Faith has been said to move mountains, but you don't see much tangible evidence of it in everyday life. Yet right now, in a stadium somewhere, U2's faith (in themselves and their audiences, not to mention their road crew) is moving a small mountain of high-tech equipment: a 40' (12m) mirror ball lemon/vehicle, a 100'-tall (30m) olive on an orange cocktail stick, and a 100' (30m) yellow arch topped by a single huge PA cluster that's been dubbed "The Great Pumpkin" for its Day-Glo(R) hue. Backing up all of that is the world's largest and most remarkable video screen. The first of its kind, the screen contains about one million blue LED modules, and it cost the band about $6 million to develop.

Not many bands would have financed a structure that no one could guarantee would work. But then, not many bands share U2's sense of the absurd or--as Bono pointed out at February's press conference in a Manhattan K-Mart--the ability to pay for it.

Show designer/director Willie Williams relates that a lot of people were expecting U2 to tone down after their band's last tour, "Zoo TV," a two-and-a-half-year video blitz extravaganza. "Even when we were still out with 'Zoo TV,' people were saying, 'Well, how are you going to follow this? Is the next show going to be a really stripped-down, minimal production?' But, for me, the only way to go was up," Williams says. "Mainly because I could see that U2 were a band hitting their stride when they were doing 'Zoo TV.' They'd found their medium. They'd found a way of playing stadiums that is unlike anybody else, and really worked. It wasn't a one-off; to me it was clearly just the beginning of something."

Williams began sorting out ideas for this tour towards the end of 1995--well before the band's latest album, "POP," was recorded. He spent the next six months bringing different proposals to the band. For "Zoo TV," Williams had explored the use of video as a lighting element, but "I didn't want to do another video show unless it was going to be a significant development over 'Zoo TV.' If the screens were just going to be a bit bigger, I wasn't going to be interested," Williams says. "Ultimately, we found a way of reinventing the whole thing, so that's the way we had to do it."

And they did. After three weeks of pulling everything together in bits and pieces during production rehearsals in Las Vegas, the first show on April 25 was very well received. At the second show in San Diego, it was evident that keeping the faith had paid off. The 200-plus production crew were all routinely going about their duties, and all the equipment, including the delicate video screen, had arrived intact. This detail certainly spelled relief for all involved, but most especially for Williams.

"Obviously, I always believed it would all work--I wouldn't have designed it this way if I didn't," Williams says. "But we didn't know until we saw it. Because we weren't going to see the screen until it was built, until it was way too late, and there was absolutely no Plan B. When we did the K-Mart launch, there wasn't anything there. So we'd already told the world what we were doing before we knew if it was possible.

"The technology is so new that we actually built the screen from components," Williams continues. "It's been extraordinary to do this because there is absolutely no precedent at all. We've just been making it up, including the screen protocol and the way we control it. Most of that was written in Las Vegas; we were incredibly close to the wire. But when they unfolded the screen, put it up, and turned it on, only three out of a million pixel sheets weren't working. That was a big relief."

The designer had focused on the possibility of creating the huge, blue LED screen by July 1996, and at that point, he called on his esteemed colleague, Mark Fisher, to help bring the idea to fruition. "Around that time we got serious about figuring out how we could do a video show that would be absolutely spectacular," Williams says. "At first, Mark wanted to do a canvas webbing so the screen would be fluffy, and he could just drape the screen over everything--like a big Salvador Dali video screen, which would have been very nice."

The designers pursued that idea for a while and had a prototype constructed. "We thought about having a video blanket, which had the LEDs on cargo netting," Fisher says. "We actually put one up at Brilliant Stages in England and brought in Frederic [Opsomer], who rationalized it onto aluminum. It's exciting to see that the band is really pushing at the edges of the future with this video screen. U2 is definitely not frightened to try anything."

The band's investment supported what is now the first videowall to be designed and built by touring personnel: Fisher, Opsomer, and Richard Hartman. "It only takes three hours to put up, which is less time than it takes to put up a Jumbotron one-tenth its size," Fisher says. "Stagehands who have seen everything were very impressed with it because it's been beautifully packaged and executed. And it was nice to see that it actually worked."

