Elevation Leg 3: 2001 North America


'No room at the inn... in Gelsenkirchen.'

02 August 2009
'No room at the inn... in Gelsenkirchen.'
Gelsenkirchen. Load in day.

Woke up on the bus with about three hours to go before arriving at Gelsenkirchen. We appeared to be in Germany, but my phone told me I'd been to Denmark at some point in the night. Some of the backline guys were beginning to surface, making coffee, breakfasty-bits and so forth, sitting about chatting as the wet landscape rolled by. The roof on the venue in Gelsenkirchen raises all sorts of sonic challenges, but I'd say we’ll be glad of it tomorrow.

Being a last minute addition, there was no room at the inn for me in Gelsenkirchen (everywhere's sold out because of some concert that's on) so I've wound up at a Sheraton in Essen. I headed out for a stroll into the centre of Essen on this wet Sunday afternoon and, ironically given the name of the city, couldn't find anything to eat so headed back to the hotel. Spent the early part of the evening pottering before going into the venue with a photographer who is documenting the load-in tonight. The bulk of the crew only got to Gelsenkirchen from Sweden around 6pm, so it is going to be a long overnight load-in for most. The photographer, Ralph Larmann, takes extraordinary pictures and has photographed a few of my stage productions over the years, including the Vertigo Tour. He shot the 360 show in Berlin (including an incredible mirrorball shot which looked like the missing scene from Lord of the Rings) but is coming back for a second helping here in Gelsenkirchen which is a very different building. Ralph wanted to photograph the load-in as everything was being constructed and given that this was going to take most of the night, I left him to it.

Monday 3rd August 2009. Gelsenkirchen. Show day.

I woke up this morning to realise that not only is no-one else from the 360 tour staying in this hotel, but also that no-one else from the 360 tour in staying in the city. I'm never quite sure how it happens, but I do end up out in orbit on my own from time to time. This strange feeling was compounded by the further oddity of my not knowing where I would end up spending the night. The band are commuting to the show from Nice, but the nearest airport that they can land in is Cologne, an hour or more's drive from Gelsenkirchen so they're doing the last part by helicopter. The rest of the band entourage is in buses which is fine for the arrival, but means that for the runner after the show, anyone not in the helicopter needs to leave practically as the show starts, which is not terribly practical for me or for Tom the video director.

Tom and I had talked about a range of possibilities of how we might get from Gelsenkirchen to Katowice which included stopovers in mountain health spas, etc., various train connections, one-way car rental (road trip!) and camel train. However, the band have asked if we could spend the day on Wednesday going over DVDs of the show to have a look at what might be improved and 'kick the tyres' as Bono said. Consequently, we will need to get back to Nice by nightfall tomorrow, but that’s ages away...

The show was great and Ralph photographed away, including doing a few 360 degree panorama shots, appropriately. I got a message to say that they had made room for Tom and me to go with the 'runner' at the end of the show and head back to Nice tonight. We beat our way through the crowd to rendezvous behind the stage during 'Moment of Surrender', where tour manager Dennis yelled into my ear, 'Ah, Willie. You're in the yellow helicopter'. I remember thinking that this was something that no-one had ever said to me before.

The entire football pitch at the stadium in Gelsenkirchen is made in such a way that it can slide outside the building, to be fed and watered between games. Consequently, when there's a gig on, out the back of the venue there is a full size football pitch, on which were parked two helicopters. Being the obedient sort of chap that I am, I made my way to the yellow helicopter and got in, to be shortly joined by Bono, Edge, Joe O. and a couple of others. The choppers revved up and took off in convoy, sailing up into the night sky and over the industrial landscape. It was all so Ridley Scott, that I leaned over to Joe and whispered in his ear 'he say you… Braderunner!' before looking out of the window and spotting some kind of refinery, which had those great Bladerunner plumes of flame belching out of its chimneys. Somewhere in my head I heard the Viewmaster click...

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