Last Wednesday our lady in charge of music, Toni came into my studio when I was on air and asked very casually if I wanted to go down to Melbourne, care of U2, to watch their second show of the Aussie leg of their 360 degree world tour.
Sure. I’m sure I can squeeze it in. I did have plans this weekend, but if Bono really wants me down to see what they got, I’m in. I get to see a lot of gigs, I’m pretty lucky… U2 are one of my all time faves and I have seen their last three tours to Australia, the last in Brisbane in 2006.
After arriving in Melbourne on Friday, I met with the record company peeps, a few select others in the industry and we went into Etihad, the back way. A lovely lady called Francis who is based in London, and is the tour publicist. (I think…) She was very important though… she had the AAA wrist bands. We banded up, access all areas, a wristy to get in to the ‘Red Zone’ up the front of the stage, and a lanyard to gain access to some special bar that had a view and free booze. A bar that we never saw, as our night ended up being so packed.
Once we were made ‘official visitors’, our group a sailed through security points to an area in between the GA and the Red Zone, the area directly in front of the stage. Lovely Francis went and got some beers while we watched a lovely up and coming chap do the support. A bloke called Jay Z. Jay Z would be worth the cost of entry alone. He was f’ing brilliant. He’s brought his full kit to Australia. Full band, maybe ten musos, (including brass)… We were bouncing around to “99 Problems” “Run this Town” “Empire State of Mind”.. He did the lot, with such amazing passion and focus. I always kinda like Jay Z, but after seeing him live, I love him. DO not miss him.
Once Jay Z finished up, I went side of stage and had a chat to the, well I guess, the stage manager, the big boss of logistically moving this mother of a U2 show around the world. The stats are mind blowing, the claw, the steel, the video screen, the time it takes to put it up, pull it down and move it around.
I also had a chat with U2’s Manager Paul McGuiness, quite possibly the worlds’ most famous manager. He’s been with them since day one. We chatted about how the tour had break for a bit when Bono did his back in, if the guys had family out on the Aussie leg of 360, and the plans for Christmas.
After the chats, we were invited onto the stage… it was surreal. For a moment you got a sense of what it must be like for a band to perform to a stadium audience. Around me were guitar techs getting ready, blokes fussing around drum kit… thousands of people staring up at me thinking who the fuck are you? And why are you U2’s stage? The pics speak for themselves!! After wandering around the stage, under the giant claw, Francis reappeared and guided us back into the bowels of Ettihad, with more beer. We in an area that was clearly the thoroughfare between dressing rooms for the band, and the stage. I think it was at this point I had the the thought., “ummm I think we’re going to meet the band”. We all had the thought, and then it became a reality.
A burly security guard came out, “that’s them”. “Yes”, replied Francis. “Right”. He went back towards the dressing rooms. Two very pretty ladies came out, holding clip boards and Blackberrys. They floated around. U2’s young, lanky Irish “tour photographer” came out, then Francis briefed us.. “Okay, you’re going to meet the guys, it will be brief, no photos from your own cameras, and when I say run, follow me out in to the stadium”
Out they came. All kitted up, ready to perform. The Edge in his beanie, Adam Clayton in white, Larry and Bono. I shook hands with all of them all, then Bono asked, “Did you guys see Jay Z? Did you like Jay Z”. “Yes Bono he’s was awesome”. We chatted for a few minutes with the guys, the lanky Irish tour photographer took his shot, the Francis said “WE. HAVE. TO. GO.”… We followed Francis into the crowd, with U2 just behind us. As b-lined for a VIP area in front of the mixing desk, U2 made their way up onto the stage, to the sounds of David Bowie’s “A Space Oddity”. I think it was that. Not sure. I was a little head f*cked, I’d just met U2 backstage.
U2’s 360 tour is amazing. The lighting, the sound, the staging (which is in the round), the video screen, (which is in the round), is simply amazing. A few songs into U2 being onstage, Francis took me up into the area above the mixing desk to watch, in essence, was a mini TV studio where all the vision mixing, lighing, video screen were operated from. Amazing… The night finished and I was really angry a with myself. Why? Well, prior to being invited down to Melbourne to see the show, I had no intention of going. I mean, I’d seen the last three tours, I’m a fan, clearly. I thought, I’m heading overseas on holidays when they come to my hometown of Sydney, I guess I’ll miss them. Also, I’m saving money for Christmas. What a knob. U2 are the biggest band on planet Earth, and they know how to put on an amazing show. Somehow, they better themselves, every tour. They just get better. Go see them, and Jay Z. You don’t have to be in the Red Zone right up the front. You could be up the back and you will still have an amazing night.