Shedding Light on The Blackout
Original Story by U2Songs (2017-08-31)
Yesterday U2 debuted their new video, “The Blackout,” via live stream on Facebook. This song is not the first single for Songs of Experience, however. That distinction goes to “You’re The Best Thing About Me,” which is being released on September 6. Highlighting a different song than the lead single might seem like an odd choice, but U2 has done something like this before. In 1997, U2 performed “Holy Joe” rather than lead single “Discotheque” during their press conference in New York to announce the PopMart Tour on February 12. Let’s look a little closer at how this week’s premiere of “The Blackout” came to pass.
Video: U2’s “The Blackout” Streaming now from Facebook
The video for “The Blackout” was filmed on July 28, 2017 in Amsterdam. It features about 200 – 250 fans who were invited to take part in the shoot at a small club in Amsterdam called the Westerunie. The fans were invited via U2’s web site. On July 24, 2017, a post on U2.Com titled “Up Close and Personal…” invited fans to apply for a chance to attend something special:
Word is that the band might be doing a little filming later this week. Somewhere around central Amsterdam. Late afternoon to early evening Thursday. Might even be some room for some fans to catch the action… up close and personal. Sound like the kind of thing you might be up for? Put it in your diary and we’ll have more detail later in the week. Enter your details below.
A few days later, U2.com updated the post to say the filming would take place on Friday instead. On Thursday, fans started receiving emails confirming that they were invited to the event, and that they would be allowed to bring a guest. They were asked to wear black and grey only, and to avoid any clothing that had large logos. They were also warned that they would have to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and would not be able to disclose any information about the project until it was released. The following day, in the afternoon, fans started to receive phone calls asking them to meet at Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam at 5:15pm. They were directed to follow the “Figuratie” signs upon arrival, which lead to a building known as the Gashouder. The entrance procedures took some time, and some fans waited outside for a long time waiting to be processed.
IMAGE: The Figuratie signs that lead fans to the Gashouder (Image courtesy of @u2reiniertje)
The Gashouder is a large round chamber, in an old industrial complex, part of a former gasworks. Upon entering the room, fans were asked to surrender any cameras, recording devices, and phones. They were given a claim number to retrieve their devices at the end of the night. The building itself was separated in half by a large curtain, and half of the complex could not be seen. The area in front of the curtain was used for video equipment, storage for participants’ belongings, and for serving food and water prior to the filming.
IMAGE: The Gashouder from the Outside (Image courtesy of @u2reiniertje)
Several U2 associates were seen on the property, and the band members themselves stopped and met with fans gathered outside who were not taking part in the filming. Guy Oseary, Gavin Friday, Willie Williams, Martin Wroe, Sebastian Clayton, director Richie Smyth, and others were all spotted outside the video shoot.
IMAGE: Gavin Friday and Willie Williams arriving (Image courtesy of @u2reiniertje)
The filming itself did not take place in the Gashouder building. Fans were moved from that building into another building nearby, called the Westerunie, a small club. Filming of the video included footage of the fans moving from one building to the next, as well as entering into the Westerunie, and filling into their places inside the club. The Westerunie has a low stage, and balconies that wrap around three sides of the building reached by stairs at the back of the venue.
It was in the Westerunie that the band performance took place, with U2 performing the new song, “The Blackout” five times in front of fans. Initially, U2 ran through the song twice, and then moved to a room to the right of the stage to review the footage. They then returned to the stage, performed “The Blackout” two additional times, and then returned to the off-stage room to review the footage again. They came back to the stage one final time and performed the song again. At one point between takes, Bono did tell some jokes, as reported by U2gigs.com.
As the final video shows, the band’s performance was well-received by fans. Bono did actually go into the crowd a number of times, engaging in full-on crowd surfing more than once. Fans have remarked how much he seemed to be enjoying himself! Adam Clayton also hopped off the stage and wandered down into the crowd during one of these takes.
After the performances, the audience started to sing the “how long” refrain of “40,” and it caught the attention of Bono, who had not yet left the building, and drew him back to the stage. He spoke from the stage with someone at the back of the room, and asked if it was OK to play a new song from the album for those gathered. Upon receiving approval, he asked if they had “The Lights of (to?) Home.” That song was played over the PA in the club. There was no accompanying video or visuals of any sort, and the band made their exit while the song played.
Fans were escorted back to the Gashouder, phones were returned, and the evening came to an end. From the time the last fans were inside the Gashouder building until the time fans left, a total of three and a half hours had passed.
It is still not clear what U2’s final plans for “The Blackout” are. They have identified it as a track from Songs of Experience, scheduled for release in December. They have also been playing another song from Songs of Experience, “The Little Things That Give You Away,” during the Joshua Tree 30 Tour. Even so, neither of these songs is considered the “lead single” for the upcoming album. As has been noted, the first official single will be “You’re The Best Thing About Me,” released September 6th. Perhaps not surprisingly, U2 also filmed a (yet-to-be-seen) video for this song when they were in Amsterdam on the 29th and 30th of July.
IMAGE: Fans waiting to Enter the Gashouder (Image courtesy of @u2reiniertje)