon on the Elevation Tour, 14 years earlier in the same city. The whole performance can be seen here on YouTube, with "MacPhisto" visible in the front row from the start; Bono acknowledges him during the second verse at 1:24, and he is helped onto the stage at 2:29. As is now customary on such occasions, the two circled and postured for a while, both removing their sunglasses to stare each other straight in the eyes. MacPhisto was allowed to sing a few words into the microphone, before Bono directed him along the catwalk to strut and pose for the crowd until the end of the song. Once again, Bono wasn't tempted to swap outfits with him, but did address him as Mr MacPhisto and afterwards remarked: "Wow. Haven't seen him in a while!" Mauro spoke about his joyful experience in an interview with the fansite U2start.com, revealing that he was inspired by seeing a life-size MacPhisto sculpture in The Little Museum of Dublin. Some more photographs can be found here, here, here and here, and there are several other videos filmed from different angles: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
Another Italian fan, Daniela Caprera, wore MacPhisto horns on stage while dancing to Mysterious Ways and filming Elevation at the second Paris show on 11th November 2015 (pro-shot video here). Bono didn't borrow or comment on her glowing headgear, but she wore them again when she returned to the stage at the final Paris show on 7th December. Dany was among nine former e-stage guests who were invited to appear in this televised concert, later released on DVD – you can see them all partying to Elevation here. (One of the male fans is also wearing horns and muted MacPhisto colours, but I'm not sure if it's Mauro or someone different – if anyone can confirm his identity, let me know!)
In December 2015, the first annual (RED) SHOPATHON was held, raising money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. Celebrities including Bono appeared on a special episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! to offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences via charity auction site Omaze – in Bono's case, the chance to join him for a bike ride through New York's Central Park, where he'd been seriously injured in a cycling accident the year before. A video was uploaded to promote the competition, and MacPhisto fans may get a kick out of Bono's affected accent and gestures in the last few seconds of it!
As it turned out, the (RED) SHOPATHON would provide us with something even more thrilling in its second year. The 2016 Jimmy Kimmel Live! special was pre-recorded three days before broadcast, and when a behind-the-scenes image was shared on Twitter, some fans spotted Bono in what appeared to be a MacPhisto-like costume. Could it possibly be...?! The Internet then exploded on 22nd November when a teaser trailer was posted on the show's Facebook page, clearly showing Bono in devil horns, whiteface, lipstick and a shiny jacket, performing a song with members of The Killers. There was no doubt about it: 23 years after his Tokyo farewell, MacPhisto was actually back in the flesh!
Preview articles began to appear online, complete with better quality photographs of this reincarnated MacPhisto. He had swapped his gold suit for a glitzy red one befitting the occasion, made some curious changes to his make-up (acquiring large, sparkly black eyebrows and sideburn-like markings), and now had fluffy brown hair as currently favoured by his alter-ego. Bono revealed that he would be joining The Killers for a Christmas song "to end all Christmas songs", written by Jimmy Kimmel and Brandon Flowers, and featuring the line "If you don't help people with AIDS, you're going to Hell".
For most of the episode Bono appeared as himself, duetting with Halsey and advertising this year's prizes. The comedy song entitled 'We're Going To Hell' was to be the show's grand finale, with all the celebrity guests performing together as 'The (RED) Pack'. Bono was notably absent from the group for the first 4¼ minutes, while Jimmy Kimmel, Kristen Bell, Halsey, Neil Patrick Harris, DJ Khaled, Brandon Flowers, Julia Roberts and Channing Tatum sang about their extravagant lifestyles, acknowledging that they were bound for Hades if they failed to put their money towards the fight against AIDS.
And then, the moment we'd all been waiting for... the studio lights turned red, the cheery sing-song was interrupted by the sounds of breaking glass and loud rock music, and fireballs erupted on the screen behind the piano. Through a cloud of smoke, a very familiar and welcome visage could be seen, surveying his kingdom and sipping champagne from a bottle... whilst lounging in a bathtub! To the delight of his countless worshippers, the decadent devil had lost none of his distinctive voice and mannerisms as he sang to the celebrities:
Sliding elegantly out of the bath as it opened at one end, he strolled across the studio in his usual confident style, only to be stopped by the host:
Jimmy: "Hold on, wha... what? Did you say 'Helf'?"
