U2 Rehearsals, Barcelona, Spain, Part One

Willie Williams is a remarkably calm man, but giving birth can do that to you. We're inside Camp Nou, situated in a residential neighborhood in the hills above Barcelona, Spain, normally home to FC Barcelona of soccer fame but these days serving as the world's largest maternity ward for the world's largest baby. And Willie is sharing details of the birthing process as only a tired but proud papa can.

The baby in question, of course, is the stage for the upcoming U2 360* tour, this summer's highly anticipated rock extravaganza that will hit stadiums (and only stadiums) throughout Europe early in the summer before heading to the states in September and beyond. Williams had been joking about the “birthing process” of this shockingly large yet deceptively simple structure on his Facebook page recently, but seeing him onsite you quickly realize his pride is no act.

And for good reason. Envisioned by the designer over two years ago and realized by a team that includes production designer Mark Fisher, associate LD Alex Murphy, production manager Jake Berry, lighting director Ethan Weber, video director Tom Krueger, along with Stefaan “Smasher” Desmedt, this promises to be a production like you've never seen.

And you're not going to believe it until you actually see it up close. That's the first thing I should tell you. I know there are images popping up online here and there showing the construction of this thing. Go ahead and Google U2, The Claw (that's the unofficial title of the stage structure), or something similar, I'll wait. They don't do it justice, not even remotely.

I'm not showing you any shots here because management has imposed a no-photos policy onsite, one that some of the local crew have apparently chosen to ignore, judging by a few things floating around on the internet. (You have no idea how hard it has been not to pull out either the video or the still camera and shoot away when the guards weren't looking, but I managed, just barely.)

But plenty of such images will be coming here soon, because this is only the very beginning of what we hope to present to you on our website about this unique tour this summer. Just as Williams says it was time for him and the band to move beyond the current notion of a live show, we think it's time for those of us covering entertainment technology to move beyond the six-page spread with photos and an equipment list. To that end, we will be attempting over the next several months to provide something of an ongoing report of this tour, providing blogs from LD staffers as well as crew members, videos, photos, sketches and more, all housed within its own space on the site. Not to say you won't see a condensed version of what we put together here in a future issue of the magazine—we honestly haven't decided on that yet--but we see this as an experiment of sorts, an attempt to determine if this could be the way forward for productions of this magnitude and complexity. I'm here for two short days to get the ball started, but we will begin our coverage in earnest just after the tour opens on June 30.

On Sunday, June 21—Father's Day, appropriately enough--I got the grand tour from Williams along with Anne Johnston of PRG and Michael Eddy of Eddy Marketing on Sunday, an off-day for the band (which may also have contributed to the calm demeanor onsite—you know how it can be when the talent is around), and he talked about the long process bringing this production alive, the jaw-dropping statistics (here's a couple: the Rolling Stones' A Bigger Bang tour, previously considered to be the biggest concert set ever, would fit under this one; the 360 in the tour title now also refers to the total number of crew members), the invaluable contributions of individuals and vendors, the strategically important lighting rig (the moving lights are exclusively the new PRG Bad Boys), and the enormous potential of the video screen (which is one of the reasons they don't want this thing photographed just yet).

On Monday the plan is to speak to Fisher, Berry, Murphy, and Weber, and possibly see the band interact with Willie's bouncing baby Claw. More to come….

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