29 March 2011
'Everything Crossed'Buenos Aires. Load-in day.
I was feeling a bit off colour this morning, so tried to take it a little easy. Nothing serious but it's easy to get run down on tour if you don't pay attention. I stepped out of the hotel to find somewhere nearby for a spot of lunch and local colour, only to find myself being followed by a small splinter-group of the fans who have set up camp outside the Hotel Fabulous. I really wasn't in the mood so just kept walking, though it did crack me up when I heard a plaintive voice calling 'WeeLee, please come back, we are making a film about Peace...'
The other side of the coin of the triumph of the band having embraced Even Better Than the Real Thing as a possible new opening song, is that it will need lighting. I'd say it's a bit of a long shot that they'll do it tomorrow (it all depends on how it goes at sound check, but it's a big ask) but assuming the possibility that they will, then the only time I will have to programme lighting and video in anything like darkness is this evening. Come 9pm there were few things that I felt less like doing that driving an hour to La Plata to stand in an empty stadium but duty calls. As they say, some days you earn all your money.
It was a bit of a trek out there, arriving about 10pm. A few things surprised me on arrival. Firstly, the scale of the shanty town outside the gates was astonishing - there must have been a thousand people camped out there in a long, winding tent-city that snaked around the streets for blocks. God only knows how long they've been there, but their devotion is pretty impressive. Inside the stadium I was rather dismayed to see that the roof structure is such that the top of the stage 'pylon' had to be left off, which means no high mirrorball. The only comfort perhaps being that this loss wouldn't be noticeable from front of house, due to the walloping great score board in the middle of the building which totally obscurs the top half of the 360 stage. It's a shame, as this could nearly be a great building for a gig. I believe this is the first show in here, so we are the guinea-pigs. There's an overhanging roof structure which normally spells death-on-a-stick for audio quality, but at least it's fabric, not concrete, so we may get away with it.
Conveniently I arrived just as the lighting crew had finished their set up and focus, so all was ready for me to don my smock and beret and get creative. Despite the inconvenience and lateness of the hour, it was undeniably exciting to sit in the quiet and dark of the stadium, programming lighting for such a killer sounding song. Even Better Than the Real Thing was an absolute staple of the ZooTV and PopMart tours, then kind of fell off the map. Songs do that periodically. For reasons it's hard to put a finger on, a once-great song just goes cold, or at least just stops working quite as well as it used to. I've learned to go with this and not to try too hard to push against it - songs have a life of their own somehow, and it's probably wise to follow their flow rather than impose your own inappropriate will onto them. It was truly wonderful to have The Unforgettable Fire as a nightly regular for the first year of this tour but then again, for no readily discernable reason, it just lost that loving feeling Real Thing was in the Elevation show briefly, and I seem to remember us all being quite surprised that it just didn’t sit right. Ten years later, however, it is back, reworked and reborn in rip-snorting form.
We had great fun lighting the song. My style of show lighting tends to be quite stoic. Rather than the fussy hyperactivity of most rock and pop shows, my stance has always been to create big, bold, strong looks and then let them have space. My general theory is that if you have half as many lighting cues in a show, they’ll be twice as effective. This stance comes with certain caveats, not least that the stage performance has to be strong enough in itself to stand a certain amount of naked scrutiny. Also, if there's video involved (and when isn't there, these days?) the lighting has to do double duty to create the atmosphere and also to make the performer look good on screen. The lighting scenes have to be very confident, avoid tinkering at all costs and when something happens it has to happen for a reason. Consequently, many pop shows would have as many lighting cues in a single song than I'd put in an entire show. (This is one of the ways in which my apparently laughable mantra of 'less is more' manifests itself. My other mantra being 'leave it alone'). However, every rule needs its exception and for some reason when programming Real Thing tonight it felt appropriate to throw caution to the four winds and steam in with a high-energy, strobing frenzy. The song takes off like a rocket, so it seemed rude not to follow suit. It was really fun to let rip for once.
I was done by 1am and began the long trek back to bed. Am keeping everything crossed for tomorrow.