POPMART Leg 1: 1997, North America


Show Day, Mexico City

16 February 2006
Show Day, Mexico City
Today afforded the slightly more leisurely start which accompanies second show days. Once again we crawled to the venue in our white van in heavy traffic, through Mexico Citys hazy, sunny, fabulously polluted thin air. I've not done too badly with the altitude, but each time I hike up the stadium steps from the field to backstage I certainly feel like a little sit down afterwards.

The large and highly enthusiastic Mark Pellington is amongst us, directing the 3D cameras with Catherine Owens. Hes been associated with U2 for many years and was in many ways the godfather of ZooTV, having been first out of the gate in creating the hyperactive television style. We are still feeling our way as far as how 3D film might work in this context and there has been much experimentation, particularly with lighting, but its looking remarkable so far.

Last nights set list was generally deemed a triumph so we tweaked it a little further, bravely including an unrehearsed Stuck in a Moment and Fast Cars. The latter received its finest rendition to date (according to me) which rounded out a great show. I couldnt believe how many cell phones there were in the building, and with most of the audience going for the double-fister - cell phone held high in one hand, cigarette lighter in the other - being in the centre of this high-sided stadium was more immersively beautiful than is possible to convey in a few lines. I love the way the audience flick their lighters in this part of the world. They hold them up, then, on the beat, they flick them to produce a momentary flame or spark. Seen from afar, this produces a wave of flashes, like expanding rings of ripples on a pond. Everyone flicks in time to the beat of the song as they hear it, so what youre seeing is the sound wave travelling through the stadium - lighting at the speed of sound.

There were 90,000 people in the stadium so we did a runner out of there: with the last chorus of 40 still ringing in the air, the band party sped out of the back gates under police escort. This is standard practice and some runners go better than others, providing additional entertainment for the seasoned professional. Tonights runner was deemed the worst in history, as we ended up square-wheeled in solid traffic and crowds of cheering punters. Pretty slick.

We did, however, make it back to the hotel in one piece and predictably ended up in the bar. There I found Jeff Cronenweth, a Hollywood director of photography who we last ran into when Paul McGuinness and I visited the set of K-19 on the Elevation tour. Jeff was a camera operator on Rattle and Hum many moons ago, as his father Jordan Cronenweth (also a DP) lit the Sun Devils Stadium shoot. Jordan was responsible for such seminal works as Bladerunner and Stop Making Sense and I am still plagiarising his technique to this day.

At this point it all got a bit unexpectedly A list as U2 arrived with Selma Hayek and Penelope Cruz. Paul McGuinness found me and said, Ah, Willie, do you know Damian Hirst? before introducing me to the British spin-painter, cow-slicer and uber-artist extraordinaire. Hed been at the show and was very complimentary, commenting on the walking figure in Sometimes by fellow Brit-artist Julian Opie, with whom he was at art college. As the bar filled up Clem Burke, the worlds-best-rock-drummer-whos-not-in-U2 wandered through my field of vision. Honestly, you go out for a quiet drink and suddenly youre overrun with international media celebrities.

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