10 September 2009
'Still a Gang...' Friday 11th September 2009. Chicago. Production day.
Ah, jet lag. There's no getting around it and I swear it gets worse as you get older. You can be clever, you can time your plane naps, take melatonin, Ambien or heroin, but it's still going to mess you up. Even if you find a solution to get you through the first night, nanny jet-lag will still come and get you on the second.
I did pretty well, waking at 4am and 6.30am but making myself stay in bed til 8. Publicity Frances had sexted me, so we met in the lobby at 8.30 to go for breakfast. We were actually up too early for many of the local restaurants to be open (which is a highly unusual experience for me, I have to tell you), so we took a lengthy walk through Chicago's morning commute. The weather was glorious, showing this city's magnificent architecture at it's very best. The Winters here are brutal, but Chicago's Summers by the lake are hard to beat. We ended up having the most enormous breakfast before heading back to the Hotel Fabulous where I sorted through a few chores before heading into the stadium.
Soldier Field has been rebuilt since the last time I was inside it and very fine it is too. As if by magic, the 360 stage found itself standing proudly on the playing field, having made its way here from Cardiff with no apparent effort involved. I spoke to several of my team (they being the ones who had put in the effort) and reports were all very positive. Apparently the universal production (ii.e. not the steel structure, but everything else, including the pylon, stage, video screen, P.A., lights, etc.) loaded in at 10am yesterday and was all done by 8pm, which barely seems possible.
Around dinner-time I heard that the band had arrived, so headed for the dressing room to find them. I hadn't been to the dressing room yet in this venue, so locating it for the first time took a little while and I wasn't sure they'd still be there. However, when I finally found the place and stuck my head round the door, there was U2, all four of them, quite alone, in conversation, standing by the coffee machine. I'm not sure quite why, but right at that moment it struck me as rather charming. These four guys, by themselves, in yet another random location somewhere else on the planet - still a gang after all these years. In black and white it would have looked like an Anton Corbijn photograph.
We exchanged our 'hello-how-was-your-break' lines and then spent a little while working on a couple of set list variations. By the end of the European leg we had worked up a very strong 'plan A', and much as you shouldn't meddle too much with what's working, it's important to keep the show alive. This was also the night to see if we could get Your Blue Room off the ground, so they went out to sound check and then began rehearsing the new song. They've never played Your Blue Room live (or not-live for that matter) and technically it isn't really a U2 song, being from the 'Passengers' collaboration, but there was a sense that it might add something to the show which we haven't had before. It's a deceptively complex piece, being accompanied by the video and sound samples from the international space station which we recorded when we were in London. I think we made some pretty good progress and we'll work on it some more tomorrow.
Despite being absolutely out of my mind with jet-lag, I forced myself to stay up to take advantage of having an empty stadium in darkness. At very least my team and I had to programme the lighting states for Your Blue Room, and whilst we were at it we spent some time tweaking and finessing some other parts of the show which there had never been time to address in Europe. I did my best, but by 2am (8am by my body clock) the floor had turned to sponge and I was all but hallucinating, so went to find myself a runner van to chauffer my corpse back to the Hotel Fabulous.