Moncton. Show day.
I didn’t sleep very well last night which is unlike me and not a little annoying. I woke up at 6am and couldn’t nod off again, so lay there wondering what was up. 'Surely,' I thought, 'it can’t be just because I’m excited about going home? I’m a seasoned professional and take this sort of thing in my stride – I can’t be lying here twitching with glee because this is the last day of school…' I suspect, however, that this may have been the case.
Consequently, I went into our final show day feeling a little blurry and news that it was pissing with rain in Moncton didn’t do much to raise the enthusiasm level. However, by the time we piled into the vans to head to the airport, a certain excitement had filled the air. Being the kind of guy that I am, I had put together a CD of 'leaving' songs for an en route sing-a-long. I actually put the playlist together as a special selection of pre-show music for the Moncton gig but having done so realised it might also be fun to have it for our commute.
The playlist opens with The Final Countdown by an 80’s hair band called Europe, the air-guitar excess of which I thought would be hilarious to open the bidding once The Arcade Fire were done. The rest of the list you can imagine – This Could Be the Last Time, Leaving on a Jet Plane, Don’t Dream it’s Over, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, School’s Out for Summer and of course It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine), etc., etc.
On landing in Moncton the heavy greyness of the day was a little depressing (the swamps of Glastonbury still being fresh in everybody’s mind) but mercifully the day brightened steadily from this point on. Magnetic Hill is a festival site with very little in the way of actual buildings, so the spectre of Glasto mud was certainly there but ultimately it wasn’t nearly as bad as we’d feared. Unsurprisingly, much of the afternoon was taken up in conversation with almost the entire tour staff, as it was practically a full day’s job to do the rounds and say all the thank yous and goodbyes that I wanted to.
In my final ‘director’s happy hour’ we decided to go with the set list that we have been enjoying so much of late and settle for a couple of bonus treats at the end. Out of Control was a must, being so utterly appropriate for the glorious excess of the 360 show and, fingers crossed, let’s have a go at '40' too, to wrap up the tour.
The Arcade Fire played and, having finished their set, we engaged the 360 show for the very last time. The pre-show music was wonderful, The Final Countdown bringing much hilarity to the crew, though I concede that it might have been somewhat lost on the audience.
We had a great show, the vast audience being clearly aware that they were attending an event very significant for the band. On a tour like this some last night pranks are inevitable and there were a couple of lovely ones tonight. Many of the volunteers who carry out the Amnesty lanterns during Walk On turned out to be crew-members (I’d feared it might turn into a Zeigfeld Follies style dancing lights routine, but mercifully respect prevailed). The highlight of the night though was I’ll Go Crazy where the film of the giant band faces appears on screen, ‘head-banging’ to the rhythm. Tonight, the band’s faces appeared as usual, only to be replaced by a sequence of the faces of almost every crew-member on the tour, heads nodding, smiling, clapping, some even dancing about. It was such a joyful thing to see the faces of all these people up there, without whom this 360 structure would still be sitting in Barcelona.
I made my way to the back of the stage during With or Without You in order to give me some time to bid final farewells to as many of the remaining crew as I could find. After lots of hugs and handshakes I made my way into ‘underworld’ beneath the stage to say goodbye to the backline guys and monitor engineers. I found them all except for Sam, Larry’s drum tech, who I knew would be sitting in his usual place up on the stage, tucked behind Adam’s bass rig. When Moment of Surrender was kicking off, I stuck my head up the staircase that emerges to the side of the drum kit and gave Sam a wave. He came over and we yelled our farewells into each other’s ears, just as Bono asked the crowd to take out their cell phones and turn out the stage lights. Seeing the magic star field spread into the far distance, I looked all around and, without really thinking about it, took a seat on a little step next to the drum kit. The band played on, unaware that they had just acquired a fifth Beatle, and I took a minute or two to just absorb this final moment of 360. How wonderful to end by seeing this great creation from its very heart, from the inside out. I looked at each of the band members and thanked them silently for allowing me the indulgence of this creative grand madness, before slipping back down the stairs to underworld and out into the crowd.
Out of Control followed, as I’d hoped it would, and the audience took this as a cue to celebrate the end of the end. Around the back of the stage the audience thins out dramatically and in an open area a crowd of crazies were doing some whacky pogo dancing, jumping up and down, goofing off and leaping about. Despite my wearing a raincoat and having my backpack on, I was so caught up in the moment that I joined them, giving it my best John Lydon and laughing my myself silly. What joy.
The band even managed the proper version of '40' that we’d talked about, which was a beautiful way to close. The song was clearly unfamiliar to a lot of the audience which, talking about it later, Bono said he was greatly encouraged by because it meant that they were too young to remember the War album. The ever growing demographic of U2.
To the plane, back to New York and back to the Spotted Pig, even though we didn’t get there until four in the morning. Food and drinks followed, despite the lateness of the hour, and a chance for a final group hug. All was very well with the world no doubt because, as Luisa said, 'there’s no much that can’t be sorted out by a blue cheese burger at 4am.' It was great fun, all wallowing in the communal relief and excitement, but I didn’t stay for too long. I noticed Smasher slipping away so decided to exercise my mantra of 'leave wanting more' and jumped in a van with him, getting back to the Hotel Fabulous as light was beginning to fill the sky and the CNN clock read 6am.