The great day arrives and we find ourselves at the romantically named 'National Car Rental Center' in Fort Lauderdale, about an hour outside Miami. Its a strange business this corporate take over of sports facilities. Many of the gigs on the U.S. part of this tour sound unrecognisible, but are in fact the same arenas we've been playing for years. The glorious 'Meadowlands' in New Jersey for example, site of many great U2 gigs in years gone by, is now the Continental Airlines Arena which, lets face it, would hardly have a romantic ring about it even if you'd never suffered through a Continental flight. Anyhow, I digress.
Needless to say it was a bit of a day. The National Car Rental Arena is considerably larger than the old Miami Arena where we have been rehearsing and building the production for the past three weeks. Consequently our stage, which practically filled the entire floor of Miami arena, seemed to be cowering up one end of the building in its component pieces. There was some other event in this building last night, so the crew were not able to start loading in until 5am today. The first time that a production of this size is moved between venues is always a bit of an ordeal, so to have to rebuild everything on the same day as the first show was a major challenge. To cut a long story short, all rose to the occasion and everything was, unbelievably, ready for the band to come in and soundcheck at 4pm. In they came and made themselves at home in the new surroundings. The sense of calm which pervaded rehearsals still seemed to be in place. Not that there was the slightest note of complacency - adrenaline was well up and anticipation high, but really no sense of panic in the air. Clearly the combination of being indoors (i.e. smaller scale, less gear to break down, no weather angst, etc.) and preparedness (i.e. the most thorough band rehearsals since the 80's) was paying off.
We had all been very disappointed to hear that Polly Harvey was ill and unable to join us for the first part of the tour. She'll be back with us by Houston, apparently, but in her stead I was amused to discover that The Corrs would be playing at these Fort Lauderdale gigs. I designed a show for them this January, so became mates with their whole organisation. They're a great bunch so it was lovely to have them come share our opening night.
And what would an opening night be without a heavy celebrity presence? Much easier to deal with, I imagine, but tonight was not going to be short on guests.. Howie B. made his return, on a social basis only, plus Elvis C., Christy T., Lenny K. ...all gathered on the platform in front of the 'mix position' (the little island of technology in the middle of the hall where Joe mixes sound and Bruce & I run the visuals). I love running a show when the mix position is heaving - much better for the vibe. And what a vibe... by now you'll have read the reviews so will know that the gig was, in short, a triumph. I read that Bono fell off the stage, but I have to say I didn't notice at the time. Then again, I don't really remember that much about the gig at all, as my mind seems to have done pretty much a clean erase of that two hour period. No doubt it'll all come back to me during the next gig on Monday. That will probably be a harder affair, as second shows always are, but there is a relief and a certainty that we are on to a winner.
Overall I'm very pleased. You never really know what you've got until you see a whole show play out in front of an audience, and I like what we have here. Its a curious show, and it may take a while for me to understand quite what it is that we are making.
I coined the phrase 'Forward to Basics' in a Rolling Stone interview, which was a bit of a throw away line at the time, but it could be the most apt description. There are certainly echoes of U2 shows gone by (just being in arenas with U2 is a fantastic trip down memory lane) but the whole event is certainly something new and I do feel the timing is exactly right for a show of this nature in the greater scheme of concert touring. Its so completely against the grain of what else is out there - very simple and extremely emotional with aparently no gimmicks. I was quite surprised how high the level of emotion runs and the extent to which the visuals play into that. I did question myself a little on this, but really I'm not doing anything overtly manipulative - all the emotion and communication is already there, I'm just lighting the candles in church. Anyway enough of this waffle. One down. We came, we saw, we left.