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You hold onto religion, you know, rules, regulations, traditions. I think what God is interested in is people's hearts, and that's hard enough. -- Bono, 2002

The Memorable Moments Of ZooTV: Live From Sydney

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In our second installment of a series evaluating U2's home video releases, Kelly Eddington and Brian Betteridge explore the memorable moments of ZooTV: Live From Sydney.

Kelly Eddington

ZooTV: Live from Sydney is a tour de force and a triumph of performance art. The screens, the cameras, the characters, the costumes...ZooTV almost defies description. The scale was heroic; the tone was ironic. Poetic. Magic. As far as filming it goes, can you really do it justice? ZooTV: Live from Sydney attempts to do so and largely succeeds. 

Brian Betteridge

Looking back, it’s amazing how much of the ZooTV Tour endures to this day. In 2017 and 2018 (and, technically, 2019), we saw the return of many ZooTV elements to U2’s live show. MacPhisto once again graced the stage, words and phrases again flashed on the screen in rapidfire succession, gritty imagery flanked the stage as the band performed. Even a number of songs from that tour came back, including "Dirty Day" and "Even Better Than The Real Thing." It’s a perfect time to revisit the official record of U2’s most consequential tour.

 

Zoo Station

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After the sensory overload of the beginning sequence, Bono appears in silhouette against the Vidiwalls. He looks and acts like the exact opposite of his previous Joshua Tree iteration as “Zoo Station” revs up. U2’s bizarre new mission statement is spellbinding from the word go, and I think the band would be pleased to know that to this day I tend to stand in front of my TV screen, slack-jawed even after, let’s say, 750 viewings, until a worm’s-eye camera sweeps over to The Edge. The song’s crashing, industrial beginning becomes melodic and warm in a way that seems, for lack of better words, reassuringly U2-ey. This is the part where I remember to exhale for the first time in something like five minutes. (KE)

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Seconds later, an animalistic Bono flicks his cigarette away and struts to the microphone, where he will execute a series of obviously choreographed and semi-embarrassing rock star moves that still manage to be, uh, yeah, really sexy. Case in point: the above body roll, which is difficult to duplicate at home unless you have thighs of steel. As wonderful as the rest of the band are for the entirety of the concert, ZooTV is, without question, Bono’s house, and it showcases his creativity, range and courage as a performer, including this opening set as the leather-swathed Fly. Dwarfed by a massive stadium and forced to compete with giant screens and spires so tall that the Federal Aviation Administration required them to have blinking warning lights, Bono still wins every time. He is, quite simply, a joy to behold. (KE)

 

The Fly

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Bono is not your traditional rock star, but during the ZooTV Tour he literally played one on TV. Never before had we seen a sunglassed Bono standing on stage, legs splayed with a guitar in his hand, preening and gyrating like the love child of Elvis and Jim Morrison. It almost doesn't look like Bono, and you might argue that it's not. This shot is perhaps the most enduring image of the ZooTV Tour, a shocking turn for fans of early U2. I suspect that elements of Bono’s “The Fly” persona have stayed with him through the years; I doubt he would be the same performer he is today if a little bit of that leather-clad rock star hadn’t stuck around. Still, The Fly at the height of his powers is an incredible image. (BB)

 

Until The End Of The World

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There’s a moment during this song when Bono, as The Fly, walks up to the camera and mimes putting on lipstick in the mirror before kissing the lens. Part of what made ZooTV such an exciting time in U2’s history is the sudden 180 degree turn the band made after Rattle And Hum. Can you imagine Bono acting like this in 1987? U2’s live shows had always been legendary, but when I watch this performance I can’t help but I think I’m watching the band transcend into a higher level of rock stardom. Much like David Bowie did with Ziggy Stardst, Bono artfully fused acting with musicianship and created something brand new. (BB)

 

New Year's Day

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Bono and The Edge have more than their fair share of screen time, and while we'll have a visit from the coolest incarnation of Adam Clayton a little later, this performance of "New Year's Day" gives us a few glimpses of the hitman himself, Larry Mullen Jr., doing what he does best: hitting the drums as hard as he can and looking great doing it. All four members of the band had a little extra swagger during the ZooTV Tour, but in moments like this one Larry adds an aura of danger, with a slight hint of Steven Seagal. Maybe it's the goatee. (BB)

 

Numb

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“Effortless cool.” That’s The Edge in a nutshell, and he was never at higher state of enlightened coolness than when he was standing on stage by himself droning along to "Numb." This performance was the first time I’d ever heard "Numb," and between the total weirdness of the song itself and the accompanying visuals, I was blown away. Who knew U2 could sound like this? Who knew U2 could look like this? I remember questioning how the same band that made "Pride" and "Where The Streets Have No Name" could produce...that. Of course, it went a step deeper after seeing the official music video, but regardless of how weird I found it in my youth, The Edge was, and will always be, so cool. (BB)

 

Satellite Of Love

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Before I learned the story behind this performance, I assumed all was well in U2town, thanks to the band’s intimate interactions on the B-stage. They are so amiable with each other. Who could have guessed that Adam was missing in action the night before? Even though he was back for the filming of this concert, U2 had real questions about their future that night. For this song, Bono and The Edge are on their own to perform with the ethereal face of Lou Reed, and Bono’s falsetto turns “Satellite of Love” into a lullaby. When Lou joins them, the two watch the flickering godfather of punk on the overhead screens reverently. Edge is standing, all cheekbones, arms and blue shadows, and Bono is sitting. The conjoined freckles under his left eye are especially distinct throughout the show, and they create a sort of Irish teardrop tattoo that presumably commemorates the deaths of millions of fans because of, my god, that 33-year-old face of his. (KE)

