04 November 2006
It has long been an automatic reflex of mine to avoid the obvious. When it comes to show visuals, interpreting a song in anything close to a literal manner is pretty much guaranteed to produce cringe-worthy results. Working with R.E.M. for so long was very helpful in this regard, as they are unconsciously and instinctively possessed with the most lateral minds Ive ever come across. (viz., song titles such as Binky the Doormat, etc.) However, there are exceptions to the rule and during my sojourn with the band Travis, I was once pulled up by Fran Healy the singer for being overly oblique with the visuals. Rather charmingly he said, 'with our audience, you cant show them a dart board and then hit it with a tennis racket'. The U2 experience is so all-encompassing that it manages to include both these extremes and probably everything in between, but nonetheless my starting point is always to be very suspicious of the literal. So, imagine the level of self-torture I was putting myself through at breakfast wondering if the new visual gag for Kite might be a ... er kite.
Having had further discussion with the band, theres a move to see if we can close the show with Kite, which alters the playing field entirely. Some parts of the show need a BIG moment (i.e. The Fly, etc.) whereas some parts of the show can benefit from setting up a tiny, personal moment. (That would be tiny in the sense of being relayed on a 36m video screen, but you know what I mean). I had this picture in my mind of the song ending with Bono out on the b-stage flying a kite and what an evocative moment that might be. As Bono said later, if youre male and flying a kite, youre either a dad or a son. I thought it was worth a shot, imagining that we could guarantee the kite being able to fly if it were attached to a helium balloon. The helium balloon could be on a string hundreds up feet up in the air and so be out of the picture and maybe wed have a reliable situation.
Not having been kite shopping since 1968, I found myself entering a new world. C21st kites appear to fall into two categories which might be described as 'pre-school cute' vs. 'hi-tech ultra-macho death-machine'. Having Googled every party supply and kite shop on the Gold Coast I found one place which looked promising so headed out in a van with the runner. The store - 'BrizKites' - had a decent range of different models, including a couple of bird shaped kites and an old fashioned box kite which I rather liked, so I picked up a selection and returned to the stadium.
It absolutely poured with rain all day. There were three cloudbursts over an hour in duration where so much water came out of the sky that you couldnt believe it could rain any more, but a short time later it would happen all over again. Between downpours, the crew was intrigued and amused to see me out in the field with our stage manager experimenting with various forms of aviation. However, it did seem that it might work, so I was pleased.Taking this as a lower case triumph, I headed back to the rehearsal room only to find the entire band wearing bizarre wigs and vintage clothing with a distinctly prog-rock tinge. They were dressed semi-convincingly as Led Zeppelin and were rehearsing Stairway to Heaven, which came as something of a surprise to me, as the last time Id looked they were dressed as U2 and rehearsing Walk On.Having picked my jaw up off the floor I was informed that the impending performance was a special treat for Dennis Sheehan our road manager and former Zeppelin employee, who celebrates his 60th birthday tomorrow. Dennis was duly called in to the room and Led Zeppelin was reborn, tearing through a medley of Stairway to Heaven, Rock & Roll and (curiously) Lust for Life. It was very funny, not least because Bono in waist-length bubbly blond wig more closely resembled Dee Schneider than Robert Plant.The band dragged everyone out to a late night session at a local roller-coaster park, but Cinderella here had to stay behind to do some more programming. It was a shame to miss it, but for me to have the stadium to myself, dark and quiet, is the most productive and valuable time I can possibly have, and we still had a lot to programme. I hate it when Im so conscientious. And it poured with rain.