U2 360° tour, Nice, France July 2009

17 07 2009

Rejoice – it was a beautiful day – U2 360° tour, Nice, France July 2009

Pre-show build-up
15 July, 2009, will find U2 singing at the Parc des Sports Charles Ehrmann/Stade Nikaia, Nice, France in support of their 360° tour. This tour was launched to support its’ 2009 album, “No Line on the Horizon” and will notch up to 90-100 cities during the two year touring period 2009-2010. The tour’s name is based on the unique stage structure it will build at each event – offering its’ audience a 360 degree view* (*only 180 degree at some locations) – claimed to be a first.

U2 "Claw" Nice

U2 "Claw" Nice

In the quest to achieve marketing perfection to promote such a mega rock concert, U2 certainly have all the bases covered. First, having the lead sponsor, Blackberry (previous sponsor having been Apple), in these days of social media connectivity, is not a bad start. Whilst great for promotional use and for links with “Facebook” and the like, to stimulate pre-show excitement, its’ not exactly a vendor one would normally associate with “Rock N Roll”.

Having said that, “times are a changing…” the “de rigueur” item at any gig these days seems to be a mobile with stellar camera/video features… Not that Bono was amused, telling earlier attendees “put your xxxx camera down, this is a concert…” Second, having an amazing web site with all the right ingredients was a sure way to pull in one’s faithful fans (see http://www.u2.com/tour/index/) – U2 web membership offering amongst other goodies, pre-show priority booking, free music downloads, news and gossip leading up to the show – a package that helped paved the way to key support and ticket bookings.
Here’s a pre-show report on my observations leading up to the U2 concert in Nice, 15 July 2009, followed by my experience at attending this “most beautiful” show.

Sponsor: BlackBerry expresses its' love!*

Sponsor: BlackBerry expresses its' love!*

The hype prior to the show was intense – the new 360 degree show – promised to deliver a show, like no other music extravaganza. There would be 50,000 tickets going on sale on 30 March 09, with a per centage of low cost 30 euro tickets. Normal French outlets along with international websites were lined up for the sales day – but sadly technology let the show down. Similar issues occurred at the Dutch event with 0900 paid service tel numbers being unreachable.
Many young people lined up outside FNAC and other outlets, to be first in line to secure those low cost tickets. Once the tickets were released, the demand online to purchase tickets was immense. The FNAC outlets could not get connected and by the time they could process an order, all the lower cost tickets were sold – in less than 20 minutes. Sadly for two young girls that had lined up all night, they could not afford the higher priced tickets and so left ticketless and in tears. Luckily we had secured two tickets via a French corporate purchase scheme for standing only places (seats being unavailable). However, we also tried to purchase further tickets for friends on the ticket release date. The online purchase route was a nightmare, trying all day – the key websites were just jammed, unresponsive and it was impossible to make a request. Finally in the early evening, a connection was finally made and two further tickets confirmed – many others were unlucky. My conclusion, it was a black day for technology. However, the band had more luck in Spain where 97,000 tickets sold out in 54 minutes – a Spanish record.

U2 Massive stage lighting and sound*

U2 Massive stage lighting and sound*

Having recently attended a show at the Nice, Stade Nikaia that only attracted around 8,000 people, it was tough to find a parking place, so we anticipated that parking was going to be a big issue for the U2 event. The parking availability near the stadium is around 10,000, but with 50,000 + expected, the roads, and every available parking slot for miles around would be jammed. Living in a rural village, bus transportation was a non starter so creative thinking was required. Those of you who may live in the Nice region, will know that taxis in this area are some of the most expensive in the world. Nevertheless, a taxi was booked and the cost would be shared between 4 friends – the total would exceed our ticket prices, but we felt we contributed to being a little “green” rather than clogging the roads with 2 more cars. Information on access to the show was non-existent. Once on the motorway leading to the stadium there was no information on a key closed motor exit to access the show. Certainly our normal “on the ball” driver, had no idea what was happening. As a result, a major traffic jam took place, and a journey that would typically take 30 minutes, stretched to 2 hours, arriving at 19.00h – so much for our great plan to arrive early… The time spent hunting on the internet to determine the best route, had failed us.

It was impossible for our taxi to get close to the stadium, so we jumped out just off the motorway ramp and walked the remaining 1000 meters. It appeared that many others had a same idea as we noted taxis arriving from Cannes, Monaco and Nice. The much heralded 360° staging, was looming in the early evening sky looking like a large tarantula. In reality the design was something akin to a space rocket station. Resting on four enormous moss green painted legs, orange satellite plates adorning the structure (like buttons), a large rocket shape thrusting through the middle and an inner grey body core that would be the pinnacle of the video wall and entertainment. The inspiration for the 58 meters by 47 meters (190 feet by 154 feet) and 50 meters (164 feet) tall “space rocket” design, nicknamed “the Claw”, came from the landmark Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport.

It was an amazing work of art and engineering. The big question that lay with me was why did U2 go to so much expense to build such a superb staging, only to perform ONE show. With the Nice capacity at only around 50,000 would it not have been possible to repeat the show 2 or 3 times in the same week to amortize the costs? With Nice’s location being in easy reach for many by car (Marseille, Lyon, Milan etc), not to mention a simple hop using low cost airlines from around Europe, it could have been a way to deflect criticisms on wastage and costs. One should note that U2 are buying carbon offsets in relation to this tour.

