Thursday 24th September 2009. New York. Show 2.
There's something I haven't mentioned before as it didn't seem important, but in our control tower at front-of-house we have developed a little tradition over the course of the tour. Bowie’s 'Space Oddity' has been the final pre-show song and has pretty much become part of the show now, as the audience recognise it and know that the countdown has begun. There is a countdown in the song itself, followed by a great 'waa-waa-waa...' noise at which point lighting director Ethan would push a button to set off all the smoke machines in the 'pylon' of the stage. It's the beast waking up, the rocket firing, and it always gets a huge cheer from the crowd.
I'm not quite sure why, but for a while now we have had a different 'guest button pusher' each night. We get someone from the tour staff to come to the mix position and push the button. Most find this terrifying because at first glance it's pretty technologically intimidating up there but also because we don't tell them what the button does. They push, look around in bewildered fashion then crack up laughing (or scream) when they realise what it is they are making happen - especially when the entire crowd starts cheering.
So that's the tradition and we've had all sorts of people be guest smoke operator, crew guys, management people, guests, friends of friends, and tonight... Nicole Kidman. I kid you not gentle reader, the actual Nicole Kidman pushed the button to launch the rocket.
I'm tempted to end the story there to leave a sense of mystery and wonder, but we went on to have such a great show that it would be a great waste. Tonight was one of those nights where everything came together. The old Giants Stadium is a great sounding building and Joe was clearly on a roll. The band were on cracking form, the set list was perfect for the audience... it was magical. Out front, up on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, we were having a great time with a couple of surprise guests paying a visit, including Sir Mick Jagger himself. He was clearly enjoying himself, dancing with his two friends (one of whom was Nicole Kidman) and laughing whenever Bono would throw in a hook from a Rolling Stones song... Miss You, It's Only Rock and Roll, She's Like a Rainbow. Our celebrity guests stayed almost until the very end, just bailing before the houselights went up. As Nicole left (please note, we're on first name terms now) she promised she'd come and see us again. We await with baited breath...
It was a truly great night - we shall miss Giants Stadium when they tear it down. We joined the 'runner' to get back to Manhattan and perhaps overdid the exhortations to our driver not to lose his place in the posse. Due to our position lower down the food chain, the issue we often face in the runner is that we are in a van, following the band's cars. Sometimes the police escort include us within their vehicle group, other times we are simply following as best we can and hoping to not get left behind. Last night, after the first Giants Stadium show, we barely made it out of the parking lot before our rather timid driver had lost his place, other cars had cut in, the blue flashing lights were a speck in the distance and we were on our own to face the traffic with everyone else.
Similarly tonight we had hardly got started and our van had fallen behind the police escort with other traffic mounting up. Our cries of dismay seemed to do something slightly odd to our driver who, with dented pride, took the challenge in hand and absolutely went for it. Blinkers on and horn going, he floored the accelerator and did a Mad Max out of the parking lot, taking full advantage of the size of our vehicle, including driving over a grass verge and through an entry toll booth the wrong way. Amazingly, he did manage to catch up with the tail end of the police escort but wasn't content to leave it there and pulled up along side them as we neared the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. We were in the back, trying to maintain poise, assuring our possessed driver that this was far enough and that this would be the perfect time to stop driving like a maniac. But no! Through the Lincoln tunnel we went, and coming up the ramp on the Manhattan side our driver actually cut into the police escort, placing our large while minibus between Bono and Edge's cars. We were screaming by now and most of us had adopted the brace position from those aeroplane safety cards. The whole situation was exacerbated by the fact that the police were also clearly enjoying this midnight burn through mid-town, taking us through red lights and at one highly memorable moment, whilst clutching my head behind the drivers seat, I noticed that we had just shot past Macy's whilst on the wrong side of the road. We did get back to the hotel alive but I think we'll be a little more careful about winding up our drivers from here on in...