17 February 1998
Perth show - Travellers' tales
Perth show - Travellers' tales - The crew gather having all arrived by circuitous and lunatic routes. Two of them even got arrested after a face off with the Argentine rugby team. Perth is anti-climactic as a result.
Perth. Show day. The venue here in Perth is "like a gig only smaller". The "Super" dome holds just 17,000 and our stage pretty much filled the place even before the punters came in. A man has to wonder quite why we would put in so much time and effort to travel halfway round the world to play here, but its usually best not to ask.
Chatting to the crew, it started to become clear just how extraordinary the journey from Santiago to Perth had been. Not just for the band and myself, but for everybody. Individually there were some extraordinary tales, but put together it becomes a story of epic proportions. For reasons of airline or freight routing members of our touring party had visited cities all over the planet en route. Fiji, Easter Island, Singapore, Los Angeles, Brazil, Argentina, Africa, London, Dublin - yes, even to Europe as Bono decided to go via Amsterdam to see his family, and another crew member attended a wedding in Cork in Ireland. The absurdity of it all really struck me when, sitting in the Perth production office last night, this crew member said something about "buying a book at Singapore duty free this morning". "Oh," I said, "we you in Singapore this morning? I was in Africa!". I had this mental picture of all of us, the 150 touring personnel, gathered in Santiago to do a show, then splitting up, the group splintering and scattering all over the globe then regrouping, all landing in Perth four days later to do another show. This we do barely thinking about it and carry on as if it was a normal everyday event. Which I suppose it is for the likes of us.
Due to late booking of flights, etc., the bulk of the crew made the Santiago/Perth run by a ludicrously complex routing. Santiago, Buenos Aires, Rio Gallegos, Auckland, Sydney, Perth. It was an exceptionally long haul and for the Buenos Aires to Sydney portion they were on a plane containing the Argentinean Rugby Football squad. The Argie rugby players were a large group of large men heading off on tour, who saw fit to celebrate this fact by consuming as much alcohol as the air stewards would deliver to them. The air stewards in return were most excited to have these sporting celebrities on board and plied them with all the alcohol they could find. As has been noted by Oscar Wilde, "alcohol, when taken in sufficient quantities has been known to produce all the effects of drunkenness". This it certainly did with our rugby playing chums, who were singing, throwing things around and generally whooping it up mightily, like fifty Gazzers after a crate of Newcastle Brown. Now, though I am sure they were having a high old time, these high spirited young men did not prove to be absolutely the ideal cabin-mates that a bunch of exhausted roadies might hope for when commencing a 36 hour flight after an all-night load-out from a decrepit stadium in a remote country with non-english speaking stage hands. There was war.
The U2 crew quickly ascertained that the flight crew were not remotely interested in policing the rugby squad. They were honoured to have them on board and if they wanted to break the place up, then that was just fine. At this point Marshall law took over and an ongoing series of threats, squabbles and fights broke out, culminating in two of our crew making a bid for the quieter climes of the business class section. A video crew member known by the curious nickname "Little Legs" and his pal "DB" from the sound crew, found themselves two empty seats up the sharp end, strapped themselves in and refused to move. Being highly over-tired and exasperated they explained, not unreasonably, that they were in desperate need of sleep and if the flight crew were not prepared to make the rear section habitable they would stay here. Whilst chaos continued to reign at the back, DB & Legs lashed themselves to their new seats and would not be moved. Eventually, the airline resorted to threats of legal action, to be carried out upon the plane's arrival in Sydney. Unperturbed, our boys dug in and slept on. Sure enough, when the plane arrived at the gate in Sydney, all the passengers were told to wait until the police arrived, arrested our noble heroes and took them away. Fortunately, on explaining to the rather more reasonable Australian authorities the gross miscarriage of justice being played out, DB & Legs were released without charge.
Tonight's gig was, well, quiet. Compared to 70,000 mad Chileans, 17,000 respectable Perthians couldn't hope to reproduce the volume of audience noise to which we've become accustomed. The building was so small that it inspired Bono to jump off the stage and run round the entire audience during "I Will Follow". He can be a funny chap sometimes. Anyhow, the audience seemed to have a good time, so we left just feeling glad to be here and not in an aeroplane.