Getting to knowww you...
If there's one thing Mr MacPhisto loves, it's meeting people. He knows a lot of people...
in fact he knows you probably even better than you know yourself. But how much do
you know about him?
Mr MacPhisto. This is the official spelling that was used on posters and in books, and
MacPhisto spells it this way during a number of phone calls, with the exception of one
Glasgow concert where he inexplicably spells it "MACFISTO".
Willie Williams' tour diary reveals that he was originally just called "Mr Gold" in
reference to his eye-catching suit and shoes.
The name MacPhisto is a humorous Gaelicised version of "Mephisto", short for
the name of the devil to whom Faust
sold his soul. (Mephistopheles is Greek for "he who shuns the light".)
Some analysts have also suggested a possible link to McDonald's, representing
"part of the throw-away society".
- Star Sign:
First took shape on 7th May 1993,
which arguably makes him a Taurus. Given the horns, it rather suits him...
Jet-black and slicked back, long enough to be worn in a short ponytail.
His 2016 reincarnation has brown hair, cut in a short, fluffy style.
Regularly claims to have been 5' 8'' before he bought his platform shoes. "Now look
at me – I'm gigantic!"
English; he speaks with a very upper class accent and claims to be related to the
Queen (in fact he used to babysit her).
He does, however, appear to be of Irish descent, as the name might suggest. He tells
Akebono that "I have some Irish in me", and is obviously proud of his heritage as
he mentions it frequently.
"The last pop star" – determined to keep rock 'n' roll exciting for the young
He's a man of many talents, though, also referring to himself as "a fellow
thespian" in his phone call to Ian Lang. He has a fondness for Shakespeare, if that
speech is anything to go by.
During the 2018 tour, he describes himself as a politician and campaigns to be elected
to the European Parliament, with ambitions of becoming "Minister of
Plus of course, he is the Devil, if that counts as an occupation! He leaves the
audience in no doubt as to his identity, with statements such as "God and the Devil
have all the best phone numbers" and "They call it the Devil's music – it is
my music", adding that "I come disguised as many things, and I'm
particularly fond of show business". His 2016
Christmas song sees him warning a group of rich celebrities that if they don't use
their money to help others, they'll end up in Hell "with me on your ass". He makes
many further references to his work as a "busy little devil" in 2018, observing that
"my job has rarely been easier".
Well, he's everywhere...
But if you're looking for a more specific answer, he appears to have several homes
around the world (as any self-respecting rock star would). When phoning home from
Verona, he says he lives in Dublin, Ireland "in a house called Telefís
Éireann" (which funnily enough was the name of Ireland's first TV station).
At the Basel concert, he states that he lives in Las Vegas – aka 'Sin City'
– which is not surprising as he's known to be a regular performer on The
Strip. And then there's the Stuttgart show, where he remarks "It's so hot in Germany
– just like at home". It's left to the audience to decide just what place he's
referring to with that!
Described his house as "A doorless mansion" in a magazine interview.
His 2016 performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! provides a glimpse of MacPhisto in Hell
itself, welcoming the celebrity guests to his "cauldron of sin" (represented by a
In 2018, he contemplates moving to London for the entertaining political rows, and
decides to steer clear of "dirty old Dublin" for a while as their progressive
attitudes are starting to make him feel unwelcome.
He has also revealed that he once lived with the Borgias in Vatican City. Good
- Dress Style:
Striking gold lamé suit, normally worn over a bright red ruffled shirt (though early
shows featured a crinkly purple one). Glittery gold platform boots.
Wears a sparkly red suit on Jimmy Kimmel's 2016 (RED) Special.
Dresses all in black on the Experience + Innocence Tour, including a dinner jacket with
sequinned lapels and a top hat with holes in either side for his horns! He also
wears a black ruffled shirt at the second Chicago show.
Maintains a ghostly complexion and contrasts this with blood-red lipstick, dark
eyeshadow and bold, finely upswept eyebrows. His avatar on the EI Tour has the same
cracked facepaint and sloppily-applied lipstick as Heath Ledger's Joker in The
Wears a small silver hoop in each ear.
When asked about body piercing, he replied that he likes "doing it, rather than having
it done to me". Interpret that how you will...
- Concert Appearances:
Official debut was 9th May 1993 in
Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Appeared in every subsequent show until the end of the
ZooTV Tour on 10th December 1993 in
The concert in Sydney, Australia on 27th
November was chosen to be released as the official tour video, and
features MacPhisto delivering a speech to the world and attempting to call a taxi. It is
now available on DVD with a bonus disc, including the documentary 'A Fistful Of
ZooTV' which has clips of several other MacPhisto phone calls. These clips are
from Bologna, Italy on 18th July
("Hello, I'd like to leave a message for Alessandra Mussolini... I was a close friend of
her grandfather's, and I just want to tell her she's doing a wonderful job filling the old
man's shoes"); Rotterdam, the Netherlands on 10th May ("Hello? Somebody pick
up the phone!" and "Hello, good evening, do you speak English?"); Munich,
Germany on 4th June ("I'd like to
speak to Helmut Kohl, please"); Rotterdam, the Netherlands on 11th May ("I wish to speak to
Queen Beatrix"); and Bologna, Italy on 17th July ("Could I speak to the
maestro, Pavarotti, please?" "I ammm Mr Pavarotti! Who is
In the Super and Uber Deluxe editions of Achtung
Baby (20th anniversary release), the Bonus Material DVD has four MacPhisto
clips as an Easter Egg – his speech and phone call to Alessandra Mussolini in
Bologna, Italy on 18th July; his band
introductions in Madrid, Spain on 22nd
May; his phone call to KLM Airlines in Rotterdam, the Netherlands on 10th May; and his phone call to
Helmut Kohl in Munich, Germany on 4th
June. This DVD also has a Naked City feature on the Zooropa Tour with clips of
MacPhisto performing Ultra Violet in Turin, Italy on 12th July.
