Madison Square Garden is about as legendary a venue as a band could ever hope to play. In reality its not too bad a place, albeit quite petite by new arena standards, and certainly one of the smelliest gigs in America. I went down there early in the day, as I still suffer from the delusion that my presence helps important show days go more smoothly. Everything appeared to be going well, with no major dramas, just slower due to it being a strict Union labour building. The first time U2 played here was 16 years ago!
The band did a lengthy sound check and spirits were high. Doors opened and the place started to fill up before P.J.Harvey took the stage. We will really miss Polly Harvey when we head to Europe, as these are the last shows she will be doing with U2, at least for a while. Time and time again I have watched her set and have never got tired of it. She has her influences of course, Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, etc. but there's really no one like her at this point in the evolution of rock. The U2 audience has taken her to its bosom as well, with some very amusing 'traditions' developing amongst the regulars (courtesy, I imagine, of the Internet). Most notably, the closing chorus of Polly's song "Down by the Water", which has a refrain of "Little Fish, Big Fish, Swimming in the Water", repeated over and over. Nightly, this spawns a shoal of little paper fish being held aloft, swimming about in a sea of hands. There seem to be more every day, and they're getting noticeably bigger too, so its probably just as well Polly's time with us is drawing to a close, before this turns into the Rocky Horror Show.
This is U2's fourth visit to Madison Square Garden, having played here on every tour since Unforgettable Fire, aside from PopMart which was all outdoors. At the first of those shows, way back in 1985, I was lurking in the hospitality area backstage when I first met a young woman called Catherine Owens, an Irish arist living in New York, who had known the band since high school. We became firm friends and eventually creative collaborators, including her (ever increasing) work on the screen visuals for the last three U2 tours. She was here tonight with half the New York art world, so we made a point of taking a moment to celebrate our little personal 'aniversary'.
The show went really well and what fun it was to witness U2 perform the song 'New York' in its home setting - bit of a home run all round. After the show, our tour projectionist, Brian, was hosting a party on the roof of his apartment building. He lives in mid-town Manhattan on the west side and the roof has a spectacular view of the city skyline, Empire State Building and all. It was a perfect night, warm and still, so it was hard not to feel like we'd stumbled on to a film set. At about 3am the party moved down to a club on Canal St., where the Fun Lovin' Criminals were spinning, before moving back to Brian's rooftop to watch the sun come up. It was long past breakfast time before he shut the door on the last visitor.