"A song of ours that relies on its studio production to work is generally a song we play once or twice and never play again."
Like A Video: One
December 27, 2013
[Ed. note: This is the 21st in a series of essays by the @U2 staff about U2-related visuals and videos. Some essays may be informational and educational, while others may be more personal.]
For this month's "Like A Video," I'm going to talk about one of U2's most powerful and haunting songs, "One." However, the funny thing is, I will be discussing TWO videos of the song.
The first is a fan video taken on Sept. 23, 2009. It's the performance of "One" during U2's first of two nights at Giants Stadium in New Jersey during the 360 tour. I was at both of these shows. I was just like the other thousands of fans there, paying no mind to what was going on around me and singing along to the lyrics we all know by heart.
A few months later, I put a bunch of MP3 recordings onto my iPod from the 360 Tour, including the entire September 23rd show. I had my earbuds in and was listening to "One" when suddenly I lost my train of thought. Toward the end of the song, after Bono sings and Edge is on his guitar solo, I heard Bono say, "For Natasha Richardson" (at the 3:58 mark). Then he sang, "Do you hear her coming, Lord? Do you hear her call? Do you see her knocking? Knocking at your door." I started to cry. Then I rewound the song and made sure I heard him correctly. I did. As the song closed, Bono then announced, "That was for you, Micheal and Daniel." Those are the names of her two sons. I lost it.
Natasha Richardson was a British stage and screen actress who was the daughter of actress Vanessa Redgrave and the wife of Irish actor Liam Neeson. She was an incredible performer and contributed so much of her time to amfAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Richardson was also my favorite Broadway actress and I was lucky to meet her in May 2005 while she was acting in A Streetcar Named Desire. She couldn't have been more gracious towards me. That was also the same month I saw U2 live in concert for the first time, so it was a memorable month for me.
She passed away suddenly in March 2009 from injuries after a ski accident. I was on vacation in Las Vegas the week she passed and part of me couldn't enjoy my trip. I thought of her family and how hard it must have been on them. I bought the issue of People magazine with her on the cover and tried not to cry in the store when I looked at her face. It was all so tragic and affected me a lot. So you can imagine why I reacted so emotionally six months after her passing when I heard Bono pay tribute to her, and dedicate the song to her children, during a concert I had attended.
Of course, when you're at a concert, everything is so loud and people are moving around and you can't pay attention to everything that is happening on stage, which is why I missed what Bono said. Luckily, fan videos like this exist and I can re-live that moment. I also love the sense of brotherhood that U2 have for their fellow Irishman Liam Neeson, who was probably at the show with his and Richardson's sons. U2 contributed the song "The Hands That Built America" to the film Gangs Of New York, which starred Neeson. But I'm also sure they've been friends for a while. It made me feel so good that Bono did that for not just a friend, but for someone he probably considers family. Especially during a song like "One." I'm confident that the lights that glowed on the Claw that night were especially bright for Richardson.
We're probably all familiar with the "One" video directed by Phil Joanou (not Anton Corbijn; ignore what the video says). In this video, we see three different sets of scenes: Bono sitting in a restaurant by himself, clips of U2 performing, and blue snippets of a female.
Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have a favorite member of U2. Mine will always be Larry, but in this video I see a lot of myself in Bono. Maybe it's because of how emotional the song is and the way he portrays it in the video, but I was Bono recently. I met a guy earlier this year and things ended between us a few weeks ago, and it's still hurting a lot. Heartache sucks, period. I put this video on, and as I watched, I imagined myself as Bono (minus the numerous cigarettes), sitting there at an NYC restaurant, soul open, eyes honest and sad, asking the person across from me, "Did I ask too much? / More than a lot? / You gave me nothing, now it's all I got." And I imagined the woman's silhouette as the guy in my life, still being a form of temptation and someone who I didn't want to lose completely.
I love that this video is non-flashy. It doesn't have the manic pace of "Vertigo" or even the crazy graphics of "Get On Your Boots." It's Bono telling a story with his face. He looks raw and real. He was me, sitting with this person, with these thoughts running through my head wondering if I could save us, "You ask for me to enter / But then you make me crawl." We have all been that person Bono is playing. "One" is the ultimate breakup song. I'm positive U2 know it because they almost lived their own breakup, which inspired this song. It's why I think they know how to dive into emotion so well. They're human just like us. Their hearts bleed the same way mine does right now.
Perhaps the most bittersweet thing about this video is that when I saw U2 in Spain in 2010, I was in Barcelona sitting at a restaurant eating dinner alone. My table happened to be turned toward the TV and it was set to a Spanish music channel. It was airing a countdown of U2's greatest videos and this video made it into the Top 10. The live clips in the video remind me of one of the happiest life moments I've ever had (going alone to Europe to see my favorite band perform), and now Bono's scenes remind me of being devastated.
I don't know what the future holds. I'm the type of person that leaves everything up to the stars and destiny. I'm just a little happy knowing that there's a little bit of Bono in me that can shine a light to get through the dark.
(c) @U2/Marino, 2013.