'Tell My Wife...'

03 June 2011
'Tell My Wife...'
Vancouver - Seattle.  Road trip.

Our itinerary was good enough to present me with a second opportunity for a road trip.  Today’s travelling party was diminished to just two of us, and the vehicle a good deal smaller than the massive SUV that we had for the Vegas to Salt Lake trip but even so, it was wonderful to meander from the plan again, just for a little while.

Vancouver to Seattle isn’t far – maybe two and a half hours in a straight shot – but just off the freeway there is wonderful coastal scenery to be found and we were hoping that this would also prove home to some fine lunch establishments en route. We were successful on both counts, which was enormously pleasing. It was also another gorgeous day, which made for a spectacularly beautiful drive.

There’s a border crossing on the way, as you enter the USA. The arrangement is not dissimilar to a freeway toll-booth set-up but with a hell of a lot more cameras pointed at you throughout. The queue wasn’t bad and we got to the border where a gentleman in uniform asked us our business. Having told him that we were with the U2 tour he replied, “so… has Bono been doing any more hitchhiking?”.

On arrival in Seattle we checked in to the Hotel Fabulous and headed on the stadium, which is conveniently located in the heart of downtown. There are actually two stadiums side-by-side, which is something of a logistical achievement in the centre of a dense urban area. There was an event on at the other stadium, with a great deal of pedestrian traffic to negotiate as we tried to find the backstage gate to our stadium. En route, we were verbally assaulted by a Seattle cop who was possibly the rudest American I’ve ever encountered. Feeling a little bruised it was comforting, just moments later, to meet a Seattle sheriff who could not have been more polite and helpful. Maybe the sheriffs get paid more?  They seem a much happier bunch, anyway.

We had two goals for our evening at the stadium.  One was (please god) to finally finish off Zooropa.  The song and its performance has gone remarkably well, given what a totally left of field experiment it was to include it in the 360 set in south America, but I still haven’t been entirely happy with my part of it.  Regular readers will know that I’ve had a few goes at it (this is probably the fourth evening spent programming that song) but because it involves half the crew to do it, getting to a situation where all is ready and I can actually start working, takes a long time. Usually it’s 2am by the time I get the quiet, empty stadium to myself, in the dark with the video and lighting systems running and the video screen at full stretch, by which time a man might be starting to feel more inclined to call it a day and go to the pub.

Tonight, however, I really do feel like we’ve cracked it (it was just the ending I was struggling with, really) so I’ll call it finished. Oh, and yes, we did put the Tellytubbies theme tune in as a segue into City of Blinding Lights. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

The other thing we programmed tonight was an entirely new video sequence that has been many months in the making. We’ve wanted a new ‘space’ piece for a while and NASA has been open to us doing another video shoot on board the International Space Station. To cut a very lengthy and circuitous story short, Commander Mark Kelly became the new 360 spaceman when he flew the space shuttle Endeavour on it’s final flight, to the International Space Station. With him he took a series of three-dimensional cut-out words then, one evening after work, he spent a while filming himself playing with the words and positioning them in space, so they bobbed around the cupola of the ISS.  The words read, “7-BILLION”, “ONE”, “ONE NATION” IMAGI-NATION” and finally he builds the phrase “IT’S… A… BEAU…TIFUL… DAY”.  He then looks into the camera and quotes the David Bowie line from our intro song Space Oddity, “tell my wife I love her very much… she knows.”

Simple as this sounds (actually, I’m aware that this doesn’t sound remotely simple) you can imagine what a feat of logistics this was to organise. Just the words had to be practically carved out of fireproof moon rock and approved by US command scientists.  Then of course the shuttle launch was delayed so we missed the opening of the North American leg, but no matter.  I was dealing with all of this during our last ‘break’, when we were also organising the stealth video shoot with Aung San Suu Kyi. I was laughing with my mates saying that in the break I had two video shoots to get together, one in space and one in Burma, and I wasn’t at all sure which would prove to be the more difficult.

There’s a great piece of backstory for the space piece. Mark Kelly is married to Gabby Giffords, the politician who survived being shot by a lunatic when out campaigning at the beginning of this year.  The astronauts are allowed a certain number of personal privileges to help keep them sane and, on a previous space mission prior to her injury, Ms. Giffords used to send the spacecraft its wake-up call of a morning. That wake-up call was… Beautiful Day.  

We got the piece programmed and looking good on screen, so we’ll soundcheck it tomorrow when the noise boys are in. Smasher and I bailed from the stadium around midnight and headed back to the hotel.  It was still early enough for us to be in the mood for beer so we walked to Cutters, a bar I first went to 20 years ago, which is still there at the other end of Pike Place market. Walking down the cobbled streets through the empty market, I was struck again by just how picturesque it all is and also how extremely successful this market area has become, having survived demolition for long enough to thrive in the foodie boom. For generations, there must have been markets like this in cities all across the Western world, the vast majority of which were probably demolished during my lifetime to make way for hideous new concrete developments, or god knows what else (Les Halles in Paris is a textbook example).  I’m realistic enough to realise that globalisation is an unstoppable force, but if everywhere has to look the same in the 21st century, why can’t everywhere look like this?

Related Topics


11 June, 2011
Laughing at fireproof moonrock
and a team of scientists to boot. Cutting the white tape of the letter boards is not just about materials. Space and time are key. The lyrics of the song could not have been more appropriate for the heartfelt delivery in the tone of his voice.
10 June, 2011
It was a Beautiful Day!
Willie, The work you put in was appreciated, I simply loved the way you worked the words Mr. Kelly had floating in space into the visuals to make them pop...it was breathtaking and I have to say I welled up with tears, it was a very lovely moment. I will never forget the Seattle show we had the greatest time there! We came on the tour from Winnipeg, to Edgemonton, then down to Seattle and enjoyed each show immensely. Stay was my favourite...These shows mark the first time I have ever seen anything off Zooropa live. And I love the way Bono dances during Zooropa all hidden by the screen...he looked like he was having as much fun as we were!(maybe more) Thank you, thank you, thank you, to U2, the crew and all the staff. It was a wonderful week! See you in Montreal!
09 June, 2011
for all your hard work Willie. I was sad not to see this mysterious Canadian lumberjack piece you hinted at earlier but Burma and Space ... I easily forgive you. The Edmonton show was great fun and the Zooropa/City of Blinding Lights was my favourite part of the show that involved the claw! Been telling people all about it.
09 June, 2011
Has Bono been doing any more hitchhiking
What another great story. The planet is indeed shrinking whilst it bastes.
Newer comments    1 - 4 of 4    Older comments

Latest Willie's Diary

31 Jul, 2011
'I’ve loved it. Just loved it.' Homeward bound Willie grateful for an 'extraordinary tour'.
18 Jul, 2011
'I'd agreed to see the Alexander McQueen show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.' Day off in New York City for Willie.
15 Jul, 2011
'It was a beautiful night and I enjoyed  strolling, people-watching, window shopping.' Willie has a day off in New York.
06 Jul, 2011
'The booths, the counter, the old boy on the stool with his gruff greeting...' Willie discovers a special food establishment.
05 Jul, 2011
'Soldier Field is a great-looking stadium and sits right in the centre of the city.' Willie in Chicago.
  • First
  • < Previous
  • 1
  • Next >
  • Last