16 May 2011
'Good To Be Back'Mexico City – Denver. Travel day.
The touring party has fragmented somewhat as there’s a few days before the next show (it being a long way from Mexico City to Denver) and there’s a lot else going on. I opted for traveling straight to Denver today and hitching a ride on the crew charter flight. The flight left at 12.30pm and quite a number of the crew had come directly to the airport from the gig. It was fully expected that the load-out would be hideous and this proved to be very much the case. The single, twisting tunnel of death out of Azteca had slowed the movement of gear to a crawl, making it the single worst loading experience since Barcelona.
Consequently everyone was just shagged and it was a very quiet flight. Mexico airport proved to be an architectural delight though, with wonderful light as the sunshine came through the perforated concrete walls. Despite being wrecked, the light and backdrop proved deeply flattering to the human form, so I spent a happy half hour Hipsamatic-ing away.
I haven’t been to the USA since the New York rehearsals for Glastonbury in early May 2010. Coming back today I realised that the last time I spent an entire year outside North America was in 1982. I lived in California for eight years and have always been a regular visitor to these shores but, for no particular reason, this time it has been a long absence, which has provided me with a renewed objectivity when coming back. It’s no surprise to have found the grim severity of immigration and airport security to be a jolt, though at the same time they surprised us with their leniency. One of our video team had inadvertently packed his passport into a bag currently in the back of a truck en route from Mexico City so we wondering quite what would happen on arrival. I believe someone had phoned ahead and played the U2 card, but even so in this day and age it’s quite an achievement to have gained access to the USA whilst in possession of nothing more official than a Flemish driving license.
Despite the lateness and the tiredness, a few of us did go out to dinner (at Willie’s Seafood Bar, no less) and I confess that the U.S. has rarely felt more alien to me. After a long absence and having been in the Southern hemisphere for all this time the shock of American professional hospitality felt like an assault on the senses. The waitstaff were extremely pleasant and working hard but the style and level of enthusiasm of their performance-art waitering, along with the vast array of options, the scale and quantities of everything and the seemingly endless menu-related questions left our heads spinning. I can only imagine how this must all seem to non-English speaking visitors - little wonder the Japanese tourists always seem slightly bewildered.
We’ll settle in, of course, and on an enormous number of levels this final leg in North America will be so much easier than the last six months of the tour. The venues, the vehicles, the staff and stagehands will all help move the 360 tour along with a speed and consistency that we haven’t seen for a while. Tonight however I was letting myself see this once-familiar place with new eyes and rather enjoying the culture shock of it all. It’s good to be back.