Vertigo Leg 1: 2005, US


'Something Horrifying Brewing...'

26 September 2010
'Something Horrifying Brewing...'
San Sebastian.  Show day.

This was supposed to be a regular morning of just getting up, packing and heading to the airport but I got a call from Dec around 10am to say that if I could make it over to the big house right away, then he€™d have an hour or so to work.  We are still working on a segue-intro for City of Blinding Lights, as we never quite got it finished all the way before he got dragged back into the recording studio.  I threw my belongings together and jumped in a cab.  I told the driver the name of our destination village and he set off.  It€™s about a forty minute drive and as we drew close the driver asked for a more specific address.  I assured him that I€™d give him directions and as we approached the entrance I said, €œici, a droit, la€¦€ and the car pulled over.  As I went to pay him, the driver turned around with his eyes wide and €œmais c€™est la residence de Bono!€  I tried to look Frenchly nonchalant, paid up and left.

As promised, Dec and I had an hour to work before the posse departed for the airport and I hitched a ride.  Air 360 flew from Nice to Biarritz, followed by a 30 minute drive from there over the Spanish border to San Sebastian.  Apparently it poured with rain here yesterday, and you could still feel the damp in the atmosphere.   The crew have now had a run of load-outs and load-ins (and indeed shows) under torrential conditions and even though the tour morale is exceptionally high, I could feel that there was an amount of long-suffering tiredness in the air.  Hopefully things will improve as we head south.

As the evening wore on it became abundantly clear that there was something more than tiredness in the air.  There was something horrifying brewing, an increasing stench of what appeared to be that old favourite combo of rotting cabbage and raw sewage.  The overwhelming assault peaked right at show time and up in the mix position a wind of death was blowing directly into our faces.  I can€™t imagine where it was coming from but could only guess that there was a sewage plant next door to the stadium.  Or possibly inside the stadium.  It was absolutely horrifying, to the point where I found a spare pair of earplugs and shoved them up my nose.  I was only hoping it wasn€™t so bad on stage, though mercifully it didn€™t appear to slow the audience down at all.

Aside from the smell, there were a few other surprising moments during the show.  In most European countries we have run translation subtitles when Bono talks to the audience.  This is carried out by a pair of translators, one who listens and verbally translates to his mate who then types as fast as possible.  This has been carried out with varying degrees of success throughout the tour, but at the very least it€™s a gesture.  Tonight€™s translators (so I was led to believe) were English and I appreciate it is a very high-pressure gig undertaken amid highly unusual circumstances, but at one point appeared to have stumbled into some kind of language confusion vortex.  At the beginning of MLK this poor chap actually started typing subtitles in English, essentially just a fragmented version of what Bono was saying, in English.  I nearly threw the front of house stuffed cat at him, but happily he realised that he had the wrong chip in.

I€™d say the most surprising feature of the night was the unexpected eruption of a fist-fight between some of the Belgians at front of house.  They are all good friends and (it seems) mostly also related through blood or marriage, but something was up tonight. There are about ten of us jammed into the top deck of the mix position, so it€™s all fairly close-quarters and something was going down tonight.  About four or five songs into the show a huge ruckus erupted which involved much irate waving of headsets, followed by full on body contact, shirt pulling and punches being thrown.  I never found out what it was really all about, as the discourse was conducted entirely in Flemish, but I gather it was something to do frustration over the non-performance of the intercom system.  All I can say is that it was absolutely hilarious to one minute be at the calm nerve centre of a stadium rock show and the next be plunged into a bar brawl.  We survived the night though, and my personal highlight was that we ran the Berlin footage during One.  I must say that I was delighted with it.  In context of the song, it€™s oddly moving to see these same four guys so long ago, out in creative no-man€™s land, trying to €˜dream it up all over again€™.  €œOne life, with each other€.

I have abandoned the band entourage for a while so am doing the next couple of journeys on one of the crew buses.  San Sebastian to Seville is a long old way €“ a 14 hour drive p€™raps €“ so I appreciate that deciding to drive rather than fly might seem a tad lunatic.  The buses are great though, sleeper coaches complete with kitchen, bathroom, a couple of lounges and a large, separate central section that houses the bunks.   I€™m travelling with the backline guys, some of whom I€™ve known for eternity, so it€™s great to have some time to hang out and catch up.
We set off once backline had finished their load-out, showered up and got to the bus, around 2am.   A few drinks, snacks and war stories before I eventually turned in around 3.  I€™d been warned that the €˜guest bunk€™ was directly above the main axle so might be a little noisy, but it wasn€™t too bad and I knew that at a push I could always take the earplugs out of my nose.  In truth, I€™ve always found sleeping on a tour bus to be very comforting.  It couldn€™t be more womb-like, dark and cosy, with a heartbeat of engine sounds.  I was settling in, perhaps had drifted off, when a loud crunch came from right below me, followed by an ominous silence and a smell of diesel, as gradually I felt the vehicle come to a standstill.  It didn€™t sound good but I also knew that whatever had happened, I wouldn€™t be able to help and that someone would take care of it.  Either way, it didn€™t keep me awake.

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07 October, 2010
Dear Willie, your blog is the best part of this webpage! Thank you for so much background, sights and smart words!
07 October, 2010
What happens after show time ?
Willie, thank you for this, it makes it all come alive for real. I was at Stade De france & then Seville (I am from the UK) and the hotly debated topic by us in the red zones at both shows, is where do the band and crew go after the show when they are in Europe, do they go out on the local town?. I think I guessed correctly that Air360 takes them home.
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