U2's Show Designer Willie Williams has been writing his legendary tour diary for U2.Com subscribers since the Vertigo Tour opened off in March last year. Catch a flavour of his unique touring perspective with these extracts from the final leg of the tour.
Show day, Sydney.
I went into the venue relatively early as I'd been asked if I could speak to some Japanese press reporters, which I'm always happy to do, being the media slut that I am. We tweaked the set list a little and it feel very good to have Angel of Harlem and Desire back on the dance card.
The show went well, closing once again with 'Kite' and - being out of the favoured bird kites - we experimented with a box kite. Naturally this had been tested in the afternoon, but a few rain showers had soaked the kite and string through, making them a good deal heavier and radically altering the aerodynamics. For a minute or two it looked like humiliating defeat was moments away, but a quick trot up the b-stage ramp by the singer got the thing airborne. At one point the kite dipped sufficiently to be within audience reach and one punter leaped up and grabbed the string. Again disaster was nearly upon us, but the would-be audience participant let go pronto, I suspect at the 'firm suggestion' of one of our tour carpenters. Finally it flew and when released sailed majestically out of the stadium until it was a speck in the distance. It's becoming a really fun part of the show and oddly poignant.
Back at the hotel bar it was all going off and tonight's celebrity guests included Cate Blanchett who looked fabulous in the flesh....
Show day, Melbourne.
This venue has a retractable roof, which can be fully open or completely closed depending on the weather. It's been absolutely gorgeous today so the roof was wide open, in the knowledge that we could do a hasty cover up in case of hail, plague of frogs, etc. It also means we don't have to have a roof on our mix position which allows us to feel much more of the atmosphere and energy of the crowd which I always love.
It was a good show too, attended by a great many people I've known for a long time, plus even more friends of friends, most of whom I managed to shoehorn onto the mix position guest platform. Lance Bangs was present, he being a filmmaker friend of mine from R.E.M. days in Athens, GA. He'd brought along Spike Jonze, Catherine Keener and some of the crew from the movie of 'Where the Wild Things Are', which is being shot in Melbourne.
There was an after-show do in the club lounge back at the hotel, which was full to capacity, loud and fun. I sat gassing with old friends till the wee small hours, ending up being the last to leave. So much so that the ultra-polite hotel staff, who hadn't the confidence to tell us to bugger off to our beds, began cleaning up around us, eventually laying tables for breakfast, bringing out large bowls of breakfast cereals covered in cling film. We finally took the hint and got out of there just before first light....
TV Asahi show, Tokyo.
The band came in for soundcheck, run-through, camera blocking and so forth. I was gradually overwhelmed by a realisation of where I was and what I was doing. We are on the roof of a TV station against the backdrop of the Tokyo tower and skyline lit up against the night sky. After two years of Vertigo on the road, finally, here we are, in the real City of Blinding Lights.
To our eyes the TV show is a mad affair - a sort of 'Ready Steady Go' meets 'Blue Peter' kind of thing, but apparently is watched by untold millions. It also goes out 'live live' as we say in the biz (as in actually broadcast as performed, rather than with any kind of tape delay) so it was going to be served exactly as seen. In the moment we got a great result. The tv ashahi (stick!) team really came through for us. It looked just like a band performing against the Tokyo night sky should look....
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