Off with the horns and on with the show...
In 1992, the world's greatest band – U2 – embarked on the biggest and most spectacular tour of their career so far. They called it ZooTV, and it would last almost two years (157 shows across five legs), promoting the fantastic Achtung Baby and Zooropa albums. One interesting feature of the tour was Bono's cast of specially created alter-egos – notably The Fly, the Mirrorball Man, and of course Mr MacPhisto.
For the first three legs of the tour, the shows' encores were dominated by Bono's American character, the Mirrorball Man. He was a corrupt televangelist in a silver mirrorball suit, who would spout out his dubious philosophies and make phone calls from the stage – usually to the White House in an attempt to harass then-President George Bush. When the stadium tour came to Europe in 1993, the Mirrorball Man character no longer seemed appropriate, so a colourful new alter-ego was developed with this latest audience in mind. From that moment on, ZooTV belonged to MacPhisto.
In a nutshell, MacPhisto is the Devil, in the form of an ageing rock star. But rather like the Biblical demon calling himself Legion ("for we are many"), this satanic celebrity incorporates a myriad of influences – probably more than will be mentioned here. Bold and theatrical, charismatic yet fragile, controversial and just a little bit camp, MacPhisto brought to the shows a wicked humour as well as a sense of faded glory that's genuinely moving at times. Dressed in a gold lamé suit and outrageous glittery platform boots, speaking slowly in an upper-class English accent, he inherited the Mirrorball Man's penchant for prank calls – and ran with it. Over the course of several months he phoned a wide variety of politicians, celebrities, royalty, religious leaders, taxi companies and more, with decidedly mixed results.
Bono has often been quoted as saying that "Mystery and mischief are the two most important ingredients in rock 'n' roll". In that case, MacPhisto is surely the embodiment of the genre.