The bonus DVD accompanying the limited edition of the Best Of
1990-2000 album features a montage of '90s footage entitled The History Mix
(which can also be seen on YouTube). This incorporates
several brief appearances from MacPhisto, including an audio clip from his speech in
Madrid, Spain on 22nd May ("You've
made me very famous, and I thank you").
He made a surprise comeback 25 years later, appearing in every show on the
Experience + Innocence Tour. This began on 2nd May 2018 in Tulsa, Oklahoma (his
first performance at a US concert) and ended on 13th November 2018 in Berlin,
The final concert of the EI Tour was filmed for release, with the second half (including
MacPhisto's speech about where he'll be hiding) broadcast as a TV special in many
countries around Christmas 2019 and New Year 2020. The complete show is available
only as a U2.com subscribers' exclusive; it could be streamed on demand for the
duration of the 2020 subscription, and was issued on DVD as the annual fan club
Proshot footage of several other 2018 MacPhisto speeches can be found on the band's
official YouTube channel and/or social media accounts. These are from New York, USA
on 25th June; Paris, France on 13th September; Lisbon, Portugal on 17th September; Madrid, Spain on 20th September; Hamburg, Germany
on 4th October; Milan, Italy on 11th October; London, England on 24th October; and Belfast, Northern
Ireland on 28th October.
- Video Appearances:
Stars in the promo video for Lemon,
alongside his U2 bandmates and fellow alter-ego The Fly.
Also appears with The Fly, U2, Batman, The Riddler and Chase Meridian in the
animated video for Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss
Me Kill Me. Both the Lemon and HMTMKMKM videos are
available on the Best
Of 1990-2000 DVD, with directors' commentaries.
MacPhisto can be seen briefly in the video for Bono's duet with Frank Sinatra, I've Got You Under My Skin.
His face can be glimpsed several times in the 'New York' video for American Soul, filmed
in January 2018; Bono is shown using a megaphone with a small image of MacPhisto
on the speaker while performing the song on a barge on the Hudson River.
- Television Appearances:
Recorded an exclusive video message (at
5:30 and 16:31) for the third episode of cult Channel 4 music show Naked City,
broadcast in the UK on 6th August 1993.
Sang We're Going To Hell with a group
of actors and musicians on the second annual Jimmy Kimmel Live!
(RED) Special, broadcast in the USA on 22nd November 2016.
- "Do you know who I am? Because I know who you are..."
- "Look what you've done to me... you've made me very famous, and I thank you."
- "I know you like your pop stars to be exciting, so I bought these..."
- "Round about this time, I often make a telephone call. Sometimes to the President
of the United States. But not tonight..."
- "When you're famous, everybody gives you their telephone number."
- "Off with the horns, on with the show!"
- "When you don't believe I exist, that's when I do my best work."
- "MacPhisto for Europe – that's the ticket!"
- Languages Spoken:
- Some French at the Nantes, Paris and Marseille shows in 1993, during his
appearance on Naked City, and at several 2018 concerts including Montreal 1, all four
Paris shows and Hamburg 2.
- A little Italian on the Zooropa Tour (at both Verona shows, Rome 1 and Naples) and
at all four Milan shows on the EI Tour.
- Didn't speak any Spanish other than "No hablaré español" in
1993, but introduced himself in the language at both Madrid shows (plus Amsterdam 1)
- A few words in German on the EI Tour (at both Berlin shows, Cologne 2 and
- Greets the audience in Portuguese at both Lisbon shows on the EI Tour.
- Says he prefers speaking Irish to English, though we've only heard occasional
words such as "Telefís Éireann", "Taoiseach" and
"leipreacháns" – plus the supposedly Gaelic "Helf" on
Jimmy Kimmel Live!
- Mentions during one phone call that he's "a little hard of hearing".
- Began walking with a cane in Rome after developing a limp.
- Often complains of being "very tired" – and at his age, who can
- Bono has described him as "the ultimate satanic rock star but with
- Requests the attention of a dermatologist on the EI Tour after noticing an unsightly
skin lesion ("a slight blemish") on his cheek; "Age can bring a spot of
- Has rather bad teeth and inflamed gums as of the Los Angeles shows in
- Can be seen smoking in several photographs (but says he doesn't inhale).
- Often sings the praises of Martini, "the most beautiful drink in the world".
