21 May 2005
Madison Square Garden
'The most famous arena in the world', this place calls itself, and not without justification. I strolled down to the venue mid morning to make sure all was well (I flatter myself to think that my presence is in any way helpful to the set-up process, so dont disillusion me) and indeed it was. I sorted out my guest tickets for the day, and pottered at front of house for a while. There was still a couple of hours to kill until soundcheck time, so Smasher and I wandered out onto 33rd St and headed up towards Macys to take advantage of the current astonishing dollar exchange rate. There were many U2 t-shirts in the crowd outside, Vertigo logos everywhere. Smasher made a comment about an aeroplane over head being quite low. I looked up and there in the sky, between two buildings was Air Vertigo, the target tail fin and stripey sides clearly visible. There is only one! It took a minute to appreciate what a very odd coincidence this was. I guess the band are on their way, then
Our favourite musicians showed up in really good form, clearly loving being in the building and looking forward to taking on New York. A bite to eat and then the doors opened to let in the audience and a traditionally astonishing guest list. Wandering through the backstage area was like a trip through Madame Tussauds. Julia Roberts, Kofi Annan, Patti Smith, Ed Burns, Christie Turlington, P.Diddy Doing just one date at Madison Square Garden this time made the concentration of guests pretty intense. David Bowie greeted me like an old friend which made me feel ten feet tall. He looked really well, which was good to see as there have been all sorts of rumours about his health since last year.
U2 played a blinder and I really enjoyed the night despite having easily the worst night, technically, of the whole tour. Right at the beginning of the Arcade Fire song which serves as the show intro tape, we lost power to the whole video control set-up at front of house. 'Bing-Click' it went and our vast array of monitors and screens all went black. Smashers eyes vacated their sockets momentarily and I was about to radio in an emergency stop, knowing we now had less than three minutes till the band would walk onto the stage. However, it would be a brave man who would hit the abort button during the countdown process at Madison Square Garden, so Smasher leapt into the fray and sorted it out in sixty seconds or less. I am not entirely sure what happened, but clearly some of the computers didnt enjoy being shut down and rebooted with no warning, so there was all kinds of funkiness going on from this point onward. As ever, much of this is nothing that the audience would really be aware of, but it kept us juggling weird glitches for the rest of the night.
Afterwards it was a complete zoo backstage and getting out of the building proved challenging (its a large complex and the arena is on the fifth floor). The long loading ramp was awash with sweating grunting men pushing boxes at high speed and the only elevator was continually packed so we headed down on foot, being joined en route by Patti Smith which was pleasantly surreal.
Our escape was ultimately successful, though, and a few of us slipped away to the relative tranquility of the Algonquin for a nightcap.