Vertigo Leg 1: 2005, US

Jul
02
2005

London Live 8 and Vienna Ernst Happel Stadion

This is the kind of day you have fevered dreams about. We were all up with the lark and headed over to Hyde Park for U2s soundcheck with Paul McCartney at 10.30am. Large festival events are always a bit of a whos who of artists and crew, but this one was bordering on silly. Theres the familiar sight of U2 soundchecking, but with a Beatle right in the middle of them all. Most odd. It has been clear from the start that the only way wed get through this with any chance of success would be by division of labour. I had two tasks, firstly to make sure that all the background screen video was ready to roll, that the persons pushing the buttons knew what they were supposed to be doing and when they were supposed to be doing it.

My second task was to co-ordinate the dove release. On Monday, Bono had asked if we could release doves in the middle of Beautiful Day, so we put 'Dove Release, UK' into Google and, amazingly, came up with a list of companies that do just that. Weeding out the less likely candidates was important and in order to find enough doves we ended up having to go with two rival dove release companies. We put them in the photographers pit at the front, one on stage right, the other on stage left, but I couldnt help but wonder about the potential for Dove Wars, and aerial fisticuffs as soon as the baskets were opened.

Once all was set up, we had about an hour to wait until show time. Hyde Park was jammed but backstage we had a chance to relax for a moment of chat to countless friends and colleagues. As more and more famous faces arrived it started to feel like having a drink at Madame Tussauds. Michael Stipe, Sir Elton, Paul McC., Coldplay with Gwynneth and Apple, Kofi Annan, Pink Floyd, Travis, Stereophonics, Darren Hayes, Bob Geldof of course, and more and more and more, all just hanging out around the Port-a-Cabins behind the stage. There was even what could described be an air of calm about the place. Its a very big deal to put on an event like this, but it really felt like everyone knew what to do, certainly compared to the great unknown of twenty years ago.

Two oclock arrived and kick off. I took up my position in the photographers pit to make absolutely sure that the dove people got their signal. The show started with a video montage of highlights from Live Aid 85 which was a glorious mullet fiesta. Then (inexplicably) a trumpet fanfare from men in red coats and funny hats on the stage, then on came U2 and Sir Paul to wade into 'Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band'. This into Beautiful Day during which came the dove cue. I had imagined a gentle flock rising into the sky, circling over the crowd and heading off into the sunset, but as soon as the baskets were opened the birds shot out of there and would have had your eye out if youd been standing in the way. Large security guys dived for cover as the jet stream roared past, straight over to stage right and were gone, leaving behind only a few tail feathers fluttering in the breeze. Somewhat less spectacular than Id envisaged, but I think we caught a few on camera at least.

Vertigo and One followed then we were done. I thought it went well - a lower case triumph - and you only have to imagine the potential for disaster at this type of event to be satisfied that just getting through it is achievement enough. I was just happy that all the video pieces played in the right songs and that the doves went off OK, even if they were in more of a hurry than Id expected (lads, lads whats the rush?)

We piled into various vehicles and headed to RAF Northholt where Vertigo Air awaited us. There was a bit of faffing about before we could board, so we watched more of Live 8 on a TV whilst we waited. Coldplay turned up at the airport shortly after we got there so I guess they have a gig tonight too. The R.E.M. guys said they are playing in Switzerland this evening and they dont go on at Live 8 till 4pm so theyll need to get through here pretty sharpish.

As we took off it seemed very odd indeed that we were flying to another gig. Most people snoozed on the plane. Its been a very intense few days. Few weeks. Few months.

And then Vienna ('this means nothing to me', etc.) Actually Vienna means a great deal to me as I lived here for a couple of months last year, staging 'Barbarella, das sexy space-musical' (no kidding). Consequently, I had a lot of guests tonight who were most surprised to see me rushing into the venue at 8.30pm. (Cardiff was positively leisurely by comparison).

The band did a runner out of the venue as well, but mercifully I had decided to stay on an extra day or two in Vienna to catch up with friends. I am going off-itinerary for a couple of days and hopefully will find my way to Katowice by Tuesday night. Wherever that is. What could possibly go wrong?

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