- Has lived the rock 'n' roll lifestyle for many years, addressing listeners in 2004 with:
"Decadence? Oh, no – you wouldn't know the meaning of the word. I, on the
other hand, know rather a lot about this subject..."
- His 2016 TV appearance shows him drinking champagne straight from the bottle
whilst relaxing in the bath.
- Show business ("It's in my blood"). Rock 'n' roll was all his idea, and
he often speaks of how much he loves it.
- Making telephone calls to his many famous friends!
- People with old-fashioned values... fascist politicians and the like. He's very
nostalgic for "the good old days" of the Raj, the Empire, the Third Reich.
Returning in 2018, he's pleased to see the KKK "back in vogue".
- A great fan of the Eurovision Song
Contest. He sings a bit of several previous entries (by Teach-In, Dana and Cliff
Richard) during the ZooTV Tour, and says he was an inspiration to them all: "I taught
them everything they knew, I showed them what to do, I taught them who to be."
Mischievously describes Cliff Richard as "a very exciting pop star", and claims
Brotherhood Of Man do the Devil's work more subtly than death metal.
- Being treated kindly and courteously. Use all your well-learned politesse, and you'll
get on just fine.
- An appreciative audience – he loves you all. (But he loves himself as well.)
- Enjoyed boating with friends on Lake Geneva in Switzerland ("It was lovely").
- Organised religion: "They're doing my job for me, aren't they? Putting the
children off God." He especially loves people using the Bible to justify their appalling
behaviour, from hate groups to government officials.
- Selfish, spoilt celebrities who don't share their riches with the needy.
- People who are "flashy... from good stock". Loves Italian clothing, and
expressed particular admiration for the way the Mafia dress: "They're so beautiful,
the suits they wear, and the shoes." Says it's nice when he gets a chance to dress
- Shopping in Cardiff.
- Cucumber sandwiches. Especially the ones they make at Lambeth Palace.
- Hot chocolate.
- Described both Princess Diana and Madonna as "gorgeous".
- Rhapsodises about opera, calling it the start of rock 'n' roll ("They sing their little
hearts out"). He shows great affection for "the maestro" Pavarotti, and has a picture
of '50s singer Mario Lanza in
his backstage dressing room. (In an article by Angela Pancella on
@U2.com, Lanza was
described as "a naturally gifted tenor whose tragic real life could inspire a musical
retelling -- opera's answer to Elvis".) Photographer Kevin Davies revealed on Instagram that opera was
played to create an atmosphere for a Dublin photoshoot,
with MacPhisto singing along as his make-up was applied.
- The "Interweb", for gathering our personal data – the information
superhighway is his "absolute favourite" kind of highway! Once encouraged us to
document our lives using video cameras, but modern smartphones have made it "so
much easier" for him to keep tabs on us all.
- Seeing his protégés achieve success; he's "so proud" of
Comrade Putin, and sees great promise in his latest charge, "dear old Donny".
- A good trade war, to divide the nations and distract politicians from more important
- People occupying the extremes, demonising their opponents and resorting to
personal insults instead of seeking out common ground. Considers "compromise" to be
a dirty word!
- Demonstrations that turn ugly and violent. "MacPhisto likes a good rumble!"
- Climate change – he's enjoying the hot weather. Well, he would...
- Confusion, uncertainty and fear – he thinks it's great "when the truth is
complex, and lies are so simple".
- Halloween, especially when celebrated in the Hellfire Club ("Those were the
- Setting fire to things, from castles to clubs. Dreams of having an inverse "bonfire of
the vanities", to destroy anything that might lead to progress and good deeds.
- Playing golf (or at least hanging out at a certain
- Has randomly stated that he loves balloons and T-shirts.
- People who don't believe he exists: "They're my favourite! That's when I get to
do my best work."
- Change. "I like things to stay exactly the way they are."
- People disrespecting him. Or taking the mickey out of him... he cannot endure to
- Feeling lonely and homesick. He tells the crowd in Adelaide that he's "finding it
very difficult at the moment to meet people... especially young ladies, they're all
frightened of me".
- Can become impatient when his phone calls aren't swiftly answered. It brings out
his sarcastic side: "We've got all night, haven't we?!"
- Whales: "They're unemployed, they don't pay taxes, and they take up a lot of
room". He also says he has "absolutely no time" for people who do like
whales or dolphins.
- Being given a bad reputation: "All the wars, all the famine, all the trouble in the
world, I get blamed for it. Even the Evening Herald slags me off."
- Disadvantaged people striving for a better life (though it amuses him when their
dreams turn into a nightmare). Doesn't like foreigners living and mixing where they don't
- Not a huge fan of that "Bo-no" and his endless preaching; has described
him as a "jumped-up little Jesus" and a "pompous little prick"!
- Peace rallies. They're so... boring.
- Can't stand the phrase "Love Thy Neighbour", which makes him "want to
fucking retch". He also loathes "sappy songs of unity", like U2's 'One'!
- The European Union; he thinks it's "ridiculous" for people who speak
different languages to insist on understanding each other.
- Democracy – it really stinks. Give him a good dictatorship any day!