Williams credits Fisher almost entirely for the stage's well-executed looks. "As with all things U2, it comes out of endless think tanks, but at the end of the day, Mark took control, and that's why he is credited as the architect of this project," Williams says. "Because it's not a space, it's a building. He spent a lot of time working on the proportions and the lines, and you can really tell. His eye has really been a huge benefit."

The designers had Neil Thomas at London-based Atelier One Ltd. work out the method of clipping the screen onto StageCo's steel structure. Opsomer engineered the mechanical and electronic structure for the 50'x150' (15x45m) screen, which is 2,316 sq. ft. (706 sq. m) total and made up of 4,500 aluminum tubes. There are eight LEDs for one pixel, which are put in a matrix format. The distance between each one is about 95mm (3.8"). For the 164-sq.-ft. (50-sq.-m) high-resolution section in the center, the company doubled the LEDs horizontally and vertically to create four times as many pixels.

"There are 22 columns and each folds onto the top of the next," Opsomer explains. "When the screen arrives it is hooked onto motors attached to sliding poles that pull it up. We had to put a double hinge because there must be a gap so that the tubes can fold. Also, for transport, there is a double-locking double hinge. It all happens automatically with springs inside--getting that to work in time was a very big challenge. But in total, the screen takes up only two trucks and has very low power consumption."

System Technologies painted the huge block letters that spell out POPMART in red across the screen. "We took a drawing of the screen, laid the whole thing out, put a computer rendering over it and then spray-painted those areas," Opsomer says. "There are 178 panels in total and we painted all but 22 of them." The company also recommended that Montreal-based SACO--a company that normally makes control panels and road signs--supply the one million LED modules (and 2,000 spares), which were sent to Belgium where the screen was built.

"It's been funny that people who have been in LEDs for years aren't video people at all," Williams says. "But they're very smart, and they had already gotten together a small video screen, so we saw that they were the people to do it. They also believed that the screen should be made of slats rather than a soft material, and then the Belgians engineered it so it would fold up.

"I am delighted with the screen and with the way you can light through it because of the slats," Williams says. "And the greatest fun of all is that because the video is made up of the LEDs, which are coming through aluminum slats, and the rest of the aluminum slats are gold, you can light the screen and do cyclight looks while the video is running. If a video is very contrasty and shot against black, you can have that video image floating around on this colored screen, yet there are lights coming through it from behind. So for the first time, video and lighting are working on the same space, on the same canvas. With 'Zoo TV' the lighting and video were very integrated, but they were in separate places; here they are both within the same frame, which is pretty amazing."

To map out the lighting behind, in front, and over the screen, as well as all the other points around and under the stage, Williams enlisted his longtime collaborator, lighting director Bruce Ramus, who started working on the system last July. By November's LDI trade show in Orlando, the designers had begun to search in earnest for equipment and a lighting supplier. "We saw a lot at LDI; that was one of the places where we began to look for a moving wash light, because that was a big decision for this system," Ramus says. "We ended up going with 194 Studio Colors(R) [from High End Systems] and I've been really pleased with their performance. They're real bright, and then they just keep working--they've stood up really well so far."

Williams and Ramus put the lighting design together in London and then bid it out. "LSD ended up getting the contract, and they've been excellent. John Lobel has really done a great job. He's been the ropeologist, and that has been not a small gig."

The ropeologist, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the person who sorts out the two miles (3.2km) of rope light that edges the arch and screen and forms the orbits around the olive. "I didn't duck fast enough when they were passing out certain projects," Lobel laughs. "Like many of Willie's design elements, the rope light looks deceptively simple when it comes on, but coming up with a routable way to set up about two miles of rope light that's been cut up into 6'-long pieces wasn't immediately obvious."

The rope light is from Crystalite Industries in Florida. "They were great, and because their rope light is two-color, when you crossfade from red to green it appears yellow," Lobel says. "Until I saw this design, I never thought rope light could make a grand statement--I always thought it was just some cheesy little effect. But Willie excels in making these gigantic statements out of ordinary elements."

