12 February 2011
'Pure Magic'Johannesburg. Rehearsal day.
Managed to sleep OK but awoke still in the grip of this cold / hay fever which is starting to drive me a little frantic. Today I feel it's more likely to be an allergy, as I don't really have any other symptoms than the exploding head, but I don't have much more to go on. I'm on drugs for everything, just in case.
Back to the stadium in the afternoon, which was far less of an ordeal without the Friday rush-hour traffic. All was a hive of activity, with all departments preparing for the various new show elements to be rehearsed. It looks like there are five new elements that we're trying to get into the show, including a new show opening, so it's not an unambitious goal to be ready by doors open tomorrow.
We listened again to the Rainbow People mix of Get on Your Boots and decided to try it as an intro to the show. Many moons ago we had had a thought that we might use the Elbow song One Day Like This as the final pre-show track, so we dug that out too. The new intro ran Elbow - Rainbow People - Get on Your Boots - I Will Follow - Beautiful Day - Magnificent... etc. We got everyone in place to figure out the timings, cues, and so on. Bono & I paced out the walk into the stadium and up onto the stage (at which point, hilariously, Bono was stopped by a local security guy and asked for a pass), then we ran the whole thing a couple of times to get the feel of it. Rainbow People sounded great in the vast, empty stadium. I'm not sure that in absolute terms it's a better opening than Stingray, but certainly for South Africa the opening voices of the Soweto Gospel Choir gives it a resonance that is irresistible.
The recording with the Soweto Gospel Choir was made for the World Cup and Dec created this mix by selecting elements of their vocal and mashing it with a radical reworking of Boots. On seeing the rehearsal, it occurred to him that he had no idea of the translated meaning of the main chant that makes up the body of the song (which I think is in either Xhosa or Zulu). Being a cautious soul and wanting to circumvent the possibility of an international incident, he found a local who could help and was delighted to learn that they're chanting "we're going to play here".
After this we took a dinner break then ran through the parts of the set that we didn't get to yesterday. This took til about 10.30pm, after which we were all sitting around in the dressing room, discussing whether Rainbow People into Beautiful Day might make a better opening, when Hugh Masekela arrived, having just played a gig of his own elsewhere. The band had invited him to join them on stage for a number during the show and this was the only opportunity to rehearse. I know it's a clich, but he really did light up the room when he arrived. Edge had met him once before in New Orleans, but it was a first meeting for all others present. After the pleasantries, they got straight into talking about music - South African music, Irish music, their own journeys - and you could see them bonding instantly. When it came time to focus on the task in hand they discussed a few possibilities of which song might be best suited for Hugh to play on, and he had no doubts - Still Haven't Found.
You can always tell when there's a great moment in the air because the myriad road crew, occupied in their many and various tasks (or just goofing off waiting for us lot to come back to the stage), stop what they're doing and begin to tune in to what's happening on the stage. U2 played Still Haven't Found as far as the breakdown, then up came Hugh Masekela with a flugelhorn (if I'm not mistaken) and within a few notes had the undivided attention of everybody in the building. He picked out a solo that was spare, fluid and overwhelmingly melodic that just transported the place. U2 practically stopped playing in order to better listen, but they got through to the end where Hugh added an equally beautiful coda. Pure, pure magic.