- Bridges (except when he's gleefully burning them). He prefers walls...
- Tolerance and inclusiveness. Considers Michael D. Higgins, who
campaigns for human rights and signed bills legalising same-sex marriage and abortion
in Ireland, to be his "nemesis".
- Claims that he doesn't enjoy giving speeches. Though you'd never know
MacPhisto's opening song for the encore of every show on the Zooropa (European) leg
of the tour. Taken from the Rattle & Hum album and performed by the Mirrorball
Man on previous legs, Desire traditionally had a rather American feel to it, making it a
curious choice for Mr MacPhisto. For most of the song he speaks, rather than sings, the
lyrics – it's particularly amusing to hear him declare "Pretty soon, y'all,
everybody's got one!" in his refined English accent.
During this song MacPhisto strides confidently around the stage, with what Dianne
Ebertt Beeaff describes in A Grand Madness as "a hip-swinging wide-legged
swagger". He moves provocatively, moans with pleasure, blows kisses, flamenco
dances, strikes poses and even drapes himself flirtatiously over his bass player as he
sings "I'm burning, baby, yeah..." In the second half of the tour he regularly
announces his arrival with "Honey, I'm home!" He also gives a literal representation to
some of the lyrics, miming the "shotgun" and waving Zoo ECUs in the air when
he gets to the line "For love or money!"
MacPhisto displays his musical talents by playing the harmonica at the end ("The
Devil plays a harp too, you
know"). He usually closes the song with a series of cries such as "What a night!
What a show! What a city!" followed by "Zooropa! Zooropa! Myyy Zooropa..." (grandly
rolling his R's for effect).
There are occasional variations in the lyrics, such as "And the flames getting
higher!" sung with devilish delight. The instrumental bridge and outro are also
frequently used to add in snippets of other songs:
- You Make Me Feel So Young (Frank Sinatra). A rather appropriate
track for this ageing rock star, included in a total of 15 performances and also sung
briefly during one of his phone calls.
- Sympathy For The Devil (The Rolling Stones). "Please allow me to
introduce myself... hello," MacPhisto sings mischievously at the second Bologna
show. It appears again in Oslo ("You know me, don't you?") and Stockholm. On the EI
Tour 25 years later, he parodies this song as the basis for his speeches at San Jose 2, Las Vegas 2, Los
Angeles 1, Omaha, Chicago 1, Nashville, Atlanta, Montreal 2, Uniondale, Philadelphia 2,
both Washington shows, Boston 1, all three New York shows, Newark, Uncasville,
Hamburg 2 and Belfast 1.
- Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones). "I can't get no..." Appears briefly
in Strasbourg and Rome, and in Budapest where he recites most of the first verse.
- Solid Gold Easy Action (T. Rex). Enthusiastically sung during the outro in
Naples, Leeds and the final London show, despite MacPhisto seeming unsure of the
correct lyrics. "I don't get no easy action / All I got is satisfaction, babyyy!"
- Singin' In The Rain. Makes an appearance in Munich, Lausanne and the
last night at Wembley. Perhaps in homage to Alex from A Clockwork Orange,
MacPhisto sings it with ballsy attitude in an almost Cockney accent, whilst skipping
around the stage with an umbrella. (Beeaff mentions this in her concert diary: "He'd
lean back and kick out his legs as he went.")
- Light My Fire (The Doors). "Come on baby light my fire,"
MacPhisto implores on the second night in Verona, the anniversary of Jim Morrison's
- Love Me Do (The Beatles). Sung over the outro in Copenhagen; "You
know I love you," MacPhisto suavely assures the crowd.
- Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus (Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin).
MacPhisto sings what appears to be the intro melody to this sensual French
chart-topper, whose title translates as "I Love You... Neither Do I", halfway through the
performance in Marseille.
- The first live utterances of "She wore lemonnn!" also appeared during the
bridge of Desire, at the concert in Naples.
Other notable versions of Desire include:
- Great performances in Rotterdam on 10th and 11th May, where MacPhisto shouts the lyrics with gusto
and declares "I'm really burning tonight!" He is particularly talkative in the latter show,
also adding "How about a big handclap for good old me, then?" and "Maybe I could
tempt you with a little filthy lucre!" The line "For love or money" is unusually
followed by a list of examples ("A dime, a yen, a pfennig or a pound!"), paraphrasing the
lyrics of Money
from Cabaret, and there's further entertainment
during the outro when MacPhisto proclaims "I'll huff... and I'll puff... and I'll blow your
- At the second Rome show, the bridge is drawn out for over a
minute and a half as MacPhisto spots a lifesize inflatable sex doll in the crowd and
announces "She looks like my kind of girl!", encouraging it towards him with "Come on
now child..." The doll is passed forward and onto the stage, where MacPhisto spends
about half a minute dancing with it, until it deflates and flops limply over his arm. "It
happens to all my girlfriends!" he complains, before telling the doll "Do sit down..." and
draping it onto the stage with its legs hanging over the edge.
- The first Bologna show is also rather amusing, as
MacPhisto suddenly exclaims "A balloon! Oh, lovely!" halfway through Desire.