Unsurprisingly, much of the lighting consists of standard equipment; given Williams' well-known fondness for PAR cans and color changers, it's the Studio Colors that have raised some eyebrows. "This really is a departure from the previous shows I've done with Willie," Ramus says. "It's very colorful, very brash and cocky. And not only do we have moving lights, but they actually move in the show. Mainly, the Studio Colors light the set--we've made them the workhorse of the rig. They light the arch, the PA, and the screen. They really do the bulk of the work: a lot of flashing, cheesy disco chases, which we love.

"It's a poppy, disco-ey show," Ramus continues. "It's nothing like 'Zoo TV,' which was a very industrial look with a lot of industrial fixtures. For old time's sake there are a couple of throwbacks to the old favorites, like the 9-lights and the sports lights, but that's it." Ramus' quick rundown of the rest of the lighting equipment turns up 18 followspots, 54 terra strobes, 12 PAR cans, 17 DWE 9-lights, 19 Maxi-Brutes, and the PAR-64 9-lights hung behind the screen. The smaller B-stage is loaded underneath with 16 eight-lights that project upward onto the disco-floor surface. Flexi-Flash strobes twist up and down the stairs to the lemon and are joined by fluorescent tubes and strips of MR-16s. Inside the olive are two 1k quartz lights; outside, yards of rope light orbit the garnish marvelously.

Then there are the 18 7k xenon searchlights that shoot way up into the sky from positions all around the stadium. By the tour's tenth show, four of those were topped by mirrored periscopes set up on platforms. The devices were designed by Peter Wynne Willson. "They can move really slowly and gracefully, and actually can go dangerously fast as well," Ramus says. "We started off with just one that tracked the lemon and they are working beautifully. All in all, it's a fairly simple rig. It's just big, and very spread out."

Keeping things running smoothly and well-lit are the 12 members of the much-lauded lighting crew, headed up by crew chief Garry Chamberlain (making his world tour debut) and Ramus' "right-hand man" Firmin Moriarty. Tom Thompson is running the Icon Console(TM) which controls the show's terra strobes and the High End Studio Colors via a Universal Guest Luminaire Interface (U.G.L.I.) module. "LSD developed a different way for us to control the Studio Colors through the Icon Console," Ramus explains. "I run everything else off an Avo QM-500 180-channel console, which is U2's desk. It's an old, old desk that has got all the engravings of the past tours on it. We've got a lot of low-tech and a lot of high-tech gear."

One high-tech boon for the lighting crew's programmers turned out to be the WYSIWYG system. "Robert Bell and the guys from Cast Lighting, and Nils [Thorjussen] from Flying Pig Systems, helped us out with that," Ramus says. "Basically, we gave them a CAD drawing of our set, which they then simplified and put into the program. We hung all our lights on it, including all the conventionals, brought it to Los Angeles, and created a triple WYSIWYG setup because we needed seven DMX inputs. It was very well worth it. We didn't necessarily get the cues how they ended up in the show, but we got song structures. We actually did all of our focuses on WYSIWYG and when we got to Vegas they were pretty close. I was really pleased with that.

"You can't really run chases or do real-time sequences, because it just gets a bit too busy when you've got a couple of hundred lights pointing everywhere," Ramus continues. "But it allowed us to get used to operating the system before rehearsals, and that was a major bonus. We didn't see the set until three or four days before the show, so it was very useful because we had a jump on things, and were able to deal with the delays a lot easier."

The delays in receiving the video screen affected no one more than video director Monica Caston, who had worked with Williams before on the "Zoo TV" tour. "I always had Monica in mind--because you need a good driver and someone that can tour," Williams explains. "She was the star of the installation in Vegas, because she didn't get control of the screen until about three days before the show. The way the screen is controlled was decided at the last minute, because some things just weren't working, so I really needed somebody who I knew would be able to turn it around instantly, and not lose her nerve."

