05 April 2011
'Lab Day'Buenos Aires. Day off.
We had a bit of a 'lab' day today, myself, Dec and Smasher, ‘team content’. There are two parts to the Hotel Fabulous, a new tower and an older building, modestly (but not entirely inaccurately) called the Palace. There’s a library in the palace that doesn’t see much use, so we holed up in there for the day and hung a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door. Out came the lap-tops, hard drives, powered speakers, smart phones, midi-devices and mountains of cables as we assembled the lab. The hotel staff were quite amused, I think, or at least seemed completely unphased by our scratchings and murmurings, popping in from time to time to offer coffee or lunch menus.
Being on tour (or at least being on tour with U2) can be a very creative environment. On most show days the set-list discussion invariably brings up new ideas, thoughts for the longer term, keeping the show alive and fun. There are far more ideas discussed than ever see the light of day (and trust me, this is not entirely a bad thing) but even then not all of the ideas that the band get excited about will come to fruition. Time is a large factor in this, as there are only so many hours in a day and once the train is rolling those hours seem to tick by at accelerated rate. Hence, days like today are a bit of a gift, where we can sit down and pick through everything that’s been discussed of late and see what we can move towards reality.
It turned out to be a highly productive day, our piles of technology looking marvellously incongruous in this vast old, high-ceilinged room, with its floor-to-ceiling windows. There’s an idea for Magnificent that has been in the air for a while, which Dec made some good progress with, whilst myself and Smasher continued working on an idea which may or may not grow into being something new for the opening of the show one day. By mid-afternoon we had moved on to something slightly more complex. A splendidly left of field thought emerged about a year ago that somehow it felt like Zooropa might sit well in this show. Dec trawled through the multi-track last summer when we were trapped in Nice and some of the more interesting sounds and effects found their way into the ‘questions’ audio piece in the show (“What do you want…?”) More recent dressing room discussions have shown a growing desire to see if we might be able to more than merely sample this song but, being entire the product of the studio, it’s hard to know quite where to start. A portion of Zooropa was performed on the Zooropa tour in 1993, but only three times. One of these occasions was the first Wembley stadium show where I persuaded the band that, despite a complete lack of any meaningful rehearsal time, it would be a really great idea to include four new songs form the new record in the show – Numb, Babyface, Zooropa and Stay. I’ll put my hand on my heart and say that this was perhaps not one of the better pieces of advice that I’ve ever doled out, but I’ll blame tour madness. Stay has reappeared regularly over the years and Numb made it right through the ZooTV tour, but the other two songs just sort of slipped down the back of the sofa and were forgotten about, so there’s no real precedent as to what might be the best approach for a live performance. Dec worked away at arrangements whilst Smasher and I talked pictures and by close of play we’d come up with a fairly convincing range of possibilities that hopefully will help move the discussion from theory to practice when we hook up with the band again.
Feeling a little fuzzy headed after a day of computers and too much creativity, I went to find the hotel pool which, despite being here for a week, I was yet to experience. It’s just an indoor lap pool but uses ozone rather than chlorine to keep it clean, giving it a faintly effervescent quality. It was slightly weird but rather wonderful. The process of actually doing some exercise for once rendered me incapable of further exertion, so for once in my life I decided to eat in at the hotel and found myself a little table outside in the very pleasant Buenos Aires evening. It was still quite warm and close, so once I’d settled in it was easy to forget that I was outdoors. Looking up I was really taken aback to see not only a starry night sky, but one that was completely alien to my eye. That’s right, I remember now, we’re in the southern hemisphere. Tour blur... I really should try to get out more.