Gaudi Would Approve

29 June 2009
Gaudi Would Approve
Barcelona. Production rehearsals.

After a leisurely evening, I'm knackered today. I went to bed five hours earlier than normal and of course couldn't sleep. A full dress rehearsal was scheduled for this evening and after a month of plain sailing the melt down finally descended. Pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong so we all had a fairly horrible time of it. Sound probably had the worst time with Edge's guitar dying out front during Vertigo, but 'motion control' were hard on their heels as the screen, having done its very clever expanding trick, then refused to close for about three numbers. Video were also in hell, with many cues just going south, timings messed up and so on. Lighting was also having a ropey time of it, but was definitely fourth in the pecking order on the shit-list. Later, after the post-run-through autopsy, I told this to Rod, my lighting crew chief, who responded enigmatically 'so we didn't make the podium, then...'. I'll leave that with you.

The aftershow meeting was pretty grim but in the bigger picture I don't feel too shaken as we've had a solid month of good work. I think tonight was largely due to tiredness without the buoyancy provided by the adrenaline of actually doing a show. I'm wondering if maybe there is (dare I say it) such a thing as too much rehearsal time. I'm certainly nervous about mechanical failure and other things over which we don't have control, and I'm sure I'll be half out of my mind by showtime tomorrow night, but I do have the certainty of knowing that we are the best prepared for any U2 tour I've ever witnessed. Wish us luck, then.

Tuesday, 30th June 2009. Barcelona. Opening night.

Due once again to my existing in a different time zone, I only managed a brief night of sleep and awoke feeling somewhat stunned. I also had to go into the stadium much earlier than I have been doing, so in the van on the way there I was feeling pretty wasted but with a deep joy and excitement that after so very long a journey we are about to do this for real. My friend David Harrington from Kronos Quartet once said that when they premiere a new work it's like letting the world in on a secret. In our case, 'secret' is a relative term given the almost continual clandestine coverage that our rehearsal has had on the web, but (miraculously) we have managed to keep some elements under cover. After tonight everyone who cares will know what it is we've been making all this time, so a part of me is taking a moment to savour my little secret one last time.

We rehearsed for a couple of hours in the almost overwhelming heat of the afternoon, to tweak and repair the parts of the show which came most unstuck last night. Then finally, at long last, the gates were opened and our very first U2360 audience piled into Camp Nou. I spent much of the early evening in a bit of a blur - part anticipation and part exhaustion at reaching the finishing line (or is this the starting line?). On the way to the dressing room I passed, in the corridor, a giant cake made as an exact replica of the stage. It was a remarkable thing - shape, colour, proportions all exactly right. There were some people with it, one of whom turned out the be the chef/baker and also a film crew, so I ended up talking to this guy on camera, despite our not being even close to sharing a common language.

Also went to say hello to Snow Patrol who were opening the show. I didn't meet them last time they were out with U2, but particularly wanted to meet Nathan, as by a curious series of coincidences, I happen to know that he has just bought a house in north London which I used to live in. No, really. It's a big Victorian terrace where I lodged for a couple of years in the early 80's, which Nathan took possession of quite recently. There's been alterations to the place since I lived there but I do know that his upstairs shower room used to be my bedroom. Funny old world.

OK, the show. Opening night, the big launch... and of course it went remarkably well. In some ways I'd never doubted it, having been so very confident about the strength of this idea since it popped into my head in New Zealand in 2006, but of course I'd never admit that until the first gig was well and truly in the bag. It was a warm, clear night and the stadium was packed to the rafters with a very rowdy audience who were chanting and doing Mexican waves before U2 were anywhere near the stage. At 10-ish the house lights went down and 'Kingdom of Your Love' came over the monster PA. Larry made his solo, spotlighted walk up the long rear ramp to the drum kit, with constellations of flash bulbs going off all over the stadium, then sat down. The audience was in full voice, but I could sense in there if not confusion, a curiosity as to what exactly was about to happen. Larry hammered out the opening to 'Breathe' as the others appeared and I enjoyed feeling the audience realise that this wasn't going to be as obvious an opening as we could have chosen. It felt good, new, fresh.

'No Line', 'Boots', 'Magnificent' and all was going well, then the opening chords of 'Beautiful Day' and the place went apeshit. I could see a close-up of Bono, carrying a look which said 'it's going to work...' As often happens, the two hour show seemed to last about fifteen minutes, as I was so locked in and focussed on what we were doing. The video screen opened for Unforgettable Fire and once it had closed again after Vertigo I could feel sphincters relaxing all over the building. After that, I started to relax a little and remembered to enjoy it. Here we are doing it and the kids just love it.

The show finished and the band took their bows, hugs all round at front of house with a certain knowledge that it had been OK - more than OK, it was a triumph and now we can go and celebrate. I ended up at a party by the pool at the Hotel Fabulous and the giant cake version of the stage ended up there too. At some point in the wee small hours I was handed a large knife and nominated the man most qualified to cut into this thing. It turned out not to be a cake at all, but all chocolate. It wasn't bad, either - the PA was particularly tasty. There was also a chocolate band on stage and Dennis our tour manager ate the chocolate Larry, which I found slightly disturbing. Tom, our video director, tucked into one of the structure legs which turned out to be made of a little known Spanish delicacy - chocolate covered wood. Most amusing.

Finally I've given in and have retired to my room on the way to bed. It's 6am and I'm looking out at Gaudi's Sagrada Familia from my window in the Barcelona dawn. It's been an overwhelming night and I'm not sure what to think of it all, but I'm sure Gaudi would approve.

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23 July, 2009
real life faerie tales
These diaries are one of my favorite things about U2 being on tour. I love the humor and the everyday details alsongside the surrealism! Willie, I think you should continue writing them even after the tour is over!
brendan roberts
23 July, 2009
barcelona show one
great insight into behind the scenes willie. keep them coming.......... can i have your job.
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