Calm and self-assured, Caston is definitely not one to lose her nerve. "When I was first approached about doing this, I was told about the LED screen and looked at some of the test video that they shot on other LEDs. I tried to think about what the pixel ratio was going to be, what it was going to look like," Caston explains. "Outside of that, I just put together a video system that would enable me to be as flexible as I could. I didn't really know too much about the screen until around January, when I got to see some of the panels that were finished. And we never really got to see it all up and functioning until we got to Las Vegas. But worst-case scenario, it was going to be a giant light source, and in the best case it could be used for image magnification."

The system Caston put together for this tour is very different and more complex than a standard touring video system. "The screen is broken up into four inputs, so I am using eight channels of DVE (Digital Video Effects), or four twin channels of DVE units. That allows me to position and place imagery within those inputs, so that I can either take a single input and spread it across the whole screen, or I can take three inputs and match them across the screen," Caston explains. "I can also send separate images or the same image in multiples, but in different positions."

The switcher is a Grass Valley 250. "This allows me to do transitions of fading images in and out, and fading from black," Caston says. "I'm doing quite a few different mixes up there, and also trying to put something on tape for the band to watch for reference."

Those tapes have been a source of some concern for the band--who have tended to show up on them looking not terribly attractive. "The screen is actually more akin to a computer screen than to a TV monitor, although it does skin tones remarkably well. But at the opening of the show, the colors are pretty severe, so that the images on the screen are kind of bizarre," Williams explains. "The band sees the reference tape from Monica's VHS, and of course, they look horrible on it because they are really overlit to get enough level for the screen. The screen looks great, but the video monitor doesn't. So now we're faced with the triple whammy of having to make it look good in closeup on a regular TV monitor, and on the big screen, and live--which are, of course, three entirely different things."

For every show, Caston calls and synchronizes six live cameras that serve as one of her sources to feed the screen. "Then I have four channels called a profile, which is a hard disk storage. That's where I have all of my playback footage, and there is a tape machine playback. So I've got a lot of sources to play with. Programmed into the computer system is the information that there is an element of live performance every night, so in case they do change the set, we can be flexible."

During production rehearsals, Caston spent the time trying out different footage on a trial-and-error basis. "We'd try different configurations to see what was the most powerful and what was the strongest imagery and then we'd try to incorporate the imagery that we had," Caston explains. "Some footage came in before the screen was completed, so I could start building basic cues when I saw some of it. I was familiar with some of the footage that they were compiling because I had been to a few of the creative meetings so I could get a handle on what they wanted to see. So while they were assembling the screen we were able to look at it and decide which song it would go in, and I could start a rough cue basis."

Similar to lighting cues, the video cues are sets of information for each song. "You start by putting in the footage that goes with that song, and then you start the routing, and then what part of that footage is played at what time, and how it goes through the different DVEs," Caston explains.

"We were very much under the gun in Vegas to get something together, and there were a lot of meetings after rehearsals with the band and a lot of hours," Caston continues. "Every night we just continued to change a few things, and tweak it and make it better--because we learned more and more about what works and what doesn't really work on the screen. It was a really short period of time to put together something this huge, but I've got a really good crew." Caston says Williams has a lot of say over "the different things that we put on the screen nightly. He'll come over and give me his input and suggestions."

"The great thing about the LED for me was it really confirmed my feelings about where we should go with the visual content of the show," Williams says. "Because of the screen's low resolution and the fact that the LEDs do such great colors, I always thought animation--the Pop Art of the 90s--was the way to go. Since I live in San Francisco, I thought we'd use a lot of digital artists, but while we do have some computer animation in there, most of it is fairly old-fashioned--hand-drawn or painted cel animation--and that works wonderfully well because of the contrast to the high-tech."

Screen imagery curator Catherine Owens, an Irish artist based in New York City, was given the task of finding all of the visual imagery for the screen. "I added a couple of pieces of my own, but my role was to sit with the band and Willie and Gavin Friday and come up with a bunch of ideas based on the album," Owens explains. "My own direction was to pursue the sexual element of the band, which they haven't really pushed. It's there, but I really wanted to explore it in a kind of subversive or subliminal way. As I'd hoped and predicted, the weirder the imagery I found, the more they liked it. They gravitated more toward the humorous and the absurd, and also the beautiful. Most were experimental, or in the performance art area. Then we commissioned the animators."

