'Day Off' in New York
Friday 25th September 2009. New York. Day off.
'Day off' - that's a laugh. It's rather sweet how we persist in referring to non-show days as days off.
The bulk of the day was spent down at the NBC studios beginning the rehearsals for Saturday Night Live. This is the third time that U2 has appeared on the show so we have a good sense of the lie of the land. At any of these TV shows we are completely in the hands of the show technical staff and it can be a delicate negotiation to get the result that we want. Happily, the SNL personnel now know us and are used to the band's very particular way of working but it's still a long old day. An added complication was not being 100 per cent sure of which songs U2 would perform, as they wanted to try a few different ideas.
The performance area in the studio is very small and the place is full of people building props and scenery for the various sketches, many of which are still being written. All was set up and the band came in to sound check. In and around this, the camera blacking was being worked out and we began to get a sense of how it was going to look on the TV. One thought had been for U2 to perform the Crazy remix, going into Sunday Bloody Sunday, including all the video graphics from the show. To this end, at great expense and loss of life, we'd brought in an LED screen to jam into the very small space behind the stage. After rehearsal it was decided that what is such a huge moment in the show just wasn't going to work on the small screen. Instead, they opted to play Breathe and Moment of Surrender, which I felt was a much better bet but was going to leave us with a large black screen behind the band, unless we could think of something quickly.
Breathe was relatively straightforward as it just required something abstract and energetic, but Moment of Surrender needed something more special. Tom, our video director, took a camera out into the streets and subways of midtown Manhattan and in an hour made a short film which was essentially a love poem to the city. It's not necessarily the kind of thing I would put into a live show but, for this very specific purpose, Tom's bespoke vision of New York at dusk was perfect.
We rounded out the night with a few beers at the breakfast pub and called it a night.