'Full On Rave in Empty Stadium'

19 June 2009
'Full On Rave in Empty Stadium'
Barcelona. Production rehearsals.

It's an odd thought but I feel compelled to note that these production rehearsal days are starting to be quite fun. 'Fun' isn't the usual adjective for this process; at best it might be 'intense', 'bloody hard work' or occasionally in U2's case 'living hell on earth', but... well, I don’t want to jinx it.

Having had such a late night, by the time I made it back to the stadium the band was already there. We sat together and figured out the three different possible sets of opening songs that we wanted to try out. I was pleased that the three proposed opening ideas came from three different band members, so the spirit of democracy is very much alive. The band got up on stage and played through the three possibilities, one kind of a downbeat opening, one a bit of a left turn and the last a full on rock event. To paraphrase the adage, two out of three weren't bad, so we already have some either/or options to choose from.

Afterwards we sat in the dressing room comparing notes, then put together two different set lists based on what we'd learned. This gives us a fall back position if we go off plan A, or could serve as 'night 1' and 'night 2' options when we play multiple nights in a city. We rarely have a working setlist the day before a tour's opening night, so to find ourselves with multiple options with ten days to go... I told them they were just showing off.

Once the musicians (and everyone else) had departed, I sat with my little team in the front-of-house tower and continued programming. By the time we got down to it, it was gone 2am and by 5.30am daylight was creeping into the sky, so it was another relatively brief session. There's word of the band actually taking a day off on Sunday, which will give me a very welcome full night of programming. We're getting through it remarkably well, but I've still got a great deal to do.

Tonight however was enormous fun (see - there’s that little word again) as we basically programmed a full on rave in the empty stadium. God knows if we'll ever use it, but after a conversation with the singer I wanted to make sure in case we ever wanted to send this production into outer space. Ethan, one of my two lighting programmer-operators, is the designer for Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance, so comes armed with top-notch EMO-indie credentials and it became apparent that he's not afraid to use them. It's highly energising to be working with someone whose natural instincts toward lighting are different to my own, as it results in some songs being lit in a way that I would not have got to on my own. Some of the older songs I have re-created so many times that it's hard for me to see them with new eyes (and on occasion it has been pointed out that I might hit a cue on a beat which no longer exists in the new arrangement, but that I'm still hearing in my head from tours gone by). Similarly with new songs, which we face together on an even footing. 'Boots' is lit almost entirely with strobe light, which is something I doubt I would have done if I'd been steering the ship single-handedly.

Having sat in an empty stadium and strobed ourselves to death for about four hours, the sun came up and we called it a night. Driving back in the runner's van through Barcelona morning rush hour traffic, the streets are still awash with scantily clad revellers who clearly haven't just got up. This is one hell of a party town.

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