Owens searched through hundreds of artists' work looking for images that suited the production. She also helped secure permission to use famous Pop Art images by Roy Lichtenstein (who is 73 and living in Manhattan), Keith Haring, and Andy Warhol. "I then went out and found the animator who could best do Lichtenstein and Haring. That was very key to me, because there was talk about trying to do all of this in-house initially, and I was very obstinate about that not being good enough. I knew that we needed to find the perfect match for each piece."

Owens now believes that the constraints placed on the imagery from not knowing what the screen could handle was an enormous benefit in the long run. "We ended up with a very strong direction because everything was geared to a minimal, powerful, big look instead of having lots of video or lots of Super 8." The seven artists in the show in order of appearance are: Run Wrake (animator); John Maybury (transsexual belly dancer, flower morph, color vortex for "Where the Streets Have No Name"); Straw Donkey (all product logos and motifs); George Barber (Andy Warhol/Marilyn Monroe); Brian Wood (cartoon guy who goes shopping); Jennifer Steincamp (ambient imagery), Carter Kustera (big head silhouettes), and Image Now/Nick and David Ryan (lava lamp blobs).

Once the artists were chosen, Owens came up with a solid idea for each animator and let them go for it. "The exciting part for me was to take this completely hands-on, low-tech approach to making the animation, but have it come out on this incredible screen," Owens says. "That's one of the show's least obvious strengths. If we were going to use computer technology, I wanted to make sure the art still had an emotional feel to it, and I think we've succeeded there. It's a pretty incredible achievement, but it very much feels like a labor of love."

Obviously this tack fit right in with Williams' intentions. "I didn't want this to be an intellectual event," Williams says. "'Zoo TV' was a very cerebral show, with all the text and lots of clever sayings. This show bypasses the head and goes straight into the emotions--that's the way the imagery was made. There are very few images that are synched up at all because I wanted it to be more trippy and hypnotic, and you actually feel them because they're so big. 'Zoo TV' was about everything. We just threw in as much as we possibly could. Whereas this really has a style and a stance--it's more defined."

Yet it's not easy to classify. "One of the biggest problems that people are going to have with the show is that it's just completely different--there are no big lighting trusses hanging down and no big speaker columns on either side of the stage," Owens says. "Your reference points are gone--and what you expect to happen just doesn't. But I think that's great. It's a bit like the album; it will take a while for people to see what's going on. What's so fantastic about U2 is that they're willing to take these gambles. That's the Paddy factor, actually--the Irishness. We all copped an attitude that if it doesn't work out, well, we all can go out and have a pint later."

"There is an extraordinary confidence, that comes mainly from Bono, that's just infectious," Owens concludes. "You just know that if he and Willie believe it will happen, chances are it will."

You just have to have faith? Well, that--plus youth and a sense of humor. As Williams points out, "U2 is 15-20 years younger than the other bands like the Stones and Floyd who play stadiums, so for us to design a show which didn't reflect that would be wrong. Plus, it was really important to bring out that they're so willing to make fun of themselves and the whole situation they're in. That's why the silly excesses on the stage came in there. They're not really symbolic. Even the art isn't really symbolic of anything; neither is the name of the tour. It's a bit of honesty and a willingness to have fun with it. Because if you don't have fun, there's no point in doing it."

One high-tech boon for the lighting crew's programmers turned out to be the WYSIWYG system. "Robert Bell and the guys from Cast Lighting, and Nils [Thorjussen] from Flying Pig Systems, helped us out with that," Ramus says. "Basically, we gave them a CAD drawing of our set, which they then simplified and put into the program. We hung all our lights on it, including all the conventionals, brought it to Los Angeles, and created a triple WYSIWYG setup because we needed seven DMX inputs. It was very well worth it. We didn't necessarily get the cues how they ended up in the show, but we got song structures. We actually did all of our focuses on WYSIWYG and when we got to Vegas they were pretty close. I was really pleased with that.

