07 November 2006
Show day, Brisbane.
Much to my surprise I got a call from Andi Watson, Radioheads lighting designer and a good friend of mine, saying he was in Brisbane, so we met up for breakfast. His girlfriend, Felicity, lives here and he's taking a brief holiday. We had an hour or two to catch up before leaving the hotel, inadvertently not paying the cafe bill on departure (Ive been a little distracted recently). En route to the venue I checked into the band hotel. Ive been staying in town in order to be close to the venue, whilst theyve been staying up on the Gold Coast in the Versace Palace - a hotel that looks exactly as over the top as youd expect from a Versace Palace. Its Melbourne Cup day, which is a horse race that brings the country to a complete standstill. The entire band posse had gathered in Bonos room to watch the race and participate in a group betting pool which I never fully understood.
When the race was done I spent a couple of hours working with Bono on last details of the show. Weve got a good looking set list, and the band is in pretty good shape, so it seemed like we would do OK. We worked till about 4pm then I hitched a ride to the venue in the bands helicopter, as you do. Once at the gig there seemed to be endless running around until show time, but thats only to be expected on a first night.
The gig itself went well enough, with a couple of funny moments. When the lights came up at the top of the first number, City of Blinding Lights, I could see in the camera close up that The Edge had a large green praying mantis sitting on top of his head. He really did - Im not making this up. There was a bright green mantis happily cleaning its mandibles perched on Edges black beanie. It wasnt overly noticeable on the stage screens (and besides theres a hell of a lot going on at that point in the show) but at mission control on the TV monitor for Edges camera we could clearly see the little chap perched there, in the best seat in the house. It sat there for a minute or so, then started to move about, exploring his new black woolly domain. It crawled forward and had a look down at Edges guitar technique, then turned around and wandered back over the crown of Edges head until we realised that a few more insect steps and the thing might fall down the back of Edges neck, which would have been highly entertaining but possibly disastrous for the show. Mercifully it held on until the blackout before Vertigo, when The Edges guitar tech discreetly slipped on stage and flicked it into oblivion.
We did a runner back to the Versace Mansion after the show, all relieved to have got the ball rolling again. There was a nice hospitality set up at the hotel, right on a deck overlooking the harbour. It was a beautiful night, full moon, the whole bit. By about 4am there were just a few of us left up; Bono, me and half a dozen of the female tour staff. It was decided that we should go for a night stroll, so we headed to the marina. Sadly, there was a large security gate between us and the boats, secured with an electronic lock. As a joke we started trying our hotel room keys in the lock and to our surprise and delight one of them opened the gate. Striding along the jetties between the enormous private yachts, Bono was asserting 'you know, youd be surprised how many people leave the keys in the boats', so I knew trouble was brewing. It turned out that on the Gold Coast keys are not necessarily left so liberally strewn around boat yards, so it looked for a while like we were going nowhere, but by this time the idea of being out on the inky black water was so delicious that there was no going back. In the end the only vessel we could find to liberate was a small rubber dinghy, no bigger than a bathtub. Telling ourselves that its not the size that counts, we gleefully jumped in and squeaked by the gigantic yachts either side. There were just three of us in the little boat, Bono, Catriona and me, slipping through the water and out into the vast blackness of the harbour. It was almost perfectly still, the moon behind streaky clouds, and not a sound to be heard other than the swish of the oars through the rippling water and the distant cries of 'Are ye feckin mad or WHAT?' coming from our friends on the rapidly receding quayside. In the midst of this idyll I was overcome by a sense of great nostalgia. I havent been involved in any major boat-stealing since the headed days of Zoo TV. (And dont worry, we put it back after the sun came up.)