POPMART Leg 1: 1997, North America

Aug
12
2009

'What A Triumph...'

4
12 August 2009
'What A Triumph...'
Friday 17th July 2009. Nice - Berlin. Load in day.

Flying, flying. There are, apparently, violent storms all over Germany, so my solo voyage to Berlin took several hours longer than advertised. I flew from Nice to Berlin Tegel via Munich, with postponements, delays and holding patterns every step of the way. I got a text from Smasher mid-afternoon saying that some of the trucks were yet to arrive in Berlin, so seeing that there was no burning urgency to get there I managed to get pretty Zen about it. Read the paper, dozed a bit, went through the show in my mind feeling for the weak points, biding time.

One mild source of diversion on the Nice-Munich flight came when I realised that the loud, older middle-aged American woman in the seat directly in front of me was completely shit-faced. Clearly she'd recently enjoyed a few stiff drinks, in tandem with a hearty round of self-medication. She was wearing wrap around shades and calling to her (I guess) grandson who was sitting, perhaps unsurprisingly, on the opposite side of the aircraft. This young man was a poster child for Generation Duh!, complete with hoodie, ostentatiously displayed underpants and the addition of an enigmatic black eye. His name, apparently, was Dino and it was also utterly apparent that he had had way more than enough of his travel companion, who called across the plane to him continuously with a string of inane, unanswerable questions. 'Deeeee... do you think we're gonna make our flight connection?', 'Deeeee... .do you know if there are any hotels near the airport in Munich?', 'Deeee... could you pass me a magazine?' Dino's responses were invariably very polite, followed by a muttered coda at a carefully practised volume inaudible to his relative. 'Oh, don't worry, I'm sure we'll make it, (ya f*ck-wit), 'I'm sure that they do (duh!)', etc.

I wasn't sure who I felt more sorry for, until the elder waded into the smart, polite, female Lufthansa flight attendant. 'VAN BLONK!' she was yelling, which understandably took a few attempt for the German to understand. She brought her one drink but. realising the state she was in, shut her down after that, offering coffee or water as a substitute. I'll spare you the details, but you can imagine it got messy. Grown ups, eh? I hope I never become one.

I made my flight connection to Berlin but my checked bag didn't, so on arrival at Berlin's Tegel airport ('like an airport, only smaller') I had a whole load of forms to fill in before being presented with a 'Survival Kit', a hundred Euros in cash and the promise of hotel delivery later tonight. After checking in at the Hotel Fabulous I called my lads at the stadium who said that the last video truck had only just made it to the venue. Unfortunately this was the truck that contained some of the most vital pieces, so there was going to be nothing to look at in the venue until the wee small hours. As a substitute for going to work I headed out for dinner, running into Joe and then Ned on the way, so we went out as a jolly threesome to the Grill Royal. We were assured that this was currently the only place to go in Berlin so I was amused to find on arrival that this is the same place we all ended up after the Echo Awards back in February where Bono and Michael Mittermeier ended up with their shirts off.

We had a great meal and then walked back to the hotel. In February I hadn't realised that the restaurant is on Friedrichstrasse, right by the U-Bahn (subway) station. Before the wall came down, this was the station which was open as a transfer point between two West Berlin train lines, but the exits up to the surface were blocked and secured by armed guards, lest anyone got ideas about defecting. What a difference 20 years makes. Back at the hotel there was no sign of my bag, so I checked the online link I had been given by Lufthansa. Apparently my bag was now in Hamburg, due to a handling error in Nice and is expected to arrive at Tegel at 7.50am, substantially reducing my wardrobe options for tomorrow. I just hope my bag is having a good time in Hamburg, probably romping through the Reeperbahn with Dino's backpack.


Saturday 18th July 2009. Berlin. Show day. Awoke to the news that my bag is now somewhere in Berlin, apparently, though its hotel ETA is currently unknown. I threw on yesterday's fetid garments and got in a van to the awesome Olympic Stadium. What a triumph this place is - it's a shining example of how you can bring a historic building into the 21st century, whilst retaining the essence of its original architecture (just like they didn't at Wembley stadium). My favourite part is the roof. They have managed to install a deep, cantilevered roof entirely supported on only 24 poles, each of which occupies the space of just one seat in the grandstand. And it contains all the stadium lighting within its structure. Impressive.

Our stage structure looks absolutely fantastic in here so everyone's been snapping away like crazy. I also managed to get out to the bell tower on the other side of the former equestrian field to get the aerial view. This has become a bit of a tradition for me every time I do a show at either the Olympic stadium or the Waldbuhne next door. The bell tower has been there since the 1936 Olympics but since the Vertigo tour has been renovated and now contains a visitor centre with a history of the '36 games. They also sell a kind of chocolate ice cream on a stick called a 'Nogger', so it's Noggers up the tower for all, every time we come here.

The view from the top was particularly good this time as the tower faces what is usually the back of the stage, but of course the 360 stage is equally photogenic all the way round. It was just delightful to see it sitting there in the gap above the Olympic flame site. It was another top show, with the 2009 debut of 'Stay' performed in the city for which it was written, which did not go unnoticed by its residents. Back at the Hotel Fabulous I was reunited with my bag and clean underwear, to the great relief of the entire touring party.

This article is tagged to:
Home, Tours, U2 360° Tour
4  Comments
Hupsi - 13 August, 2009
always a bag in Berlin
Thank you Willie for your berlin impressions. Just a little tip for the next Berlin trips - hope there will come another few/much more! let's leave a permanent bag in Berlin. It will save you from travelling trouble :D Greetings from Hupsi - a original Berliner
jarbovi - 13 August, 2009
Willlie the Traveller
Excellent diary once again. In addition to much enjoyable pieces of now&then from tours and incidents really great and insightful notes about the lttle wonders of human behaviour. Thanks, keep these coming!
dianep - 13 August, 2009
Willie's Diary!
Brilliant! Missed your previous as I was on hols - glad to read your excellent writings as a perfect start to the day. Tickets for Cardiff arrived yesterday, yay. Hoping to move in Mysterious Ways! Thank you so much, Willie.
zoocelt - 12 August, 2009
Michael
Entertaining as ever, Willie. Always look forward to reading your updates. Thanks for such a great job on the show.
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