POPMART Leg 1: 1997, North America


London to Brussels.

03 June 2005
London to Brussels.
Back in the saddle after a couple of days actual down time. The tour having conveniently decided to start in Brussels meant I could take the Eurostar (train) from Waterloo station, so could at least avoid having to deal with an airport today. I strolled down to Waterloo only to find that its half term, so all the school kids are on holiday and most of them on the way to Disneyland apparently. Fortunately Belgium is yet to be discovered as a major tourist destination for pre-teen Brits, so once I was through the station rugby scrum and onto the train relative sanity was restored.

Theres a certain sense of full-circle starting the European tour in Belgium, as much of the technology we are using comes from there, so I have been making this train journey regularly since last August. Actually, Ive been making this journey regularly since 1993 when Belgium first began to emerge as the powerhouse of touring video, but thats a longer story.

Once in Brussels I took a cab to the hotel where, in a moment of international fiscal confusion I attempted to pay the cab driver with Canadian dollars (well they do look a bit like Euros) I settled into my room then took a stroll out in the drizzle around the old part of the city which is absolutely lovely. A little later a runner van came to pick me up and ferry me to the stadium. The King/Konig/Roi Bauduoin (depending on which language zone you are from) is the former Heizel stadium, renamed for the previous King of Belgium after the football disaster of 20 years ago. Fortunately it seems that none of that karma remains and the place is a pretty good venue, despite its age. I am delighted that all of these European shows are in stadium buildings rather than the flat-field sites or German car parks which you so often get stuck in on this side of the pond. It makes the whole event so much more civilized for the audience and helps the event feel more intimate, if thats a word that could ever be appropriate for a stadium-full of heaving U2 fans.

Its always a big moment for me to arrive and see the structure for the first time, though the ubiquity of CAD design tools means that (on a good day) you often feel like you have seen this object before. As in this case, the real thing looks just like the drawings. It was looking good too. One side of the sound system was up showing off its sporty paint job, as was about a quarter of the shiny new back wall, each piece being gently hammered into place, negotiating all the other pieces of the puzzle in this giant rubiks cube.

Many parts of the puzzle arent here yet, (most notably those parts which were redesigned by the singer less than two weeks ago.) I am not expecting to have much to look at in terms of lighting and video till Sunday night, so anything before that is a bonus. The last part of the back wall and the b-stage set up arent due till Tuesday, so, as ever, patience will be a key requirement for those of us up the sharp end of the work force.

The mood is up amongst the team despite the periodic rain. Most departments have added personnel to handle the expanded scale of the proposition. Also, there are all of the new drivers ≠ bus and truck ≠ for the European leg, so there are quite a number of new faces about the place. Although when I say new faces I really mean people I havent seen for a while as thereπs barely a person here who I havent worked with before on some tour or other, such is the community of the road. Remembering all the names is a challenge, but I didnt do too badly.

Overall I am very pleased with the way things look so far. The pelmet fascia above the P.A. isnt great so we will have to do something about that and some of the waterproofing looks like it came from a school production of H.M.S. Pinafore, but a man learns to pick his battles at timely moments andbesides, much may be reshuffled when the band arrive.

We snuck out of there about 10pm and went for a walk round the bustling old town in search of beer, frites and mayonnaise. The Grand Place is just spectacular so we sat and watched the world go by over a few Belgian brews before strolling home in the gentle drizzle.

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