"See it to me, blow him in! Bring thus here!" he urges, but it never reaches the stage
– please let me know if you were
at the show and can explain what this was all about!
- At the first of the London shows, MacPhisto murmurs "Hey
there pretty" and pauses to caress someone's cheek as he crosses the front of the
- Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed
Opened the encores on the final leg of the tour in Australia, New Zealand and Japan. On
the ZooTV Live From Sydney video, MacPhisto begins the song in his opulent
dressing room backstage, watched by the audience on the big screens. He finishes
applying his make-up, sings (admiringly) to his reflection and puts on his gold jacket,
aided by wardrobe assistants Nassim Khalifa and Helen Campbell. Waving to no-one in
particular on the way, he bursts onstage in a frenzy of wild dancing, in time for the
"head full of traffic" verse.
MacPhisto injects rather more emotion into the song than there had been on the
Zooropa album version. As it has been speculated that "Daddy" in the song
could refer to the Devil, it seems well suited to him. Bono is quoted as saying in a
September 1993 interview with Q magazine, "There's certainly an evil feel to things
like 'Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car'. That song could be about dependency
or something more sinister. It's an electronic blues, my Robert Johnson thing. Flogging
the soul to Satan."
Amusingly, "A-HA, SHA-LA" appears in huge letters on the screens every time the line
- Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
This Achtung Baby track came after MacPhisto's telephone calls at each of the
European shows; in fact he often sang the opening lines down the phone. After the fun
and mischief of Desire, this song was the start of a much more emotional set, sung
with passion and desperation. Dianne Ebertt Beeaff observes that "In Ultra Violet,
Mac seems to quite suddenly realize where he is and what he's become and he tries to
recover". He stumbles and throws himself violently around the stage like a man
possessed (quite literally!)
The chorus provides an opportunity for MacPhisto to use his striking falsetto.
At the Oslo concert, the
song was seemingly used to take a swipe at Norway's pro-whaling policy, as an
extension of MacPhisto's phone call:
"Will you bury our treasure where it can't be found? / Deep under the ocean... makes
a wonderful sound / There is a silence that comes to a house where no-one can sleep /
We won't ask you to make promises we know you won't keep."
In the final verse, MacPhisto often changes the lyrics to: "I was all fucked up; you
were an opera in my bed. Now your love is like a lightbulb – it just goes over my
head." In Oslo he replaced this verse entirely with "Time's giving out / I'll soon be
outta here / I won't be back for many years".
Having staggered onto the walkway, MacPhisto ends the song with a moving
Sinatra-esque "Liiiight myyyy wa-aayyyy", before dramatically slumping over like
a marionette whose strings have been cut.
Replaced Ultra Violet as MacPhisto's second song on the final leg of the tour. He can
be seen dancing and twirling to the music, leaping around the stage and staring deeply
into the camera. This track from Zooropa is very much associated with
MacPhisto as he also starred in the promo video
for the single.
Lemon is sung almost entirely in falsetto, also known as "the fat lady voice". Bono
explained to Carter Alan [source]: "Well, the 'fat lady'
sang on 'The Fly'. That was a gospel thing, it was kind of kitsch, you know, big fat
mama. We just thought on this record we'd give her a song! I love to sing like
As with Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car, this song was especially brought to
life on the tour. During the chorus, MacPhisto sings a stirring counter-melody of
"Midniiight... midniiight... midniiight is where the day begins".
Lemon segues beautifully into With Or Without You, its familiar bassline starting up as
MacPhisto sings the final "Midnight..."
- With Or Without You
This Joshua Tree classic about impossible relationships sees a fragile
MacPhisto sing the lyrics in a faltering manner, gazing sadly into the camera and
hugging himself for comfort. He sings "With or without you, my love" in a
departure from the album version. "And you give yourself away" is sometimes
altered to "And you give your soul away" (described in A Grand Madness
as being sung "with a shiver in his voice").
On the last night of the Zooropa Tour in Dublin, MacPhisto opens the song with a snippet
of My Way ("Regrets, I've had a few...")
Many performances include the popular "Shine Like Stars" coda, with varied lyrics such
as "We'll shine like stars in the silver light / We'll shine like stars, it'll be alright"
or "We'll shine like stars and light up the night". At the final show in Tokyo, he
includes a snippet of Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division, repeating
"Love, love will tear us apart again" several times at the end of the song.
The performance on the ZooTV Live From Sydney video, featuring a radically
different structure, is arguably the most heart-wrenching version of the song ever.
