'One of Those Moments...'
Thursday 5th November 2009. Berlin. European MTV Awards.
Despite what a great story it would have made to have U2 play in a blizzard, it was something of a relief to wake up to cold blue skies. We had a sound check slot of noon till 14.30, which the band attended, and all seemed to be relatively straightforward. Having got my ducks in a row last night (and being broad daylight this afternoon) there wasn't any great need for me to be there but it's the polite thing to do and given the proximity to my hotel room, showing up was hardly a Herculean effort on my part.
I strolled around in the square whilst the band pottered about on stage, occasionally checking in to see that no crises had arisen. After a little while though, I looked up and was struck by the sight of Bono, singing One when standing right behind him was the Brandenburg Gate. This is U2 on a little stage, playing right in front of the Brandenburg Gate - sound checking on a piece of ground which was just a wasteland (quite literally 'no man's land') when I first came to Berlin. Visions of how this area used to look came to mind, along with the memory of how permanent a situation we all assumed that this would be. I looked up at Bono on the stage and said to him, 'you know... even I'm going to take a picture of this...'
This feeling remained and had been magnified a thousand-fold by the time U2 took the stage for real, in front of a live audience. I was in the TV truck again, so watching it all on camera, but this took nothing away from the emotion of the experience. The significance of the location was monumental and the lyrics of One pushed it into orbit, along with the absolutely stunning projections on the Gate (not created by me, I should add, so I feel entirely at liberty to rave about them). This was one of Those Moments. Simply a unique moment in time which encompasses far more than can be expressed in a few words.
The performance went very well as the band ploughed on through 'Magnificent', 'Sunday' with Jay-Z, 'Vertigo', 'Beautiful Day'... and by the time we got to 'Moment of Surrender' I felt like I really had to get out of the TV truck and go and be there for real. Feeling quite secure that nothing was likely to happen during this final song that would need my attention, I headed out and into the audience to just be a punter, to be part of this communal experience.
I found a good spot to watch from, huddled in the half-light of the crowd. The moment I'd settled in, Bono began a handclap, with his arms raised above his head, which the audience began to copy. 'Willie, turn the lights on!' Bono called out into the darkness... 'Ah well,' I thought, 'I guess you'll have to forgive me this last one...'
Some time later we ended up taking over most of the Grill Royale, which is currently the culinary epicentre of Berlin. No mention was made of my having convincingly blown the final lighting cue of the tour, so we settled into some fine food and wine as the night hours rolled into morning. It was great fun and a chance to say goodbye to people we may not see again for a little while.