17 May 2011
Denver. Day off.
I’d noticed on our wanderings last night that there was a funky-looking barber’s shop a block from the Hotel Fabulous. Getting a haircut on tour is playing cosmetic Russian roulette but you don’t always have a choice. Happily I struck gold here, receiving a stylish trim from a delightful punky young woman, which entirely made my day.
Post-pamper, reality beckoned as this is the week of truth for Team Content. Once we get through the Denver show, rehearsals are over for good and with this whole leg being mostly one-night stands, the tour will gain a pace that we will no doubt find startling after the fantastically leisurely week-in-every-city pace of the past few months.
None of us scored a large room here, so we settled into a corner of the extensive lobby-bar-lounge area. The hotel staff didn’t seem to mind us turning the area into our video production facility, so we stayed there for much of the day.
We have some great new pieces to go into the show, most of which have been very ambitious in their own way. Probably the most significant is a piece to camera by Aung San Suu Kyi herself, which will play before ‘One’ in the slot currently occupied by Desmond Tutu. The making of this piece was absolutely epic, involving a stealth trip into Burma by Sam, my producer, along with Eoin, the 360 tour documentarian and U2.com’s very own Martin Wroe. Doubtless the story will be told in full on U2.com at some point, but for now suffice it to say that this was undercover film-making at its finest. After a quite lengthy process of communicating with the staff of Daw Suu (as Aung San Suu Kyi is known), she agreed to be filmed for the U2 show, so our three lads went to Bangkok to apply for Burmese visas. Having secured these, they headed into Rangoon posing as backpackers and went to the compound where Daw Suu lives – the place where she has lived under house arrest for most of the past 20 years.
The result is a series of pieces to camera by this truly remarkable woman, which we will make into a sequence for the 360 show. U2 joined the campaign for Daw Suu’s freedom over ten years ago, most notably in writing the song Walk On. For the first year of the 360 tour, volunteers, campaigners and audience-members would wear masks of her face as a moment of protest in the show, then last year volunteers ringed the stage with lights by way of a vigil for her. The thought of her being released and able to address the audience during our show is so humbling on so many levels that I don’t think we’ve quite come to terms with it yet.
Run Wrake is the man who is turning the raw footage into video art. Run is an animator and filmmaker who has worked with U2 since PopMart, creating some of the most memorable visual moments, including collaborating with Roy Lichtenstein to make the animated paintings for that show. He made the video sequence that has opened Walk On for the 360 tour thus far, so we’ve kidnapped him for a while to come and help us finish off the show.
Things progressed well, as the coffee cups and club sandwich plates piled up. Evening fell and the bar began to fill up. A DJ set up a little system, the lights dimmed and the place turned into something of a lower-case scene. How strange we must have looked, a row of guys with laptops and reading glasses, lining one corner. All very techno, I’m sure.