MacPhisto: [haughtily defensive] "Yes?"
Jimmy: "That's not... that's not a word. There's no 'Helf'!"
MacPhisto: "It's Gaelic."
Jimmy: "Oh. Oh, sorry." [MacPhisto gives a triumphant smirk.]
The music then resumed, allowing him to deliver the conclusion of his message:
Finally, the satanic showman slunk over to the piano and made himself far too comfortable on Jimmy's lap, kicking out one leg as he joined in soulfully with the song's closing lines, before finishing (as ever) with a bow. One photo indicates that he sprayed the champagne once they had gone to an ad break – what better way to celebrate his glorious return!
MacPhisto's comeback made headlines on such websites as Rolling Stone (who praised the "epic show tune") and Diffuser (who reasoned that "it must have seemed like as good a time as any to bring the old guy out of mothballs"). He was also mentioned in articles published by Metro, Pitchfork and Radio.com, among many others. Meanwhile, Twitter and other social media sites were flooded with U2 fans' comments about this surprise reappearance – most of them overwhelmingly positive and eager to see more of him. At the end of a dark and troubling year, it was just what we needed to cheer us all up!
It remains to be seen whether this incredible treat was a one-off, or a sign of things to come in the near future. Either way it has been wonderful to see the dear fellow again, especially in a rare "solo" performance rather than fronting U2. Perhaps some fans will choose to cosplay as (RED) MacPhisto at future shows?
U2's latest three tours have all incorporated elements of ZooTV, and these little '90s revivals have been much appreciated by fans everywhere (especially those who didn't get to see them first time around). The only thing missing from all of this has been a good old-fashioned MacPhisto speech... and there is a growing consensus that now would be the perfect time to bring them back.
The past few years have seen horrifying levels of support for various far-right parties and white supremacist groups across Europe and America, echoing the rise of neo-Nazism in the early '90s which MacPhisto regularly alluded to. There can be no doubt that the fearmongering of xenophobic politicians significantly influenced the outcomes of the UK's EU membership referendum and the US presidential election in 2016, both of which were swiftly followed by a surge in hate crimes. Back in 1993, even as MacPhisto hailed the somewhat difficult birth of the European Union in his famous Sydney speech, the band apparently foresaw trouble, opening their shows with an animation of the flag's stars falling off – a break-up that is now threatening to become reality. It seems we are right back where we started... can it be sheer coincidence that MacPhisto has reappeared at this particular point in time, when his messages are more relevant than ever? If he doesn't use this moment in the spotlight to share his thoughts on current events, it will certainly be one hell of a wasted opportunity.
Up until very recently, it seemed improbable that MacPhisto would ever be seen again – for years there had been nothing more than occasional, ambiguous teases, without so much as an archive clip since the PopMart Tour. Bono's humanitarian work has made his relationship with politicians far more delicate than it was in the early '90s, so it might have been assumed that the band were no longer willing to openly criticise such figures. That all changed in the autumn of 2016, when they used festival performances of Desire and Bullet The Blue Sky to launch a scathing attack on presidential candidate Donald Trump. In the latter, Bono mocked him for boasting about his wealth and ranted about his anti-immigration stance, despite the risk of alienating a section of their audience. Many fans were pleasantly surprised by this newfound boldness, harking back to the sarcasm of MacPhisto's speeches and phone calls. Even after that, nobody was expecting MacPhisto himself to make a sudden dramatic return – least of all on US national television! Yet here indeed he was, and only two weeks after Trump's shock election; perhaps his brimstone warning to "those who are greedy; those who forget those who are needy" could also be a veiled swipe at the incoming government. It now seems entirely possible that MacPhisto could reprise his former role when the IE Tour resumes in 2017, or maybe even join the 21st century by starting his own vlog! Any such further appearances would make a lot of people very happy. :)
Whatever happens next, as Carter Alan pointed out in a CompuServe webchat on 21st September 1995: "MacPhisto will always be with us, after all he IS the devil!"
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