Throwback Thursday: Return of the Fly — Bono’s Alter Egos
Dallas’ Own WOWU2 Bring Ireland’s Rock Heroes Home To Dallas at House of Blues
According to Family Guy, there is a hierarchy of performing arts — legitimate theatre, musical theatre, stand-up, ventriloquism, magic, and mime. Somewhere, way, way, way below mime, is the lowest form of performing arts known to mankind — the cover band.
Most of us have seen at least one cover band and those of us who have were subjected to a torture that no man or woman should endure: a bunch of people who are in fact not your musical heroes trying desperately to emulate your musical heroes, and badly at that. There are a few exceptions — Dallas’ own Back In Black is, in my humble opinion, just as good as seeing their counterparts AC/DC live (which of course, I never have seen live, so I’ll settle for the impostors). I have an annual tradition each year on my birthday. I attend the Jack FM Throwback Fest, where over a dozen cover bands, both local and from out of town, perform at Gexa Energy Pavilion in hopes to honor their famous doppelgangers. I’ve seen some great bands perform there too. The aforementioned Back In Black have played every year they’ve held the festival and rock the house every time. Who’s Bad, a Michael Jackson tribute band, thrilled the crowds with two Michaels — one black and one, well, not so black. Guns 4 Roses always puts on a hell of a show, and I don’t even like Guns ‘n’ Roses! Fan Halen brings back the glory days of Van Halen, you know, before Sammy Hagar fucked it up for everybody. And I’ve seen three bands attempt to cover the tunes of my favorite period band period ever period — those four Irish lads known to the world as U2. In 2012, Mysterious Ways chimed their way through a 30-minute set of the band’s hit songs and played nearly letter perfect. The following year, The Joshua Tree offered up sour-note versions of U2’s hit songs via a frontman who looked like Bono reanimated by Dr. Frankenstein. It was frightening and I still have flashbacks.
This year’s Throwback Fest offered a U2 tribute band from the Dallas area, WOWU2 (or With Or Without U2), who have been playing local venues and touring out of state for the past two years. Last year, they were featured on ACNTV, a website that showcases many original and tribute bands. They’ve even played Puerto Rico and are currently working on possible upcoming shows in the Las Vegas area. Sadly, the band were only given a 30-minute set on the smaller side stage. I can attest that the band is best experienced in their full glory for a full two-hour set. This weekend, House of Blues will be showcasing WOWU2, and speaking as a die-hard U2 fan since I was 12-years-old, this is an experience that every fan should share.
It’s important to note that unlike their shorter shows on smaller stages, WOWU2 pulls out all the stops for their headline shows at House of Blues. If you’re like me, your fondest memories of the Irish Fab Four exist in the 90s, when Bono and company shed their dour image of rock and roll saviors and just because rock stars. The Zoo TV tour, which supported the band’s groundbreaking 1991 album Acthung Baby and its unsung follow-up, 1993’s Zooropa, took the usually boringly serious singer into new territory with a bevy of alter egos. Gone was the preachy political and religious shaman waving a white flag while belting out the lyrics to “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” Bono shed his skin and slithered into black leather and bug-eyed shades to become The Fly, a preening egomaniac striking odd poses and thrusting his pelvis into the many cameras hooked up to the wall of giant TV screens that provided a backdrop for the stage. As if that weren’t enough, the show’s second half saw the singer become The Mirrorball Man, a rock and roll prophet in a silver lamé suit with matching cowboy hat and platform heeled boots, kissing his image in a full-length mirror and proclaiming, “You’re fuckin’ BEAUTIFUL, man!” European fans got an even bigger treat when Bono donned Kabuki make-up, red velvet devil’s horns and a gold lamé tuxedo with a red frilly shirt to become Macphisto, a washed-up pop star crooning his tunes as if he were performing a Vegas nightclub act. Not since David Bowie has a rock star taken on so many personalities, and Bono did it all within the span of three years!
Barak Seguin as “Macphisto”, the bedeviled alter ego of Bono.
WOWU2’s frontman, their “Bono” if you will, is Barak Alexander Seguin, and let me assure you he’s the multiple personality sufferer of cover band performers. On top of being Bono, he’s Kurt Cobain in Nearvana, Eddie Vedder in Pearl Gem, Anthony Kiedis in the Green Mild Chili Peppers, and apparently he’s now started a Def Leppard cover band. I’m wondering when he’ll need to start taking his meds and how often he’ll need them. Despite the many roles he’s taken on of late, Barak is the quintessential Bono. He perfectly emulates each and every one of Bono’s alter egos. (To be honest, I haven’t seen him do The Mirrorball Man yet, which I understand will be unleashed this weekend, but if it’s anything like his Fly and Macphisto, it will not disappoint!) Barak will even shed the costumes and the make-up and horns and just be Bono in signature wrap-around shades and black leather jacket, just in case some fair-weather fans aren’t familiar with the singer’s identity crisis of the late 20th century.
Fly on the wall… Barak Seguin as the egomaniac rocker The Fly.
Barak is backed by three talented musicians who have learned to mimic their counterparts note for note and beat for beat. Alan Musico has set his drum kit up incorrectly (à la Larry Mullen, Jr.) to echo the swing and sway of hit songs like “Mysterious Ways,” “One,” and “Vertigo.” Steven G. Knight stands stoic and sturdy as he pulsates out Adam Clayton’s signature bass lines. And Chris McIuan carefully presets his effects board to recreate the echo and chime of Edge’s guitar, complete with black skull cap, number 7 jersey, and Chuck Taylor sneakers. This is not your average cover band embarrassing themselves through a selection of top 40 hits from one of rock’s most beloved bands. These are four fans who carefully select great tunes, both well known and closet classics for the die-hard fans, to put on the quintessential tribute show.
Say what you will about cover bands, God knows I’ve suffered through some of the worst. But as a life-long fan of U2, I can honestly attest that these four guys have nailed their live show perfectly, and that couldn’t be more evident than in the reaction of the fans who will scream themselves hoarse at Barak’s gyrations in his black leather pants and sing every word to every song, even the ones you’ll never hear on the radio. So if you’re not too ashamed to admit that you love the band that so many cynics can’t help but to disrespect (as if their longevity and enduring popularity isn’t enough to prove they are in fact awesome), come out to the House of Blues this Saturday, suspend your disbelief and experience the madness of seeing WOWU2 rock the house. Are they, to coin a phrase, even better than the real thing? Hard to say, but with the band still tinkering out the kinks in their long-awaited new album and the subsequent tour still lingering in the midst without a release date in sight, they’re the best us fans have got. And I’ll take that. I’ll take that without hesitation!
Barak Seguin’s Bono will have even the most ardent fans doing a double-take!
With Or Without U2 performs this Saturday, July 5th, at House of Blues, 2200 N Lamar St, Dallas, Texas 75202, at 8:00 pm. Tickets available at Box Office.