"You can't really run chases or do real-time sequences, because it just gets a bit too busy when you've got a couple of hundred lights pointing everywhere," Ramus continues. "But it allowed us to get used to operating the system before rehearsals, and that was a major bonus. We didn't see the set until three or four days before the show, so it was very useful because we had a jump on things, and were able to deal with the delays a lot easier."

The delays in receiving the video screen affected no one more than video director Monica Caston, who had worked with Williams before on the "Zoo TV" tour. "I always had Monica in mind--because you need a good driver and someone that can tour," Williams explains. "She was the star of the installation in Vegas, because she didn't get control of the screen until about three days before the show. The way the screen is controlled was decided at the last minute, because some things just weren't working, so I really needed somebody who I knew would be able to turn it around instantly, and not lose her nerve."

Calm and self-assured, Caston is definitely not one to lose her nerve. "When I was first approached about doing this, I was told about the LED screen and looked at some of the test video that they shot on other LEDs. I tried to think about what the pixel ratio was going to be, what it was going to look like," Caston explains. "Outside of that, I just put together a video system that would enable me to be as flexible as I could. I didn't really know too much about the screen until around January, when I got to see some of the panels that were finished. And we never really got to see it all up and functioning until we got to Las Vegas. But worst-case scenario, it was going to be a giant light source, and in the best case it could be used for image magnification."

The system Caston put together for this tour is very different and more complex than a standard touring video system. "The screen is broken up into four inputs, so I am using eight channels of DVE (Digital Video Effects), or four twin channels of DVE units. That allows me to position and place imagery within those inputs, so that I can either take a single input and spread it across the whole screen, or I can take three inputs and match them across the screen," Caston explains. "I can also send separate images or the same image in multiples, but in different positions."

The switcher is a Grass Valley 250. "This allows me to do transitions of fading images in and out, and fading from black," Caston says. "I'm doing quite a few different mixes up there, and also trying to put something on tape for the band to watch for reference."

Those tapes have been a source of some concern for the band--who have tended to show up on them looking not terribly attractive. "The screen is actually more akin to a computer screen than to a TV monitor, although it does skin tones remarkably well. But at the opening of the show, the colors are pretty severe, so that the images on the screen are kind of bizarre," Williams explains. "The band sees the reference tape from Monica's VHS, and of course, they look horrible on it because they are really overlit to get enough level for the screen. The screen looks great, but the video monitor doesn't. So now we're faced with the triple whammy of having to make it look good in closeup on a regular TV monitor, and on the big screen, and live--which are, of course, three entirely different things."

For every show, Caston calls and synchronizes six live cameras that serve as one of her sources to feed the screen. "Then I have four channels called a profile, which is a hard disk storage. That's where I have all of my playback footage, and there is a tape machine playback. So I've got a lot of sources to play with. Programmed into the computer system is the information that there is an element of live performance every night, so in case they do change the set, we can be flexible."

During production rehearsals, Caston spent the time trying out different footage on a trial-and-error basis. "We'd try different configurations to see what was the most powerful and what was the strongest imagery and then we'd try to incorporate the imagery that we had," Caston explains. "Some footage came in before the screen was completed, so I could start building basic cues when I saw some of it. I was familiar with some of the footage that they were compiling because I had been to a few of the creative meetings so I could get a handle on what they wanted to see. So while they were assembling the screen we were able to look at it and decide which song it would go in, and I could start a rough cue basis."

Similar to lighting cues, the video cues are sets of information for each song. "You start by putting in the footage that goes with that song, and then you start the routing, and then what part of that footage is played at what time, and how it goes through the different DVEs," Caston explains.

"We were very much under the gun in Vegas to get something together, and there were a lot of meetings after rehearsals with the band and a lot of hours," Caston continues. "Every night we just continued to change a few things, and tweak it and make it better--because we learned more and more about what works and what doesn't really work on the screen. It was a really short period of time to put together something this huge, but I've got a really good crew." Caston says Williams has a lot of say over "the different things that we put on the screen nightly. He'll come over and give me his input and suggestions."

