by Clare Hutchinson, Western Mail
WITH its giant "claws" and sleek spaceship styling, U2's dazzling stage for their latest world tour has been described as looking as if it landed from another plant.
But the distinctive look, which has garnered as much attention from critics as the band's music, actually hails from Chepstow rather than outer space.
And the Welsh company behind the canopy has revealed how it was given just three months by the Irish rockers to come up with the covering that gives the 360-degree, 164ft-high stage such a unique look.
Undaunted, workers at Chepstow-based Architen Landrell began a three-month slog working 12 hours a day, six days a week, until they had completed not one, but three stages for U2's 360 Degree world tour.
Tomorrow, the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff will play host to "The Claw", as the massive stage has become known, from which the band will perform their hit anthems to 70,000 fans.
Architen Landrell's project manager Kate Cox, from Maine in the US, said the last-minute call for the £250,000 project was not unusual in the industry.
She said: "We got the order in March to get it done by the beginning of June, so yes, it was a challenge. But it is very normal for this kind of project because the rock and pop industry moves at lightning speed and everybody working with it has to keep up."
The stage is so big, three versions are needed. While the band perform on one, another will be set up elsewhere and yet another will be transported in 180 trucks to the next stop on their tour throughout Europe and America.
In business for nearly three decades, Architen Landrell is considered a veteran in the entertainment industry, having created stages for a slew of big-name artists in the past decade.
Longstanding clients include the Rolling Stones, who have used the company in three successive tours, Madonna and Robbie Williams. But, according to Ms Cox, the limited time meant this was one of their most challenging tasks.
She said plans for the 360 degree stage began four years ago, although it had been a long-held dream for the band to be able to perform in the centre of a stadium-sized audience.
Unlike traditional stages, this will allow audiences unrestricted views of the group from every side and includes giant TV screens.
Famed for stepping out of a giant lemon during their 1997-1998 PopMart Tour, Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen hit on the idea of a four-legged steel structure encased in fabric.
Designers at Architen Landrell used 6,000ft of bespoke light green PVC to bring the band's dream to life. The fabric was welded together and stretched across the steel frame of the stage.
Ms Cox said: "The complete project has cost them £20m and, as I understand, the idea for the structure has been in development for about four years.
"The band wanted the feeling on stage to be the most impressive thing. Luckily for us, when we took on the project most of the engineering was completed so our design was about how the fabric worked with the steel."
The project was completed by 15 workers just in time to be shipped to Barcelona and set up for the first stage of the 44-stop tour.
Ms Cox added: "It really is a remarkable sight when everything is lit up and as a company we are very proud to have pulled it off."
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