POPMART Leg 4: 1998, South America


'Vibrating With Energy'

13 February 2011
'Vibrating With Energy'
Johannesburg. Show day.

It wouldn't be a real opening night without getting to complete and utter panic stations at some point during the day, and even on this little run of only two shows, we had a pretty good go at getting there. There are five new elements going into the show tonight; the Rainbow People intro (now into Beautiful Day), Hugh Masekela performing on Still Haven't Found, a Nelson Mandela piece in Pride, a reworking of the images in Sunday Bloody Sunday around the Egyptian revolution and a revival of the African flags opening of Streets (from the Vertigo tour, which never played here).

'Divide and conquer' is the motto at a time like this, so I'd split the tasks between some of the touring team and our content team in London. This worked well except for the Achilles heel of the 'broadband' speed at the stadium. The internet's been pretty crap all week, it's fair to say. It's marginally better at the hotel than it is at the stadium but, once we got into show day, the demand on the single stadium internet source ramped up almost to the point of complete stasis.

The most frustrating thing was that the very lo-res versions of the video clips were emailable, so we could see that these new pieces were great and would work, but we had no way of getting the full-res versions down from the sky. Having delegated successfully, I'm not quite sure how this dilemma was eventually solved, but I gather it involved our production manager and a local TV station before we finally had all the sequences in place. Poor Stef at front of house was still programming them into the giant VCR until moments before the show.

I haven't yet had an official word on the attendance at the show, but I know that this was the closest shot we've had at 100,000 people. The Rosebowl was 98,500 and the Wembley shows about 98,000 each, but we've never quite squeaked into six digits. The word I got earlier was that we had made it, certainly if you include building staff, but I'll wait for confirmation before celebrating.

Not having seen the show for a month and having all these new elements in it, I found myself able to see it with fresh eyes, which was very helpful. I was generally very pleased and couldn't help feeling proud of my team on seeing the new material work so well. The opening was fantastic, the cell-phone 'star-field' was one of the best of the tour but the high point had to be Hugh Masekela. In the middle of all this big rock sound, his plaintive flugelhorn was intensely moving and you could tell that the audience couldn't quite believe what they were witnessing.

I'm wrecked from the week but I think starting to shake off my cotton-wool head at last. Only made a brief appearance at the poolside aftershow do, then headed off for an early night, well, 3am.

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