'When Things Get Strange'

22 June 2009
'When Things Get Strange'
Barcelona. Production rehearsals.

Having had an 'early' night at 4am, I was up and about at an uncharacteristically early hour which drew a series of sarcastic comments from my tour-mates. Part of my desire to get out of bed was driven by the knowledge that the U2360 stage design was being featured in the design section of the International Herald Tribune. I'd read the text online last night but there's always the added thrill of opening the newspaper and seeing the pictures. It's a good little piece, with four images including a picture of the PopMart stage as historical reference. In 1997 I could never have imagined that one day that stage would seem petite. Another interesting thing was that there were two computer renderings of the 360 stage (the CAD models we used to build the thing) and also a photograph of the actual stage in the stadium. It was quite startling that you had to look very closely to tell which was which.

When the band came in we made a plan to rehearse some different show endings. We sat for a couple of hours, drew up two song lists, printed them up and distributed them to the vital people. Then they went out on stage and played something entirely different which was highly entertaining. Technically, things are just getting on their feet in show control world at front of house, but sudden changes still throw the whole process into crisis management mode which makes for good viewing. We got through it however and made a couple of useful discoveries. During the final few songs I climbed high up into the stadium for the first time in quite a few days. The sight almost took my breath away, which I know sounds daft, but it's greatly encouraging. If this thing has the capacity to surprise me of all people, I have high hopes for what it will mean to a first time viewer.

Our after run-through discussion was followed by another night of programming. For the first time since I arrived in Barcelona I felt extremely tired and was struggling to stay with it as we rolled into the wee hours. I knocked off about 6am though, so hopefully that will put me back on a normal schedule.

Tuesday, 23rd June 2009. Barcelona. Production rehearsals.

Got up around 2pm and headed to our little lounge for some tea and the New York Times crossword. I was stuck on the last couple of clues in the southeast quadrant when Kremen from publicity arrived. He's a smart guy and between us we managed to figure it out. The clue 'Da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM', which I recognised as an iambic rhythm turned out to be IAMBS, which was a tough one and also (I would claim) not entirely accurate. 'Da-DUM, Da-DUM and Da-DUM' I could accept as being a sequence of three iambs but simply 'Da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM' I'd say was stretching things as it would far more accurately be described as an iambic sequence. Anyhow, don't get me started.

Took an hour or so to reboot myself and didn't get back to the stadium til about 6.30pm. The band were in good form, having just finished filming headshots of themselves doing a highly peculiar 'head-butting' dance for a new part of the show conceived amid the chaos of last night's quick-change rehearsal. It's a development of the Real Thing rave section, being a mad dance mix of I'll Go Crazy. I do enjoy it when things get strange.

We did a full run through of a new set list with not enough songs in it, working on the principle that it was better to lock in the parts that are working, rather than going into a tailspin over the parts which aren't.. Unbelievably we still have another six nights of rehearsal if we want and we're already working on the kind of details that we don't normally get to until about two weeks into a tour. Programming continued through the night again. The video team were doing mostly technical housekeeping, which is vital with a system as extremely complicated as what we're dealing with. Lighting were working on a mechanical rave look for the head-butting part of the show which I hope will survive through the next week as it promises to be really fun. We worked until the sun came up and the daylight defeated us. I was feeling great though, back in the swing of it after a wobbly night last night.

It was very quiet in the stadium as we were leaving and the birds were kicking off. I've noticed them on previous mornings, there are really complex birdsongs going on which are just enchanting after a night of rock music. In the van, 6.30am, heading back to the Hotel Complicated, feeling quietly thrilled about this delicate monster we've made.

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