MacPhisto rips open his shirt as he sings "And you give yourself away", before
closing his eyes and turning painfully away from the camera at the line "My hands
are tied, my body bruised". At the point where the quiet outro begins on the album,
the band slowly build the music to a crescendo as MacPhisto repeats "And you
give... and you give... and you give... and you give" in an increasingly desperate
voice. Throwing himself into the song as if he's being torn apart, it reaches its climax
with one final "I can't live, I can't live, with or without you / With or... without
- Love Is Blindness
Slow, dark and hauntingly beautiful on the Achtung Baby album, this song is
equally powerful live, with MacPhisto at the point of his deepest despair. He remains on
the B-stage and looks alternately pensive, bitter and forlorn as he sings. It is frequently
mentioned as a highlight in Dianne Ebertt Beeaff's concert summaries: "Love Is
Blindness was particularly stunning. Bono doubled over a time or two in pain, his voice
broken but beautiful, his eyes covered." At some shows he can be seen flicking a
lighter in time to the music; Beeaff describes how "he desperately tried to rekindle a
flame that had gone out. He mimes this very well, striking the flint unsuccessfully again
and again". Bill Flanagan observes in U2 At The End Of The World that
"by the time he performs 'Love Is Blindness' from the lip of the B-stage with the white
makeup running down his face, the line between MacPhisto and Bono has become
In some performances, the line "A little death, without mourning" is translated to
"Une petite mort, without mourning", adding to the ambiguity over the song's
meaning (it could be about terrorism or simply the breakdown of a relationship). The
"petite mort" is a French term for an orgasm.
While The Edge plays his devastating guitar solo, MacPhisto invites a girl from the
audience onstage to slow-dance with him. He closes his eyes, sometimes brushes the
sweat from his face with her hand, and clings to her in the darkness (echoing the lyrics
"Love is blindness, I don't want to see; won't you wrap the night around me?").
Beeaff describes him dancing with a young woman who towered above him: "He put
his head on her shoulder, wrapped his arms around her, and he was a little boy again in
desperate need of a mother's comfort and protection, the sole person who could give
him back his innocence." MacPhisto's eyes and voice are filled with an aching
sadness as he sings the chorus once more to close the song.
An unusual version was
performed at the Oslo concert (introduced with the words "This is a song that I think
you'll understand. Put out the lights... we're better off in the dark"), probably again
reflecting anger at the commercial hunting of minke whales. The first few verses are
half-spoken rather than sung, with lyrics altered to "All is blindness" and
"Hearts that are too cold to feel", before lines from All Along The
Watchtower are inserted to the tune of Love Is Blindness: "There must be
some kinda way out of here / Said the joker to the thief / There's too much confusion
here / I can't get no relief / Businessmen they drink my wine / Ploughmen dig my earth /
None of them along the line / Know what any of it is worth / What price...
- Can't Help Falling In Love
This Elvis Presley cover, usually included as the final song of the night, is the climax of
the emotional rollercoaster set in motion by With Or Without You and Love Is Blindness.
MacPhisto performs it almost on his own, accompanied only by The Edge's gentle
guitar, and by this point he seems exhausted – but manages to deliver his finest
performance of them all.
Bono explained to B.P. Fallon why he was drawn to Can't Help Falling In Love:
For this song, all of MacPhisto's humour and theatrical gestures have long since
vanished, leaving him at his most vulnerable and emotionally bare. The lyric "But I
can't help falling in love with you" seems to be directed at his audience, whom he
had earlier thanked for making him famous – acknowledging that his desire for
stardom is irresistible, despite what it has turned him into. The sense of inevitability is
heartbreaking. (Elvis, too, often closed his Vegas-era concerts with this ballad; his
ex-wife Priscilla has stated that he did this for his fans, "thanking them for all these
years supporting him and staying with him".)
"I've always loved that song. And I wanted to give it a different interpretation to
Elvis's which I always felt was down on one knee, like... 'Take my hand, take my whole
life too', so... I always felt he was at the altar. Whereas I was interested in the second
verse, which was 'Shall I stay, would it be a sin?' – which doesn't sound
like somebody who's getting married! And so I thought, this is interesting, this is-- I'll play
the 'Catholic guilt' version. So that was my spin on the song. Erm, though the angels do
arrive at the end to, er, rescue the day... I hope."
The song's defining moment comes after the bridge, when MacPhisto breaks into the
most stunning, spine-tingling falsetto to sing "Take my hand, take my whole life too /
'Cos I can't help falling in love with you". It's truly breathtaking to hear him reach
higher and higher notes that seemed surely beyond his vocal range. B.P. Fallon's book
U2 Faraway So Close includes a section about the recording of this song:
Bono describes this extraordinary zenith as "the little boy inside the corrupt man
breaking through for a moment"; it's a small fragment of MacPhisto's spirit that
remains untarnished by the excesses of fame and fortune. (In a Rolling Stone interview,
he opined "that falsetto as the song ends is the most poignant moment of the show,
because, in among all those fucked-up qualities, there's just that little childlike
voice". He later told Joe Jackson: "That's why people loved Elvis, even at the
end. There was still that aspect of purity.") As he slowly backs along the walkway
toward the main stage, he allows the audience to complete each of the song's final
lines. Dianne Ebertt Beeaff observes that "when thousands of voices respond to his
"I can't help" with "falling in love with you" his character's face lights up, relieved to find
that he's still "liked" for who he really is – whatever that may be". At last
MacPhisto turns and disappears into the darkness, at which point Presley's original
version of the song normally plays over the loudspeakers – "drowning out the
last rock star with the first", as Bill Flanagan puts it.
