POPMART Leg 3: 1997, North America

Jul
21
2005

Milan San Siro Stadium

21 July 2005
Milan San Siro Stadium
Staggered up around 11am to a flurry of text messages about more London bombs. Dull, dull, dull. I headed out in search of the ultimate cappuccino, pressing the button for the lift on my floor of the hotel. The elevator doors opened to reveal Michael Stipe. I love touring, its so fabulously, impossibly random. (Last year in New York when we were doing Saturday Night Live, the hotel lift doors opened and Captain Kirk was standing inside, which was a wonderfully odd moment. Speaking of which I also heard that Scotty from Star Trek died today, which is sad. Anyhow, I digress) I did see Michael at the gig last night, with Mike Mills, but we hardly had time to socialise, given the state of my night at the time. It was lovely to see them, as always.

I had an hour to myself in Milan, so wandered a little as I was on a mission to find a stylish wedding present for friends getting hitched this weekend (yes, life outside the tour goes on). I wasnt surprised to see so many cafÈs but was amazed to notice about 6 small cinemas too. Sat in a cafÈ, collected myself, then headed back to work.

In the spirit of multi-tasking, I managed to sort out my expense receipts whilst being driven to the stadium in the International Van of the Year. Once there we got into some serious tape viewing with Hamish, Bruce & Allen. The feeling was that last night had been relatively successful, but we were still in need of total triumph tonight. There were some funny moments too, particularly Original of the Species with the added string section. There were 16 string players split between the two b-stages for the song and even though we had run through this during soundcheck yesterday (more for logistics than anything ≠ can you get a cello through the crash barrier, etc?) to all intents and purposes the first time we saw this on camera was during the show last night. When viewing the tapes someone noticed (OK, it was me) that if you closed one eye and looked at the tracking shots of the string section on the b-stage, you could imagine that they were floating past the camera on the surface of the crowd, much akin to a River Thames dinner cruise. Oh how we laughed.

We had just started watching the whole show from start to finish, when I got a call from the dressing room. I headed up there to find that the band were there also watching last nights tapes and were at almost exactly the same point of the show, which was weird synchronicity. As I got input and comments from the band, I would text them to Allen and Bruce who were watching in the video truck, which was not only highly efficient but amusingly hi-tech too.

We made our plans, constructed our strategy as to how to shoot this thing, then watched the band walk out on stage and do one of the greatest U2 shows I have ever seen. Bono told the audience (in Italian, I might add) last night was our first date, tonight we make love, and if a band and their audience ever shagged each other, then this was the night it happened. It was a full on love-fest, they just nailed it, bless em.

Youll be able to see it for yourself one day, as the whole thing is committed to digital media for posterity, but of the highlights for me personally, the greatest was Bono putting on a t-shirt thrown to him from the crowd. It was a particularly unfashionable shade of blue, but bore the Underground logo from Londons public transport system. I had a little moment, right there in the truck. Whoever could have imagined that the Tube logo could have emotional resonance.

The band did a runner, so afterwards, sitting on boxes with beers, I called Bono to say nice one, to let him know that we had captured the whole spectacular, emotional event and also to say goodbye, because this is my last show for the time being. Having given birth to this thing we call Vertigo ≠ indoors and out ≠ and watched it get up on its feet I am going to leave them to it for a while. Consequently I had plenty of goodbyes to say, so I did the rounds before leaving. (Though, within a week I am sure they will all have forgotten I ever existed, such is the way of the road.)

I stopped off at the crew hotel for a nightcap with the rest of the video team, before finally making it back to the Hotel Fabulous where I found Mike Mills in the bar. He and Michael Stipe had stayed for tonights show as well and had had a really good time. R.E.M. finished their year-long tour last weekend so, like me, Mike is blinking in the daylight of impending free time. Beam us up, Scotty!

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