25 August 2001
Show Day: Slane Castle, Show One
With the uncertainties of traffic and all, I headed back to Slane at about noon. It wasn't too bad a journey, most of the delay being in the last mile or so, where we were having to negotiate crowds of already well-oiled revelers, littered about the roadside.
Coldplay were on stage when I arrived and made my first foray to the mix position. Beating your way through the crowd to get to the centre field control tower is an operation requiring much skill and cunning, especially if you've a bag to carry, but I have become quite adept at it over the years. All the same, even at this point of the day, it was pretty packed out on the field, so I waited for a ballad before making my move (if you go for it during a real rocker, you're far more likely to get jumped on).
All seemed well at the control tower, everything had survived the night's rain & so I got on with my chores for the rest of the afternoon. I had a couple of new video pieces to show the band, plus final discussions about the set list, what time it would get dark and other strategies.
I'd like to be able to give a blow by blow account of the performances of all the other bands who played today, but sadly I didn't see a single moment of any of them. I had really hoped to be able to see at least some of the Red Hot Chili Peppers set, but in the end I was too wrapped up in the million other things that fill my time on days like this. It certainly sounded like the other bands were having a good time, though, so I took some small comfortin that.
Once the Chilis were done, the U2 crew went to their battle stations and the changeover began. I allowed plenty of time to get back out to the mix, which was just as well. Edging my way through the throng, ('scuse me, 'scuse me, sorry, thanks, 'scuse me') it was rather sweet that quite a few folks in the crowd would help me get by because they knew who I was - trying to make some room and offering sympathetic looks or cheerful sarcasm as they could see how much further I had to go.
U2's opening night at Slane has already been reviewed within an inch of its life, so there's little point in retelling it here, though for me personally it was a strange night. The mix position we were using was the old fashioned type, being a high tower with several levels - sound mixing desks on the first level, lighting & video control above and projection at the very top. On U2's own tours we have pioneered the use of single-decker mix positions - sometimes splitting them and putting sound on one side of the stadium and lighting control on the other. This keeps us all nearer the ground and is better for sight lines, etc. Consequently, it's been a lot of years since I did a gig way up in a tower, with the back and sides covered in waterproofing plastic (albeit see through). The result was that I felt terribly disconnected from the event - like I was stuck in the attic when there was this raging party going on in the basement. I could see and hear everything - it all looked and sounded fine - but it was tough to connect with the vibe of the night.
There were a couple of exceptions. 'Elevation' was incredible - this massive crowd stretching way way back up the hill all bouncing in unison, and 'Streets' of course was just sublime. Thousands and thousands and thousands of voices∑ As the show drew to a close, 'One' formed the emotional peak. Bono dedicated it to his father and we showed a short video obituary which was enormously moving, even to this hardened cynic pushing the 'go' button.
My final odyssey was to get backstage during 'Walk On' to join the 'runner', i.e. the police convoy to get back to Dublin before the crowd emptied out. This meant (don't laugh) getting through the audience to right behind the stage during that last song. Even to a man of my adept crowd-surfing nature this was going to be something of a challenge, but the crushing blow came as, 10 metres out from the mix position, I felt that one of my bootlaces had come undone and I was going to be tripping myself up all the way. Nightmare.
Triumphantly though, I emerged in the nick of time and jumped into one of the vehicles before we sped off as fireworks burst in the night air. An hour or so later we all reconvened at the Clarence. The band aren't staying here, but they all came back to join those of us that are for some late night celebrations. Everyone seemed pleased and relieved, and the festivities continued longer than I can remember.
For some reason all this reminded me of the first time U2 played Croke Park in Dublin in 1985. Back then I was about the only non-Dublin resident in the organization, so I would usually just stay at someone's house rather than at a hotel and on that occasion I was staying with The Edge. Once the aftershow hospitality had been drained dry, several bars had been visited and the party had broken up, Edge & I ended up sitting at his kitchen table. We sat there just talking nonsense and drinking tea until daylight dawned when, as a house guest, it seemed the polite thing to do to call it a night. 'What are you really supposed to do though?' mused Edge, 'at a moment like this, when you've just been onstage, playing an ecstatic gig to 80,000 people in your own home town; it seems so absurd just to get the bus home and go to bed.'