'Rock Stars and Astronauts...'
Travel day. Helsinki to Moscow.
There were a commendable number of casualties this morning as we gathered to board our noon vans to the airport. The plane was packed today, as a lot of friends and family are coming for the Russian experience. Many of our touring party haven't been before, so there was an air of anticipation and excitement about the place. I've been to Russia a couple of times, the first being with Bryan Adams and included playing a show in the Kremlin, which was pretty wild. More recently I came to help install the cultural Chernobyl that is the musical We Will Rock You, which I have to say was one of the most awful work experiences of my life. This time I'm going in open-minded; I gather that much has changed, and am banking on the cosy cocoon of a Big Rock Tour keeping us safe.
It's a long drive into the city from Moscow airport - an hour or more through the permanently horrific traffic. We did eventually make it to the Hotel Fabulous, situated right on Red Square, which is about as good as it gets. I have a view of the Kremlin and St. Basil's from my room.
There's an upstairs lounge where we gathered to settle in and go through the formalities of having the hotel photocopy our passports, tattoo our foreheads, etc. A little later our guest of honour arrived - Frank de Winne, former commander of the International Space Station and guest vocalist every night in the U2 360 show on 'In a Little While'. He arrived with his wife Lena, who is from Moscow, and it was a very strange experience to meet him in person, having seen him every night on the video screen for so long. They are a fascinating couple and great fun too. We spent a couple of hours chatting and catching up. Bono arrived and went through the same 'how odd to see you in person' curve, but it was great to see the two of them together. Here we are in Moscow, hanging out with rock stars and astronauts...