Zagreb. Show 1.
Back into work mode but with a particularly interesting destination. U2 have never played in this city before but there is nonetheless a special resonance to their being here as it is the first time we have returned to the region since our unforgettable time in Sarajevo on the PopMart tour. An enormous amount has changed since then as the region has stabilised and been in an ongoing process of restructuring, rebuilding and reinventing itself.
As we travelled in from the airport, the quantity of recent construction was evident and areas of the city had clearly been renewed and reborn. We watched from our vehicle windows whilst the less geographically-challenged amongst us were giving a crash course in recent history to the others to provide some context to our time here. I amused myself by coining the term 'Nouveau-Slavia' as a potential name for the larger region. However, I couldn't decided whether the locals would find it funny or deeply insulting, so I opted to keep it to myself (needless to say, apologies in advance if it proves to be the latter).
Zagreb doesn't have the newest stadium in the world but it benefited from being packed to the rafters with a very enthusiastic crowd, so a good time was had by all. After the show, U2 had arranged to do a press interview with NBC news from the USA. This wouldn't normally affect our lives too greatly, but this interview had been arranged to take place in the stadium, with the 360 stage as a backdrop, so it required a small team of crew to stay behind to light the structure and make it look suitably impressive. Being the moral anchor of the visual department I thought it only right that I should stay too and in the end we managed to make it not too much of a chore.
It took a good hour or so to clear the stadium, then out came an army of cleaners with those little air-blower machines to clear away the ankle-deep layer of plastic cups, lost shoes, body parts, etc. from the pitch. I had hoped that we might also do a bit of stealth programming, to tidy up a couple of song looks which need work, but with the stadium lights on and all the noise it eventually proved to be more trouble than it was worth. (Maybe in London then).
The band and TV crew did their thing and everyone seemed pleased. By 2am we were done and I headed to the hotel to see who might be still awake. It’s just so hard to go straight to bed...
Monday 10th August 2009. Zagreb. Show 2.
Second show days are usually fairly mellow and this one was no exception. I enjoyed having a chance to talk to some of the crew people whom I usually never get to spend more than 30 seconds with at any one time. Everyone really does seem to be quite surprised at how quickly the tour has settled down and, dare I say it, also seem to be enjoying the ride. Clearly it is a monumental task and requires a huge amount of work hours, but there is no sense of mutiny in the air - quite the reverse. As production manager Jake said, 'moving the 360 show is just like performing in the round - it's just a question of getting your head around it'.
This is a small stadium with limited facilities so many of our offices and catering were placed in large tents out the back. The weather was gorgeous and it was a beautifully sunny afternoon. As a result, the catering tent was hotter than hell, so a whole row of tables and chairs had been arranged on the grass outside. Once I'd done my daily chores, had the set list published and got everyone pointed in the right direction, I had my dinner and sat outside catering for quite a while, chatting to these interesting people from all over the world who happen to be on tour together. The sky was utterly cloudless, the sun was sinking behind a row of tall trees, Snow Patrol were singing to me from the other side of the stadium wall and I had one of those little moments of quiet joy... quietly marvelling at the remarkable, overwhelming, eccentric life we lead out on the road. I have no idea how I got here, but moments like this make me appreciate that I’m rather glad I did.