You like the first bit where it's almost spoken, as if he's sitting beside someone and
he's confiding quietly into their ear, then loping into the melody and you suggest that he
just let his voice go, let it just fly like a Phoenix Icarus soaring towards the sun but
keeping his wings intact. Something like that. [...]
Next thing, Bono's singing, bloody hell, and at the end of the song his voice is high
and pure and beautiful, resigned sadness floating towards uncertain paradise. Beautiful.
Elvis is still in the building.
- Are You Lonesome Tonight
Another Elvis cover, this song was performed for the only time in Rotterdam, the
Netherlands on 10th May 1993, in place of Can't Help Falling In Love. MacPhisto sang
his own version of the lyrics:
"Are you lonesome tonight?
Are you feeling alright?
It is sad now you've all got to go?
Will your heart feel the same?
Will you come back again?"
"Then my dears, I'm not lonesome tonight."
- We're Going To Hell
song! This was performed on a special fundraising episode of Jimmy Kimmel's talk
show in November 2016, and featured all of the celebrities who had offered prizes in the
(RED) SHOPATHON that year. What appears to be a straightforward Christmas song
quickly descends into a display of greedy self-indulgence by the stars, despite them
realising that "If we don't help people with AIDS, we're goin' to Hell". Their fears
come true at 4:15 when the Devil himself gatecrashes the party, like the wicked fairy in
Sleeping Beauty – it's none other than our old friend Mr MacPhisto,
revelling in their lack of charity and ready to claim their souls unless they do the right
thing. His demonic backing group (also wearing horns!) are played by The Killers' Dave
Keuning, Ronnie Vannucci Jr and Jake Blanton, whose bandmate Brandon Flowers
wrote the song with Jimmy Kimmel. Full details of this performance can be found on the
Off Stage page!
As of 2018, the last three tracks on Achtung Baby are all associated with
MacPhisto. This dark, thrilling rocker was widely regarded as a highlight of the
Experience + Innocence Tour, and not just because fans had waited 27 years to hear it
played live! The song was introduced by MacPhisto every night, with the opening lines
menacingly recited at the end of his speech,
and although it wasn't performed fully in character, there were definite traces of his
Acrobat seemed tailor-made for the EI Tour, which examined both the state of the world
and the band's personal development. Its first line ("Don't believe what you hear,
don't believe what you see") evokes the rise of fake news, while the title lyric ("I
must be an acrobat to talk like this and act like that") provided a fitting conclusion to
the show's 'Vertigo' segment, pondering the contradictions of rock star excess and
social justice activism. Bono would transform into the villainous MacPhisto just before
the song, and return to normality once it was over. In between, perhaps appropriately,
the two of them appear to coexist – he's not entirely one or the other, swinging
back and forth between malevolence and earnest optimism. The song's ultimate
message of hope and reassurance ("I know that the tide is turning round / So don't
let the bastards grind you down") is the perfect antidote to MacPhisto's speeches,
which tend to paint a grim picture of society and could easily leave the concertgoers
with a sense of despair.
Playing up his role as the old Adversary that we should beware of, MacPhisto often tries
to scare the audience – showing off his fearsome teeth as he yells or laughs evilly at the 'magic
mirror', and making various spooky or intimidating gestures toward the camera and the
e-stage crowd. (He even shoos them away
dismissively like his wardrobe assistants on the Sydney video!) Some performances
include MacPhisto-esque twirls and leaps,
majestically raised arms, and other mannerisms familiar from the ZooTV Tour. Hints of
his distinctive accent can also be heard at times, mostly on words or phrases in the
opening verse. He occasionally illustrates the lyrics with actions, as he did with his
songs in 1993. At the first Madrid and Milan shows, he
proudly indicates himself when singing "you can feel the enemy", as if gloating
about his renewed strength. He frequently gestures to his own face during the line
"What happened to your face of melting snow? / Now it looks like this!", perhaps
linking it with MacPhisto's horror movie makeover
on this tour, and his warnings that people with "my face" are now everywhere. His
passionate, yearning delivery of certain lines (e.g. "'Cos I need it now" and the
following chorus) is very reminiscent of MacPhisto's singing on ZooTV, particularly With
Or Without You. In contrast to the album version, he often recites the last word of
"No new ideas in the house and every book has been READ!" in a loud,
unnerving growl, which was further enhanced with an echo effect at the last few shows
MacPhisto is most obviously present during the intense guitar solo, which again sees
him all fired up, aggressively challenging The Edge – either as a defiant foe, or
as a coach encouraging him to reach his full potential. He leaps around and lunges
toward him, flinging his arms and goading him with shouts and claps. At many shows
he joins in with some wild air drumming, moves in time to the music or gets rapturously
lost in it. Early in the tour, he sometimes kneels down for a while to watch Edge play. He
even appears to use his devilish powers to influence him, Robert Johnson-style
(recalling the intermission video where
Edge's talent is gifted to him by a mysterious hat-wearing stranger); the sinister
showman might be seen casting a spell
on him, waving his hands over the guitar like it's a witch's cauldron, or – most
often – coaxing the magic out of it with a rhythmic hand
gesture. As the solo progresses, he usually starts conducting Edge and/or the
audience with MacPhisto's characteristically graceful arm movements, clearly enjoying
the control he has over us! For much of the European leg, he then mimes a
violin to accompany the other instruments. The Devil has long been known to play a mean
fiddle, after all...
