Santiago. Rehearsal day.
We finally got ourselves a full complement of band members this afternoon, which always ratchets the on-site energy up a notch. They came in to get reacquainted with the stage and rehearse through the evening. Suddenly it only seemed like a couple of days since the Cape Town show, rather than a whole month, and happily everyone got comfortably back in the saddle almost at once.
There were a couple of new things to try, including a short instrumental version of Mothers of the Disappeared which will form a segue between One and Streets. It seems like the right kind of reference, acknowledging the history but now very much in the spirit of a country that has moved on. We are also going to put in One Tree Hill, partly for the Victor Jara reference, partly because of the mining empathy with New Zealand and not least because it's a great and under-played U2 song.
The opening of the shows in South Africa, featuring a recording of the Soweto Gospel Choir, was absolutely stellar. Much as it's often fruitless to hope lightning will strike twice, we did have a fish around to see if there might be something along those lines that we could do to create a unique opening for Latin America. We discovered a young Chilean singer called Francisca Valenzuela who is a very popular new artist here, perhaps with something of the Sinead O'Connor about her. She came to the stadium this afternoon (apparently from college where she's studying journalism) and immediately clicked with the U2 guys. So much so, they recorded some vocal parts on the spot and by tea-time we had ourselves a whole new intro. 'Gracias a la vida' is the lyric, based (I gather) on a Chilean poem. The vocal is quite something and Francisca ('Fran') was fantastic - articulate, confident and seemingly not at all intimidated by the spontaneity of the event. Clearly she's a star in the making.
Just before rehearsal, we were visited by our old friend Rene Castro, a Chilean painter, muralist and graffiti artist whom we have known since the eighties. I knew him in San Francisco and he became part of U2's world for a while, eventually painting the stage set for the Love Town tour and some of the cars on the Zoo TV Tour. He grew up here, where his political activism got him into trouble, including being incarcerated in this very stadium when the Pinochet regime was at its height. He escaped to San Francisco where he continued his activism, having returned to Chile about five years ago. I haven't seen him in such a long time, but he was as funny and delightful as ever. He laughed when he saw the humongous 360 stage. 'It would take a bit longer to paint that one...'
In an unprecedented fit of self-confidence we actually knocked off early. Sound curfew wasn't until 10.30pm but by nine the band members were starting to glance at each other with looks of 'I'm OK if you're OK'. Besides, some of them only flew in today so there's no point in caning it just for the sake of it.
During rehearsals, incidentally, the sonic experience of having my new in-ear monitors was every bit as astonishing as I'd thought it might be. Vocals are particularly startling - or actually, more so when somebody speaks - as you hear their voice emanating from deep inside your own head. It's incredibly odd, but wonderfully liberating for me, having been at such a disadvantage on stage up until now. Also, I noticed again that you don't have the volume particularly loud to get all the impact you need. It just made me want to smile the whole time - and the sound of someone breathing is a pretty wacky sensation too, let me tell you.