Paul McGuinness has been talking to Hot Press about the imminent announcement of U2's world tour, which is likely to include three Croke Park stop-offs in July.
"This is going to be a very big tour, the biggest shows we've ever done," he reveals. "We're going to play stadiums only. Football stadiums. That excludes, for instance, baseball stadiums because the production that we've designed is 360 degrees. It's a stage with the audience on all sides."
Will the stage be in the centre of the arena?
"Not quite in the centre, it will be towards one end of the field in a typical football stadium, so the places we're playing will be tiered football stadiums; no flat fields, no festivals, no baseball stadiums. Only big, tiered stadiums."
As with previous U2 productions, there's a heavy emphasis on new technology.
"Well, yeah. I mean the engineering to do this, obviously it has to be a freestanding structure that has to support sound, lighting and video. And that's never been done before. Some people have performed in the middle of a field or maybe in a stadium on a one-off basis, but this is a touring production designed by Mark Fischer and Willie Williams, as usual. We've been talking about it for years, and this is the time we're going to do it. It will be necessary to tell people a bit about the production before the tickets go on sale because otherwise they're going to say, 'hold on, that seat is behind the stage'. Now, it's not behind the stage. There is no behind. So we'll be playing to very large capacities and that gives us an opportunity, or we think it's an opportunity, to scale the house in quite a radical way. So I think, when the tour is announced, which will probably be on March 9th, certainly we are going to start in Europe, and basically do six weeks in Europe, take a logistical break and then six weeks in North America. The large capacities give us an opportunity to scale the house and have some seats at very low prices, and there will be higher prices as well. But the breadth of the scaling will be wider than anyone has ever done in our business. That's kinda news."
Asked about all the Croke Park speculation, McGuinness says: "It's always best to know when you are going to announce it, because there are so many things affected by this, like hotels and airlines, and there's speculation on those commodities which have nothing to do with us. So we try to be disciplined about it, otherwise there can be unforeseen circumstances. Also, sometimes with sports facilities that we are looking to use around the world, we have to wait for sports leagues to resolve. Sometimes if a team loses, such-and-such a stadium becomes available. And all those things are a part of the planning so it's better to build up to it."
It's Hot Press' understanding that U2 will initially announce two Croke Park shows on July 24 and 25, with the option of a third on July 27 if, as expected, those sell-out.
Fans hoping for something a little more intimate will be heartened by McGuiness' observation that: "The new O² in Dublin is not what I would call an arena, it's an amphitheatre in layout, but it has the same capacity as an arena, and it's an amazing facility. And this tour is exclusively outdoors, there will be no indoor shows, but I look forward to a tour when we will be indoors again."