Vertigo Leg 1: 2005, US

Feb
07
2006

Grammys Rehearsal, Los Angeles

Woke at 6am, which in one sense was two hours before I went to bed. Jet lag. its not just the sleeplessness, its the way your entire consciousness compacts to a tennis-ball-sized pocket of hyperactive alertness inside your head. But you cant open your eyes and the whole of the rest of your body slumps into an inoperative dead weight. Forced myself up at about 8am and went for a swim in the pool as sunshine filtered through the branches of lemon trees. Jet lag notwithstanding, its not all bad out here.

More reunions preceded a group of us heading down to the Staples Center for soundcheck and camera blocking of the Grammys show for tomorrow. Whilst driving down in the van, Suzanne kept us amused by exhibiting what is certainly the most over the top party invitation I have ever seen. As with the Oscars, theres enormous competition both on & off the field and the perceived status of the various after-show parties carries much kudos. The invitation in question was to the party of Mariah Carey and Jermaine Dupri and took the form of a small purple velvet sack. Inside was a silver casket engraved with their autographs, which opened to reveal a somewhat oversized cellphone. The cellphone was a spectacular new 3G style, opening lengthways to reveal a keyboard, LCD screen and tiny pair of speakers. On opening, the thing woke up and played a music video of Mariah and Jermaine personally inviting us to the party, with an instruction to hit the redial button for an immediate connection to RSVP. Oh, and by the way, keep the phone. Bruce immediately tried calling Australia but sadly at that point we apparently hit the outer limits of their hospitality.

The Staples Center was the customary scene of carnage that accompanies an attempt to facilitate 40 global music legends simultaneously but all seemed vaguely in hand. The band are performing Vertigo into One, with Mary J. Blige joining U2 for the second song. The video sequences wed made in London were loaded into the machines and looked good. Vertigo uses the op art graphics from the tour whilst One uses the word ONE translated into several different languages, culminating in Coexist. All was going swimmingly until the projectionist pulled me to one side. He happened to be Israeli and felt obliged to point out that the three letters in Hebrew text for One were in running in reverse order. Bugger. I spent about half an hour soliciting other opinions on the matter, putting the word out for every Hebrew speaker in the building to come and take a look. The Grammys producer, Ken Erlich, was trying to convince me that the way I had it written translated into Hebrew as 'ass', but I like to think he was just winding me up. Consequently, my afternoon went to hell, in a rush to find a local facility to do a quick re-edit. This I did and mercifully the place was able to give me some time right away. Perhaps my urgent tone on the telephone helped ('Hello, my name is Willie, I work with U2 and I have a Hebrew Video Crisis')

Soundcheck and camera blocking was all a bit of a shambles to be honest, but we figured out what we needed to do to fix it (aside, obviously, from removing the word 'ass' from the video screens) and we have another run through in the morning to make it right. On a day like this the principle obstacle is the time scale: with only an hour or so on stage to build the perfect show it becomes an incredible adrenaline rush. This, plus the fact that the production is in the hands of a team who - though very willing - have a very great deal else to achieve outside our five minute slot.

Sorting my Hebrew Video Crisis took longer than Id imagined (why is this not a surprise?) so I didnt get back to the hotel till almost 9pm. Managed to scarf some food down prior to the arrival of some friends Id invited over for drinks, including a portion of fellow-Grammy-nominees, the Kronos Quartet. Once Id calmed down a little and fought off a full-on assault of jet lag it turned into a very pleasant evening, sitting on the hotel terrace, enjoying music coming from a neighbouring party hosted by the singer of a well known Irish rock band.

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