The Opera In Me

14 Dec 2004

Dublin's Gaiety Theatre was the venue yesterday, as the band shot a video for 'Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own'. U2.Com was on set.

Unbeknownst to the thousands of children and families who will visit Dublin's Gaiety Theatre over the Christmas pantomime season, there is a strange connection between this august venue and the shooting of a new U2 video.

Look hard enough amongst the hundreds of old posters that line the Victorian corridors, recalling the stars of long-forgotten performances down the years, and you come across a billing for 'The Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society'

Among the members of the Society was one Bob Hewson who, as his son sings in 'Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own', was the one who 'put the opera in me.'

Yesterday, with a bigger crew and more amplification than 'The Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society' ever required, U2 were at the Gaiety to make a video for the song which Bono dedicates to his late father.

'It's a portrait of him,' he explains. 'He was a great singer, a tenor, a working class Dublin guy who listened to the opera and conducted the stereo with my mother's knitting needles. He just loved opera, so in the song, I hit one of those big tenor notes that he would have loved so much. I think he would have loved it, I hope so.'

Fresh from directing the New York shoot for U2's next North American single, 'All Because of You', director Phil Joanou flew in to Dublin to take the helm again. With hundreds of fans jamming the backstage entrance on Grafton Street, inside Dublin's oldest theatre a troupe of actors were miming classic operatic moves, their titanic silhouettes outlined on a giant white scrim separating stage from seating.

'The aim is to create an operatic kind of atmosphere in the visuals,' as a member of the production team put it, 'But it's not too literal.'

Meanwhile, behind the huge white screen, on the stage itself, the set for 'Jack and The Beanstalk' - the current Christmas panto - had been dismantled and a crew of sixty were bustling around on the tightest of deadlines. The shoot cannot run over, the Beanstalk is resting discreetly in the orchestra pit. Tomorrow morning, at 11am, Jack will be climbing it again.

'It's a venue with great resonance for the band, all of whom made trips here as children,' explains producer Ned O'Hanlon. 'But particularly for Bono whose father actually sang here.'

And in no time Bono is singing too, the band in position as Joanou, who first worked with U2 when he directed the feature film 'Rattle and Hum', races around the stage briefing his team.

'It's nice to be working with Phil again after a while, ' explains Adam. 'But kind of odd that we're suddenly making two videos in a couple of weeks with him!'

Joanou last worked with U2 in the mid-90's on 'If God Will Send his Angels' - a video set in an America diner. Today's shoot is also quite simple. Compared to the weather-beaten complications of the 'Vertigo' video on a plain in Spain and the unpredictable, spontaneity of shooting the band on a truck travelling through New York for 'All Because of You', today's filming is pure and focussed.

Put aside the crew of sixty and the lorryloads of equipment and all you are left with is four musicians with their instruments on a stage - along with some stunning lighting effects casting a tranquil purple-red glow behind the band as they perform.

'There's something great about four guys just playing their instruments,' enthuses Joanou, as the band gather in a scrum around the two monitors side of stage, to watch the first of a dozen playbacks,
'That's a band!' says Joanou, evidently excited at the clean and stylish look of the performance.
'Certainly is a band,' says Bono, 'Looks beautiful with that backdrop, 'There's something about that purple that feels right with the song.'

'It looks so calm,' he adds, 'A contrast with the rage in the song.'

The twist in the shoot is that while the song opens with the band playing on an empty stage against a plain backdrop, as the song reaches its climax, the scrim rises to reveal the golden yellow balconies and burgundy décor of the place where the opera was sung by Bob Hewson.

'Can - you - hear - me - when - I -
Sing, you're the reason I sing
You're the reason why the opera is in me...'

More on the video shoot for 'Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own' later in the week.

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