"The great thing about the LED for me was it really confirmed my feelings about where we should go with the visual content of the show," Williams says. "Because of the screen's low resolution and the fact that the LEDs do such great colors, I always thought animation--the Pop Art of the 90s--was the way to go. Since I live in San Francisco, I thought we'd use a lot of digital artists, but while we do have some computer animation in there, most of it is fairly old-fashioned--hand-drawn or painted cel animation--and that works wonderfully well because of the contrast to the high-tech."

Screen imagery curator Catherine Owens, an Irish artist based in New York City, was given the task of finding all of the visual imagery for the screen. "I added a couple of pieces of my own, but my role was to sit with the band and Willie and Gavin Friday and come up with a bunch of ideas based on the album," Owens explains. "My own direction was to pursue the sexual element of the band, which they haven't really pushed. It's there, but I really wanted to explore it in a kind of subversive or subliminal way. As I'd hoped and predicted, the weirder the imagery I found, the more they liked it. They gravitated more toward the humorous and the absurd, and also the beautiful. Most were experimental, or in the performance art area. Then we commissioned the animators."

Owens searched through hundreds of artists' work looking for images that suited the production. She also helped secure permission to use famous Pop Art images by Roy Lichtenstein (who is 73 and living in Manhattan), Keith Haring, and Andy Warhol. "I then went out and found the animator who could best do Lichtenstein and Haring. That was very key to me, because there was talk about trying to do all of this in-house initially, and I was very obstinate about that not being good enough. I knew that we needed to find the perfect match for each piece."

Owens now believes that the constraints placed on the imagery from not knowing what the screen could handle was an enormous benefit in the long run. "We ended up with a very strong direction because everything was geared to a minimal, powerful, big look instead of having lots of video or lots of Super 8." The seven artists in the show in order of appearance are: Run Wrake (animator); John Maybury (transsexual belly dancer, flower morph, color vortex for "Where the Streets Have No Name"); Straw Donkey (all product logos and motifs); George Barber (Andy Warhol/Marilyn Monroe); Brian Wood (cartoon guy who goes shopping); Jennifer Steincamp (ambient imagery), Carter Kustera (big head silhouettes), and Image Now/Nick and David Ryan (lava lamp blobs).

Once the artists were chosen, Owens came up with a solid idea for each animator and let them go for it. "The exciting part for me was to take this completely hands-on, low-tech approach to making the animation, but have it come out on this incredible screen," Owens says. "That's one of the show's least obvious strengths. If we were going to use computer technology, I wanted to make sure the art still had an emotional feel to it, and I think we've succeeded there. It's a pretty incredible achievement, but it very much feels like a labor of love."

Obviously this tack fit right in with Williams' intentions. "I didn't want this to be an intellectual event," Williams says. "'Zoo TV' was a very cerebral show, with all the text and lots of clever sayings. This show bypasses the head and goes straight into the emotions--that's the way the imagery was made. There are very few images that are synched up at all because I wanted it to be more trippy and hypnotic, and you actually feel them because they're so big. 'Zoo TV' was about everything. We just threw in as much as we possibly could. Whereas this really has a style and a stance--it's more defined."

Yet it's not easy to classify. "One of the biggest problems that people are going to have with the show is that it's just completely different--there are no big lighting trusses hanging down and no big speaker columns on either side of the stage," Owens says. "Your reference points are gone--and what you expect to happen just doesn't. But I think that's great. It's a bit like the album; it will take a while for people to see what's going on. What's so fantastic about U2 is that they're willing to take these gambles. That's the Paddy factor, actually--the Irishness. We all copped an attitude that if it doesn't work out, well, we all can go out and have a pint later."

"There is an extraordinary confidence, that comes mainly from Bono, that's just infectious," Owens concludes. "You just know that if he and Willie believe it will happen, chances are it will."

