The night before U2 played two sold-out dates on its Joshua Tree Tour 2017 at the Amsterdam Arena, the band performed new song ‘The Blackout’ for a few hundred lucky fans at the city’s small WesterUnie venue. While you wouldn’t catch singer Bono leaping into the crowd during one of U2’s stadium shows, he does just that in the music video, which features a live performance of the song due to appear on the band’s forthcoming studio album Songs of Experience.
U2 en director Richie Smyth go way back. The Irishman shot three music videos for the band in the 1990s, starting with ‘The Fly’ (1991). He’s remained in touch and last worked with them on the post-production of the ‘The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)’ video from 2014. Although Richie had complete creative control for ‘The Blackout’, he describes the process as a collaboration. He was excited by the idea of doing a truly live music video. ‘They use you to catapult the energy,’ is how he expresses the process of directing the biggest band in the world. ‘I like to create a space where that energy can happen.’
They use you to catapult the energy — I like to create a space where that energy can happen.
‘The Blackout’ was performed four times in a row on the night, with Bono doing his unrehearsed stagedive three times. Only for the last one did Richie catch the singer ‘right bang in focus’. To create a dynamic contrasting visual effect, the crew used night vision cameras during a few moments when the entire venue was blacked out. The director would like to give a shoutout to the entire production and crew, and light operator Maikel Fleminks from Amsterdam’s Rock ’n Roll Engineering in particular, whose dance sensibility added an exciting dimension to the footage.