Katowice. Show day.
This was a 'runner-in, runner-out' day where we essentially commuted to the show from Nice. Today we arrived at the venue at about 6.30pm, which made for a bit of a run around to be ready for show time. We played here on Vertigo in 2005 and, although I remembered the show well, I was struggling to recall the venue. As we pulled into the large park and gardens within which the venue is set, it all came flooding back to me. We were here with the Magic Numbers and it rained.
I was very surprised on walking into the stadium, as I'd a vague recollection of it being kind of a dumpy little place. It turns out that the layout of the place means that for a rock show the biggest grandstand of seating ends up behind the stage so would have been unused last time we were here. For our 360 show however, the place works extremely well and our space station looked most at home sitting in the middle of it all.
U2 have a history with Poland. The first time we ever came to this country was on the PopMart tour, playing a huge show at some racetrack in Warsaw. Bono has suggested that we make a video piece about the Solidarity movement, to show on the big PopMart screen during New Year's Day, a song which (apparently) has some connection with Solidarity. It had been an amazing show anyway, but when Lech Walesa appeared 50 feet tall, the noise which came up out of the crowd was unlike anything I'd heard before at a gig; it was so visceral, we;d clearly touched something very deep.
By 2005 when we next played in Poland, this was something of a distant memory to us but New Year's Day was in the set list, and when the band played it, the audience did their now famous trick of turning the whole stadium into a giant Polish flag. They had organised this entirely without the band's knowledge, so it was one of the few times when an audience managed to pull off a genuine large-scale surprise for U2. This time around we all came clean. Even though it has been rarely played on this tour, Poland knew that U2 would play the song for them and we were well aware that the crowd in Katowice would do the flag gag again. Far from taking away from the event though, it became like a tryst, like having a date with a nation to create something thrilling that's bigger than all of us. Of course what took it into stratospheric proportions was seeing the flag performance in the 360 configuration. The entire floor of the stadium became a sea of white fabric, whilst all the way around the grandstand seating turned red. It was a moment of such great joy it's hard to capture it in words, though Gary from Snow Patrol wrote a lovely piece about it, seeing it for the first time.
As it happens, it was a truly great gig throughout. There were a few technical issues but this show was operating on a whole other level. It was also a perfect evening weather-wise, a clear, warm night with a huge full moon rising up over the stadium. By the time we got to One and everyone took out their mobile phones, the place really did feel like the milky way. We even managed to sneak a bit of buffalo onto the video screen, for old time’s sake. During Moment of Surrender I packed my bag, bid adieu to my crew and headed back to the minivan bound for the airport. There was a noticeable absence of helicopters this time which I felt rather cramped my style, but after such a good night it felt churlish to complain.