 

Dirty Day

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Speaking of cool, Adam Clayton’s was at its peak in 1993. Even after missing a show the night before, Adam exuded a larger aura of untouchable coolness in the ZooTV years. Maybe it’s the clothes, maybe it’s the hair, or a combination of everything. The man will always have that air about him, but right now, in this moment in Sydney, Australia, Adam is at his aesthetic peak. "Dirty Day" has one of the grooviest bass lines on Zooropa, as is befitting of a man like Adam Clayton. (BB)

 

Bullet The Blue Sky

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The Edge’s guitar solo in "Bullet The Blue Sky" is perhaps his best ever. It’s more than just a collection of notes; it’s the sound of war and bombs on the ground. This has always been The Edge’s strength as a guitarist: his ability to weave notes into a texture, to speak with his guitar. The visuals accompanying this solo really drive it home. "Bullet The Blue Sky" is a violent song with a violent melody, and in this case it seems like you could mute your television and still feel it. It’s so effective that we saw echoes of it in almost every tour since 1993. The military imagery came full circle in 2017’s Joshua Tree outings, like a match made in heaven. (BB)

 

Running To Stand Still

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This song features a chilling performance by Bono as an unnamed and vaguely militaristic persona. As the verses progress, he rolls up his sleeve, mimics the actions of a heroin addict, and ultimately pretends to spike a needle into his arm as Larry Mullen Jr. hits his snare drum to devastating effect. Bono sings a series of hallelujahs so ecstatically that it changed the way I think about the word. You’ll never confuse the cheap videotape aesthetic of Sydney with the lush cinematography of Rattle and Hum. Skin tones seem flat and almost colorized, especially when the band is seen from a distance. Decades have passed since the release of this concert, and over the years the footage of these men in their prime has become increasingly precious to me. I don’t want to look at anything but them. Long shots seem squandered. I wish U2 were as lovingly photographed then as they are now. This tour deserved better. It’s like a Leonardo drawing on the back of a parking ticket, or a Rodin made out of used chewing gum. Spectacular, yes, but why couldn’t they have used better materials? (KE)

 

Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car

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In the years before the internet made concert videos available to the world at the conclusion of any given show, fans relied upon MTV News or (extra pathetically) blurbs in music magazines to have some idea of what their favorite band was up to. I knew that during the encores, Bono made prank calls dressed up as some kind of devil guy similar to whatever he was trying to be in the “Lemon” video. But that was about it. Nothing could have prepared me for the final five songs of this concert. His MacPhisto character is the Las Vegas future of The Fly, and we first see him primping in a lurid red-and-gold-encrusted dressing room. Similarly festooned in red and gold, including devil horns, he sings to his pasty reflection in a mirror with a voice that is Bono But Not Bono. Then he addresses the viewer: “Daddy gives you…[perverse leer, sustained eye contact] as much as you can take.” It is still completely unbelievable. Who knew Bono had this in him? (KE)

 

Lemon

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It’s amazing that Bono’s MacPhisto character endures to the present day. For many, the Live In Sydney broadcast was the first time many fans saw the aging devil in gold lamé. It was fascinating to watch Bono put on that makeup and prance around the stage. He became, in essence, a new person. I always appreciated the symbolism of the white makeup running off his face as the encore wore on. Looking back, it seems we can watch MacPhisto slowly fade away. But my favorite little MacPhisto moment in any ZooTV show was the moment Bono started the transition back to himself. It made me realize that great frontmen also have to be great actors, and Bono is both. Off with the horns, on with the show! (BB)

 

With Or Without You

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The catwalk camera, with whom our hero has performed a rather slutty courtship throughout the show, becomes the perfect visual foil for Mr. MacPhisto. He sings to it, his frigid mistress, while ignoring the clingy crowd of little people surrounding him. In doing so, Bono adds a new layer of meaning to U2’s first number one single. On a personal note, as a painter I am forever bewitched by the combination of red, yellow, blue, black and white, and visually this song has it all. Bono’s eyes are a color so singular that in my collection of paint tubes, one is reserved especially for them (Cyan Blue 247). (KE)

  

Love Is Blindness

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As the encore progresses, Bono’s white MacPhisto guise slowly melts away. A gentle breeze cuts through the gloaming that surrounds MacPhisto/Bono, and the “don’t go” vibe emanating from 47,500 Australians is palpable. The Edge’s El Greco-like fingers--lit with a gorgeous array of rainbow colors--accompany Bono as he sings and dances with that girl, that awesome girl at the end of this dark song. He drags her hand down his face, revealing human skin. (KE)

 

Can't Help Falling In Love

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Much later Bono admitted that the Adam situation caused him to wonder if this would be U2’s last concert ever, and that must be why the songs in this encore are so punishingly emotional. His impressive vocal range is on full display here, and it begins with a baritone nod to Elvis. It shifts to his familiar tenor (he looks truly mournful right before the bridge), and then it ramps up to a crystalline falsetto. The audience seems to hold its collective breath, as if they know they are witnessing something special and rare. And they are. Bono delivers the final line with shattering delicacy. And then it’s over. It’s beautiful. It’s perfect. It’s very simple. (KE)