18 June 2011
'What time is it in the show?'Los Angeles. Show 2.
Everybody’s gone mad. I’d been at the point of thinking that, once we’ve got Glastonbury behind us, I’d propose to the band that for the remaining dozen or so shows we might pretty much ‘freeze’ the show, give or take. Perhaps the odd spontaneous whimsy, if the mood took us, but essentially to go with this ‘final’ show structure so that everyone can settle in and we can make a point of really making this last run a lot of fun. Well, that notion firmly hit the wall this afternoon and, to cut a long story short, by 4pm the set list as we knew it lay in tatters.
Radical changes create a good deal of work, largely because of the new segues that this creates. I have an aversion to creating a show where each song is a discrete element between which the stage just goes to silent blackness. Regular viewers well know that the connections between the songs in a U2 show are often as integral to the whole as the songs themselves. Consequently, even if the songs themselves don’t change at all, we have to find new ways of connecting them and, at short notice, this can be fraught with danger.
All of this wouldn’t have been quite such a big deal were it not for the fact that I have had this afternoon booked in the diary for several weeks to accomplish a different task. Necessarily, the Glastonbury show will feature an amount of video material that is not in the 360 show. Much of this is launched from ProTools triggers, all of which have to be programmed, so I had set aside today for that task. To do this we need the show system but we also need a quiet environment, otherwise we can’t fine-tune the cue points. There’s so much to be accomplished of an afternoon in a stadium (P.A. to be rung out, line-checks to be done and a seemingly infinite number of guitars to be strung and thrashed) that time always seems to be at a premium and quiet time is a thing of fantasy. However, through a combination of diplomacy and sulking, I eked out just one hour and now we had not only to programme Glastonbury but also to try to figure out (and programme) how the bloody hell we could seamlessly get from A to B in the brave new world of tonight’s exploded set list. Don’t get me wrong, I love all this but there are more productive places to work than in the blazing sun in a baseball stadium with a hundred people enquiring just how much longer you need. We were nearly done and I was feeling pretty confident about it all when a voice came on the radio enquiring, “So, that version of Mysterious Ways that was just programmed… was that for tonight or was that for Glastonbury?” Fingers crossed, then.
The band arrived and we confirmed the night’s plan, at which point it became clear to me what this was really all about. Their great fear, as a creative entity, is complacency. That of settling down into a routine and getting lazy, of going through the motions, so when that feeling begins to surface their communal instinct is to jam their fingers into a plug socket and get a bit of creative ECT. Tonight this paid off in shed-fulls as their energy level was way up, not to mention that they were clearly having a great time.
After opening with five songs from Achtung Baby and segueing into Streets, the show did eventually make it’s way back to known territory for Zooropa and all the big screen moves that follow. The first half hour or so was deliciously disorientating for us regulars, as I had absolutely no sense of where we were in the show and of course when we got to the encores, it turns out we’d already played them. I had a fan-Twitter feed going at front of house so we could enjoy watching the fans take on the evening; great excitement and many funny comments. The feeling of dials spinning could not be more perfect for this point of the tour where I’m so messed up anyway. Never mind “What time is it in the world?” I was even struggling to answer the question “What time is it in the show?”