You just have to have faith? Well, that--plus youth and a sense of humor. As Williams points out, "U2 is 15-20 years younger than the other bands like the Stones and Floyd who play stadiums, so for us to design a show which didn't reflect that would be wrong. Plus, it was really important to bring out that they're so willing to make fun of themselves and the whole situation they're in. That's why the silly excesses on the stage came in there. They're not really symbolic. Even the art isn't really symbolic of anything; neither is the name of the tour. It's a bit of honesty and a willingness to have fun with it. Because if you don't have fun, there's no point in doing it."

production designer/director Willie Williams

architect Mark Fisher

curator of screen imagery Catherine Owens

tour director Jake Kennedy | Holly Peters, assistant

production director Stephen Iredale

production manager Clifford N. Levitt David Herbert, assistant

pre-production project manager Richard Hartman

stage producer Timothy M. Buckley

FOH audio Joe O'Herlihy

lighting director Bruce Ramus

lighting crew chief Garry Chamberlain

assistant lighting crew chief Firmin Moriarty

icon operator Tom Thompson

lighting technicians Jorge del Angel, Mark Hitchcock, Richard Kreuzcamp, Russell Lyons, Andrew Mills, Lynne Ramus, Michael Sherno, Chad Smith, John Zurakowski

head stage manager Tim Lamb

tour stage managers Gerry Gilleland, Rocco Reedy

video director Monica Caston

assistant director Michael Smith

chief engineer David Neugebauer

assistant engineer Stefan Desmedt

camera operators Stephen Bennett, David Driscoll, Mark O'Herlihy, Bruce Ramos, David Rhea, Michael Tribble

chief rigger Peter Kalopsidiotis

advance riggers Mark Armstrong, Jez Craddick, Warren Jones, Michael Kerr, Mick O'Byrne, T.J. Thompson

chief carpenter Adam Rankin

carpenters Jan Paulson, Tony Ravenhill, Richard Warsfold

system A carpenters Glen Binley, Mark Kohorn

system B carpenters Andrew Pearson, Rick Wythes

screen technicians Chris van Neste, Kurt Verhelle

ropeologist John Lobel

showpower crew chief John Zajonc

stageco crew chiefs Patrick Daly, Luc Dardenne, Patrick Martens

audio company Clair Bros. Sound

ear monitors Future Sonics Inc.

Freight Rock-It Cargo

set fabrication Tait Towers, Brilliant Stages, Stageco, Triple E Ltd, System Technologies, Upfront, Offshore SP, Lorrymage

lighting company Light & Sound Design

video PSI

electronic supplier SACO Controls Inc.

lighting equipment:
(194) High End Systems Studio Colors (22) LSD Molefays (19) LSD Maxi-Brutes (17) Phoebus 9-lights (54) 1kW waterproof quartz lights (28) Hubbell Sportsliters (54) Terra strobes (12) PAR-64s (12) LSD MR-16 Doubles (9) Strong Gladiator 3kW followspots (8) Lycian Starklite 1.2kW HMI followspots (3) Strong Super Trouper 2kW short-throw followspots (18) Xenotech 7kW Britelites (18) Xenotech dousers (12) Terrawedge frames (1) LSD Icon Console (8) LSD Icon Universal Guest Luminaire Interfaces (1) Avolites 180-way console (1) analog snake system (5) ETC DMX buffers (1) LSD Icon snake system (3) Pulsar DMX strobe interfaces (1) Clear-Com 42-station intercom (5) Avolites 72-way dimmers (5) LSD power distro racks (8) Reel EFX DF50s (2) Jem Roadie foggers (2) High End Systems F-100 performance fog generators 3/4 mi.(1.2km) Crystalite Crystalmagic red and green rope 11/4 mi.(2km) Crystalite Crystalmagic red and white rope (8) LSD TFC 8' truss (1) LSD D3 8' truss (1) LSD 30'x8' spot bridge (42) Columbus McKinnon 1-ton hoists (12) Columbus McKinnon 1/2-ton hoists (22) Columbus McKinnon 1/8-ton hoists