Band plans its most ambitious tour ever behind new 'No Line'
Brian Hiatt, Rolling Stone
Toward the end of U2's last tour, in November 2006, longtime show director Willie Williams presented the band with sketches of a four-legged monster -- a massive structure with speakers mounted on each side that would allow the group to play stadium shows in the round. On the new U2 360Â° Tour, which hits the U.S. beginning September 12th, in Chicago (and kicks off in Barcelona, on June 30th), Williams' vision will finally come to life. "The band is just sitting in the palm of the audience's hand," says Williams. "It really works." Adds Bono, "It creates this real physical proximity to the crowd."
The U.S. dates (13 cities this fall, and then another leg in spring 2010) will be U2's first stadium shows here since their troubled PopMart Tour -- and in a nod to the economic crisis, tickets will be priced as low as $30. "Once the engineering had been devised, it obviously has the effect of expanding the capacity of the stadiums," says U2 manager Paul McGuinness. "And it enables us to subsidize lower-priced tickets with higher-priced tickets." Adds drummer Larry Mullen Jr., "Will we sell it out? Who knows? Will the economic situation have an impact? Probably. But that's not going to stop us." With 120 trucks needed just to cart the stage around, the tour will be U2's most expensive ever -- the band will defray costs in part by taking on a corporate sponsor for the first time, BlackBerry. (Conscious of its environmental impact, the group will be purchasing carbon offsets.)
U2 have already had a chance to play live versions of several songs from No Line on the Horizon, which came out on March 3rd -- their promotional blitz included an entire week on the David Letterman show, as well as a March 11th theater gig just outside of Boston. The band is also shooting a video for the album's second single, "Magnificent" -- among the candidates for future singles are "Breathe" and "Moment of Surrender."
Bono hopes the tour will be more than just a spectacle. "We want to play for each other as much as we want to play for the crowd this time," he says. "You just don't know how long you are going to be doing this. When we walk out onstage, the hairs on people's necks go up -- but what people don't know is that the hairs on our necks go up too."
Meet the Claw: U2's Massive New Stage Set:
Inspiration: U2 show director Willie Williams got the idea for the in-the-round set (nicknamed "the Claw") from the futuristic, Disney-style Theme Building at LAX: It looks like a spaceship on four legs.
Structure: At 164 feet tall, the Claw, Williams says, is twice as high as the previous largest stadium stage set, from the Rolling Stones' A Bigger Bang tour. "Theirs would fit underneath this one," he says.
Sound System: Each of the Claw's four sides will have its own full-size sound system -- each powerful enough for an entire arena. There will also be 72 separate subwoofers.
Logistics: Currently being assembled in pieces around the world, the set will be made of solid steel -- 120 trucks will cart it from show to show.
Â© 2009 Rolling Stone