26 hours to go: When U2 comes to town
With anticipation building, ticket prices lowering, and four days of pre-production underway, the night before the Charlottesville's biggest rock show is far from a night off for U2's crew.
Headed by longtime production manager Jake Berry, the day before a show is the true marathon. Despite four days already notched prepping Scott Stadium's field, it will take twelve hours to get the stage– nicknamed "The Claw" by the crew and "The Spider" by the Hook– assembled. 150 feet tall, including the center pylon, with a circular video screen hanging just below the speakers (roughly 66 feet from the top), the stage might as well be the fifth star of the night, according to Berry.
"Every stage has a wow factor," he says. "Ours just lasts longer."
The idea of playing in the round, he says, is one that has fascinated U2 frontman Bono since the indoor-only U.S. dates during the 2005-06 Vertigo Tour. Architect Mark Fischer and designer Willie Williams, longtime U2 collaborators, took up the challenge.
"The band has never played stadiums in America," says Berry. "After the last gig, we were all sad, and Bono walked in and said he wanted something big–- so we designed something to make the stadium look small, very intimate."
Charlottesville was always a part of the schedule throughout all seven versions of the tour, according to tour manager and Live Nation senior vice president Craig Evans. The draw of a university town was a factor.
"Charlottesville fit very well with touring from the North to South, and it's the best of cities to meet the band's desires," says Evans. "[Live Nation] had a terrific experience with the Rolling Stones in Charlottesville as well."
But can Charlottesville's inclination towards green living mesh with this tour's 120-truck (only 104 for the Charlottesville show) impact?
"We're trying to be a carbon neutral tour, buying a series of carbon offsets after the tour has ended under the advice of environmental experts we bring with us," Evans says. "But it's also fan-based– we all have to work together."
According to Evans and Berry, U2 wants to remind audience members, who make up nearly 80 percent of a concert's carbon footprint, to carpool, use hybrid vehicles, and turn off lights at home before leaving. Yet the post-tour fate of the stage– with a steel frame that can support up to 180 tons and a video screen made up of 1 million pieces– is still undecided.
With a little over a day before the stadium's gates open, the crew still has hours to go before the band can take over Charlottesville. But, according to Berry, it's a job– and a show– without comparison.
"If it stops being a challenge, it stops being fun," he says. "When the band takes the stage, there is not a person on this tour that doesn't get tingles up his arms."