Friday 30th October 2009. New York. Show day.
The question hanging in the air is 'if the tour's over, how come we're still doing shows?' Unable to find a satisfactory answer, I headed to Madison Square Garden to attend the rehearsal and camera blocking of tonight's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame anniversary concert. The event is over two nights, last night having been the first, with the whole thing being recorded for broadcast and DVD release.
Bruce Springsteen played yesterday, followed by Billy Joel and apparently not finishing til 1.30am, so the crew and staff all looked suitably fried this morning. Today was one of those days overrun with a serious case of what I call 'Madame Tussauds syndrome'. Everywhere you look there are so many famous faces it's hard to take in the fact of them being real and your mind just assumes that you've teleported to a wax museum.
U2 headlined tonight's show with other performances by Jeff Beck, Metallica and Aretha Franklin (a line-up so eclectic that it would do justice to a German festival bill). The general idea of the evening is that each artist playes some of their greats then duets or collaborates with other musicians who have influenced them or with whom they empathise. Jeff Beck brought along Sting, whilst Metallica at various points introduced Lou Reed, Ray Davies and Ozzy Osbourne. (Ozzy was something else, it has to be said...)
Guesting with U2 were Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, The Black Eyed Peas and Mick Jagger. There had been music rehearsals yesterday but this was the first time that the collected ensemble had hit the stage, so there was a lot to get through in a short amount of time. I was in the video truck with the director and lighting director to see how it would all look on TV. Things went pretty well, with the feeling of gradually pulling order out of chaos, which is very much the way these kind of events tend to run - you put it on camera, look at it, then scramble to fix it before the musicians leave the stage.
After rehearsals I slipped back to the hotel as I needed to pack, having a very early flight in the morning. This involved the classic end-of-tour activity of buying an additional bag to carry all the accumulated crap of the past few months. To now I've been able to cram it all into my one suitcase but only because flying on our own plane means that baggage restrictions are non-existent. Tomorrow I'm flying commercial (oh, the hassle of it all...) so I'm not going to get too far with a single bag that weighs 50kg. Happily, low-rent luggage stores are not hard to come by in midtown Manhattan, so I got myself packed and then celebrated by taking a nap.
Despite having slept through Vancouver I'm still wrecked. It's extraordinary to feel your own body staging a revolution when it feels the adrenalin drop. My constitution has been very forgiving all year as it seems to appreciate that I've had quite a lot to get done. One whiff of the stables though, and the entire system seems to be shutting down.
Returned to gig to find the place absolutely heaving. The backstage wax museum had ramped up a good few notches too, and I found myself smiling inside at the faint absurdity of it all. Another quite startling observation was how absolutely tiny Madison Square Garden feels after a year in stadiums. Our venue-shrinking stage production has come to feel so normal that a normal indoor arena now feels like playing the local church hall. It was quite an upscale crowd too - this is a benefit event, so I guess that comes with the territory.
As this afternoon, I watched the show from the TV truck and generally things went pretty much to plan. The highlight of U2's set was 'Gimme Shelter' with Bono, Fergie and Mick Jagger sharing the vocal parts. Jagger stayed to perform 'Stuck in a Moment' which turned out to be really charming. I wasn't sure about it at the rehearsal this afternoon as it felt a little awkward. It was very interesting to see Jagger finding himself as the rehearsal progressed. U2 had been rehearsing for about an hour before he arrived and so were a little more comfortable in this new stage situation. Jagger was walking in cold, though, and you could almost see his instincts feeling out, like radar scanning for clues as to exactly what this environment was and how best to respond. It's fair to say that by show time he'd absolutely nailed it, taking the U2 song and bringing something of his own to it.
Beautiful Day to close & then we were out of there. Despite having an early start tomorrow I joined the lighting team at the pub opposite for a few drinks. Several of them just worked on the 360 Rosebowl shoot and we barely had a moment to catch up throughout that madness, so it was good to find a little time tonight.