Moving on. As one approached the stadium, our group was horrified to see the amount of rubbish strewn on the floor at only 19.00h. There were very few bin skips, and those that had been provided were already full. With U2’s interest and commitment to the environment, it would not have been difficult for their management team to insist that a larger number of bins be provided for SORTED garbage (especially as the majority of rubbish was plastic bottles and cans). It would also save on the huge clean up costs that are associated with these events. We made our way over through the debris and through the security and ticket check. We noted ticket scalpers were out in force, but business looked thin. We heard that many had to drop their prices to well below the ticket value – some as low as 20 Euros – so the credit crunch was hitting a normally vibrant market, not a bad thing.

U2 360° tour – Nice Concert review
– including contributor, Rich
Just after 20:00 Snow Patrol took the stage in the bright evening sun. A light sea breeze blew across the stadium, cooling the awaiting heated crowd.

Judging by the reported Barcelona set list, Snow Patrol played some different songs and a different order… Launching into “If there’s a Rocket tie me to it” (perhaps linked to U2s space references and that the following week was the 40th moon landing anniversary) from their latest “Hundred Million Suns” and quickly following with Chocolate and Hands Open. Engaging the crowd, the band exuded confidence and kept the intensity going for their full set. The sun was finally on the Baou de Saint – Jeannet cliff face as they closed with “Open Your Eyes” and “You’re all I have”.

After a lengthy pause to finalize the preparations for the U2 extravaganza, the volume came up on Bowie’s Space Oddity and Elton John’s Rocket Man. Shortly after, U2 took the stage firing off three songs from the new album in rapid succession: “Breathe” and “No Line on the Horizon” and “Get on Your Boots”.

An intense two hour set ensued comprising a best of the last twenty years of the U2 catalog, back to War (Sunday Bloody Sunday), three from Joshua Tree, Rattle and Hum (Desire), and to more recent albums. (Find the full set list at :-http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/u2/2009/nikaia-nice-france-53d65ba9.html).

As the darkness fell, the full glory of the stage production was revealed with a massive “Beautiful Day” with the over-stage video screen splitting and dropping to form a part lighting, part screen hanging cone. Bono’s stage patter was subtitled in French through part of the show allowing the predominantly French crowd to follow along more easily. Bono told the crowd how the Cote D’Azur was the most beautiful coast in the world and that all the band were happy to have their “second homes” here. He also thanked many locals including the people who served him in bars and “those that didn’t serve us!”.

The multi-screen videos also allowed for some very cool layering and movement effects and occasionally morphed into pure video effects. During a dance remix of “I’ll Go Crazy” the band’s faces moved in and out rhythmically. Larry Mullen Jr was able to get out from behind the kit and walk the ramp around the front of the stage with a Tom Tom.

Sporting U2 Mask Aung San Suu Kyi

Sporting U2 Mask Aung San Suu Kyi

U2 used their show to remind the world of the plight of Burma’s democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For those fan’s that studied the U2 website ahead of the concert, some had responded to U2’s invitation to download a mask of Aung San Suu Kyi and wear it when the band played “Walk on” – a song written for her. Mask wearing appeared to be thin on the ground in our area, but Bono lead a group of people around the stage, masks in hand. (See this link for more details :- http://www.u2.com/stream/article/display/id/4770.

The imperturbable Edge on guitar appeared to be sporting a different axe for each song. He progressed through Gibsons, Fender Strats and Telecasters as well as an acoustic guitar and also played piano while wearing his guitar.

Adam walks the bridge*

Adam walks the bridge*

Adam Clayton appeared to be playing a Gibson hollow-body bass throughout the set. Both the Edge and Clayton also took their turns playing, walking and running on the stage ramps and moving bridges. Bono played his Gretsch Green/Irish Falcon late in the set.

U2 promotes plight of Aung San Suu Sku*

U2 promotes plight of Aung San Suu Sku*

Another interjection from Bono: First to promote the ONE campaign that he avidly supports. Apparently they had been signing up support outside the stadium – something most managed to miss. However, one lucky couple’s kissing image, made after their donation, will be electronically sent out to space, courtesy of U2. Second, Bono made a plea for donations to help another fundraising initiative that will benefit a water, health and hygiene project in Liberia, a scheme administered by Africare. The scheme will increase access to safe drinking water and improve sanitation and hygiene for up to 7,000. A UK telephone number was flashed on the giant screen, and Bono urged fans to dial the number – that would cost only 11 cents. Few in our area responded – most likely as the request was made in English…

Descending Video Wall lights up fans*

Descending Video Wall lights up fans*

U2 didn’t hesitate to tinker with the songs and change arrangements from the recordings. Three snippets were added into songs including “Stand by Me” on “I Still haven’t Found What I’m looking for”, a Michael Jackson medley (led by Billie Jean) at the end of “Desire”, and “Here Comes the Sun” featured at the end of Beautiful Day.

For the encores the set changed into blue/green tones, shown on the video screens as a kind of underwater effect. Bono sang into a dangling microphone reminiscent of a ship’s control as the band continued through Ultraviolet, With our Without You, Moment of Surrender and a short tribute to “You’ll never walk alone” before bidding a final good night.

Overall it is was an intense and crowd-pleasing show from this Irish foursome.

Within 5 minutes of the band leaving the immense stage structure, a large group comprising key engineering crew were busy dismantling the “space rocket” staging for onward transportation to the next show (Berlin).

The amazing claw with video core

The amazing claw with video core

*Photos by Pierre Masse – merci!
Other photographs by Sandra Arthur, Rich Arthur

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3 responses

18 07 2009
Sean Reynolds

This Information Very Nice.

2 01 2011
2010 blog review « My Global Event Reports

[…] U2 360° tour, Nice, France July 2009 July 20091 comment 4 […]

22 07 2011
Wealth Magazine

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