Time Travel

11 September 2010
Time Travel
Zurich.  Show day.

I€™ve been asked to write the foreword for a book about stage design by a German photographer called Ralph Larmann.  Ralph is the best production photographer I€™ve ever come across and over the past several years he has documented several of my shows.  (He took the ubiquitous shot of the 360 stage that looks like the missing scene from Lord of the Rings, with the high mirrorball going nuclear).  Ralph's a very smart guy, and has the rather interesting technique of using three cameras at the same time - two locked off and one that he roams the building with.  Via some clever space technology, whenever he presses the shutter on his own camera, the other two also take a picture, meaning he gets three different angles of every shot.  He's also the master of the wide-angle lens with which he has created some astonishing abstractions of live shows.

On tour there's always a million tasks & distractions to clog up a man's day.  Consequently, you tend to end up doing whatever is right in front of your face, so it is easy for less pressing commitments (like say, oh, writing the foreword to a book) to slip out of sight.  I€™ve found that an aid to productivity is to come into the venue and find a room that no-one€™s using (the band€™s €˜quiet room€™ is often a good bet) and lock myself in for a while.  I€™ll keep my phone on, just in case, but I€™ll switch the walkie-talkie off.  This is how I spent much of this afternoon and made good progress on Ralph€™s book until the band arrived and I had to get back into show mode.

One thing later in the day made me laugh.  During the changeover between the opening act and U2, a clock appears on the video screen, that is reading something close to the correct time (8.30ish).  Over the next fifteen minutes the clock behaves relatively normally, but then gradually starts to speed up.  It€™s not immediately obvious that this is happening, as the second hand continues to revolve at normal speed but the other hands would have it that the passage of time is increasing exponentially.  Once the hands get to midnight (usually eliciting a cheer from the audience) the next sweep of the second hand begins to destroy the clockface, until all the digits spin off into space, the hands dissolve and the show starts.

Switzerland is, of course, the land where the trains run on time and every clock is accurate to atomic levels, so perhaps I should have realised there might be distress caused by our messing with the form.  Tonight I was in the production office during changeover and a very worried local promoter rep comes rushing in going 'Jake, Jake! The watch of the screen is saying five past eight, but it is 8.30 already€¦.!' 

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