Last week, I was fairly critical of U2’s video for their cover of “Night and Day,” and I commented that it was obvious that U2 was a band in flux at the time that video was being made. Well, with this week’s offering, U2’s video for “The Fly,” all of that uncertainty is out the window, and in its place is a band full of confidence and self-assuredness who sound great and look great while doing it. Even at the height of their popularity in the 1980s, while The Joshua Tree was on its way to selling 25 million copies, the members of U2 very rarely looked like the super-stars that they were. Those days are gone with “he Fly,” as Bono, Edge, Larry, and Adam finally look cool and sexy. Gone is the self-conscious hobo look of the 80s, and in its place is a sleek, modern aspect that feels just right to anyone viewing the video. It really is remarkable to me how quickly and how much the band changed over the course of a couple of years at the start of the 90s. From interviews and observation, I know that these changes weren’t easy and that in some ways the band members were forcing themselves to fit into new personas that they weren’t always entirely comfortable with, but it all looks so natural that it’s hard to remember that the boys had to grow into the lifestyle, not the other way around. I truly believe that rock stardom was antithetical to the four members of U2. They worked at it, though, and it seems that it became like a second skin. Just remember that although “The Fly” makes it look easy, there was lots of work that went on behind the scenes to bring this new image to fruition.
The video for “The Fly” starts out with a little intro of Bono causing some minor trouble on the streets of London. We see Bono playing in the traffic and whispering his aphorisms to passersby. My favorite bit of this portion of the video is when he sets a little toy bus down in the street and almost gets run over by a real bus doing so. The intro is set to music from the Lounge Fly remix of the song but after a few seconds of this the main mix of the song takes over and we switch to some utterly fantastic performance footage. This performance footage was directed by Richie Smyth, and I think that Smyth cannot be praised enough for bringing out the guys’ natural rock stars. This performance footage is interspersed with some more footage of Bono fooling around in front of a TV store called “Bob’s Boxes” that has, in its front window, a large display of television screens that Bono seems to be partially controlling with a large remote control. The portions of this video that are not the performance footage were directed by Jon Klein, and he also deserves a great deal of praise for helping to bring Bono’s Fly character to life. It should be mentioned here that there is an alternate edit of this video that consists solely of the Richie Smyth performance footage, and it’s also a lot of fun to watch.
There is no denying that “The Fly” is a great song, but it might be true that it is an even better video. I don’t think that we can overstate the importance of the new image that this video helped to establish for the band. I’m pretty sure that without this video, and the new era for U2 that it helped to usher in, we wouldn’t still be enjoying new music and new tours from U2 all these years later.
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