02 October 2010
'Spare Seat in the Helicopter'Coimbra. Show day.
Unbeknownst to me, the evening maid at the Hotel Fabulous had wound down my bedroom window shutters to Black Hole level. I woke up on several occasions this morning and, still finding myself in a pitch black room, rolled over and went back to sleep again. Consequently I think I must have had more sleep last night than in the previous week, eventually getting out of bed around 11am.
I wandered out and found myself a cafÃ© then went shopping for port wine. Today is the birthday of Nick, lighting crew chief, to whom I am deeply indebted as it is his patience and talent that contribute enormously to the efficiency of the daily load-in and tear-down of the show system. Post-brekky I found that all the shops were closed. Retail hours in Mediterranean countries have always been a bit of a mystery to me (and very rarely appearing to coincide with any moment at which I€™m conscious.) The hotel concierge recommended that I take a leisurely lunch, go for a siesta then try again when the sun had gone down, but after my insistence that this wouldn€™t work with my day€™s schedule, he did point me towards a place he thought might be doing business. It was a €˜tidy walk€™ (as they say where I come from) to the one port vendor currently open, but this did at least give me an excuse to see a little more of the town. Said vendor managed to come up with the goods in spectacular fashion and found me what I€™d been hoping for, a good bottle of port from 1966, the year Nick was born. Mission accomplished, my driver picked me up from the Hotel Fabulous and we took the hour and a half€™s drive back to Coimbra. Beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky...
It was a perfect, warm night with the band serving up yet another killer show to an incredible audience. Maybe we really have woken up on the Joshua Tree tour, where we rather took it for granted that entire stadiums-full of people would jump up and down in unison for hours on end. A man could get complacent.
I joined the after-show €œrunner€, fighting my way through the crowd during Moment of Surrender and to the designated spot outside the venue. Several vans awaited as usual and I was instructed which one to get into. On leaving, the convoy divided, with just my vehicle and two others heading in a different direction to the rest. Shortly after this, I was surprised to find myself pulling up to a helipad. I was dimly aware that the band had choppered in, but apparently Bono had decided he would rather go back to Porto on a bus with our opening band, Interpol, leaving a spare seat in the helicopter that had been given to me. I can€™t swear that boarding a Portuguese helicopter in the dead of night would have been top of my to-do list but, let€™s be honest, the prospect of a moment of such extreme celebrity lifestyle is hard to turn down. Besides which, I didn€™t have any choice, short of walking back to Porto.
The journey was longer than I expected €“ half an hour, maybe €“ taken at low altitude, mostly up the night-lit coastline of Portugal. My thoughts wandered from how much more populated the area was than I€™d have imagined to wondering how a boy from Sheffield ends up in a rockstar€™s helicopter buzzing the nocturnal Portuguese coastline, to musing on how I was probably closer to potential sudden death than I had been for quite some time. Nobody in the helicopter spoke much, probably all going through a similar series of thoughts.
We landed at Porto airport, transferred to yet more vans then drove into the old town, arriving at the Hotel Fabulous only shortly after our colleagues€™ vans that had left us during the €œrunner€ and driven the whole way from the venue. The mystery of the chin-high barricade was answered too. They weren€™t expecting an angry mob, this is how they secure parking places in the tiny streets of the old town.
I was a little weary after all of the above but summoned the energy to venture to €˜hospitality€™, our post-show ritual where we gather together to drink and eat fried food in the middle of the night.