Some good examples of live Acrobat include Boston 1 and Belfast 1.
- Other Songs
- Help! (The Beatles). Sung into the answering machine after
MacPhisto's failed attempt to call the United Nations at the Dublin show on 28th August
1993. The audience are allowed to sing the last line.
- Show Me The Way To Go Home. MacPhisto sings this at the Sydney
show on 27th November, after the woman from the taxi company hangs up on him.
- Ding-A-Dong (Teach-In). Dutch Eurovision winner from 1975, performed in
Rotterdam on 9th May.
- All Kinds Of Everything (Dana). Irish Eurovision winner from 1970,
performed in Cork on 24th August. Again the audience get to sing the last few words.
- Congratulations (Cliff Richard). Eurovision runner-up from 1968, sung in
Adelaide on 16th November to congratulate Graham Cornes on the news of his wife's
- You'll Never Walk Alone (Gerry And The Pacemakers). Popular football
anthem sung by MacPhisto and the crowd into Graham Taylor's answerphone, at the
Wembley Stadium concert on 21st August.
- Happy Birthday. Sung down the phone to Clannad during the Verona
show on 2nd July, as the band celebrate their 20th anniversary.
- God Save Our Dame. Specially adapted version of UK national
anthem 'God Save The Queen', sung to Dame Edna Everage at the Melbourne and
Sydney shows on 13th and 26th November.
- Money, Money, Money (Abba). MacPhisto sings most of the chorus in the
group's home city of Stockholm, Sweden on 31st July.
- My Kind Of Town (Frank Sinatra). This appeared at both Scottish shows
on 7th and 8th August, with the lyrics changed to reference Glasgow instead of
- New York, New York (Frank Sinatra). Another song snippeted at the first
Glasgow show, in a segue from My Kind Of Town. "I want to wake up in a city that
never sleeps" becomes "a city that doesn't give me the creeps".
- Those Were The Days (Mary Hopkin). Sung briefly at the London show on
11th August as MacPhisto reminisces about the Raj and the British Empire.
- Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head (B.J. Thomas). Makes a short
appearance at the Paris show on 26th June.
- Green, Green Grass Of Home (Tom Jones). MacPhisto greets the crowd
in Cardiff on 18th August with a brief snippet of the Welsh crooner's biggest hit.
- Spanish Eyes (Al Martino). MacPhisto can be heard singing "Spanish
eyes are waiting for me..." whilst on hold during his phone call in Madrid on 22nd
- Neighbours theme. MacPhisto sings the theme song from the popular
Australian soap during the Auckland show on 4th December, having phoned one of the
houses overlooking the stadium where the owner was charging admission for people to
come and watch.
- The Right One (Martini song). An old advertising jingle that MacPhisto
can often be heard singing to the audience as he begins his nightly speech.
- Moon River (from Breakfast At Tiffany's). Appears to be one of
MacPhisto's favourite songs, crooned at a number of shows before starting his speech.
In Madrid he apparently conflates it with the chorus of Starmaker by The Kids
- I Just Called To Say I Love You (Stevie Wonder). Became a regular
feature of MacPhisto's phone calls halfway through the tour, serenading his famous
friends either directly or via their answerphones.
- Hanging On The Telephone (Blondie). Often sung by MacPhisto as he
waits for his phone calls to be answered.
- Getting To Know You (from The King And I). Another of MacPhisto's
favourite mid-phone call snippets, which also pops up during Desire at a couple of
- Dubinushka (The Little Cudgel). Russian revolutionary folk song played as
an intro to Desire and Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car. MacPhisto sings
along enthusiastically in his dressing room while filming a video message for Naked City
– albeit with seemingly made-up lyrics!
- Into The Heart (U2). MacPhisto sang a line of this song from the
Boy album while leaving a voicemail message for the 'inTO the Heart' fan festival
- Elevation (U2). Fans reported hearing MacPhisto's voice during
rehearsals for the Experience + Innocence Tour in April 2018, introducing this song at
the end of the intermission: "My name is Mr MacPhisto, I'm here to sing for your soul.
The goal... is Elevation."
- Ice Ice Baby (Vanilla Ice). The title lyric crops up in his speech at the final
New York show on 1st July 2018, as a reference to the US Immigration and Customs
Enforcement agency (ICE) and their controversial actions at the Mexican border.
- The Hall Of Mirrors (Kraftwerk). MacPhisto sings the line "Even the
greatest stars discover themself in the looking glass" as he gazes into the magic
mirror each night on the European leg of the EI Tour.
- Without Me (Eminem). MacPhisto uses the lyrics of this track to introduce
himself at the second Manchester show on 20th October: "Guess who's back? Back
again? MacPhisto's back! Tell your friends!" He repeats this at both London shows
on 23rd and 24th October.
- So Long, Farewell (from The Sound Of Music). MacPhisto sings the tune
of this famous goodbye song at the final show of the EI Tour in Berlin on 13th