The tour, with a daily running cost of $850,000, arrived on six 747 jets to be assembled by a crew of 130.
“You compare a tour by the number of trucks they use,” production manager Jake Berry said. “The Rolling Stones ran 46 trucks. We are running 55. This is the biggest.”
The centrepiece of U2-360 is a so-called claw, an imposing bug-like structure that houses 200 tonnes of light, sound and video magic.
U2-360 stage designer Willie Williams said: “The breakthrough was to make it so big that it becomes part of the stadium. But, in a funny way, it’s invisible because the performance area is not connected to the structure.”
Indeed, the stadium of fans surrounding the claw and stage become part of the show, too.
“It’s a cross between a rock show and a sporting event because you can see the other people,” Williams says.
U2 redefined stadium rock with their ZooTV and PopMart tours. But U2 bassist Adam Clayton says U2-360 is revolutionary. “We know it’s a game changer,” he said. “These football stadiums can be quite imposing for music. But this has a different atmosphere. There is humour to it, almost something ridiculous about it. “You think ‘How is this going to work?”’
In terms of box office receipts, U2-360 is working incredibly well.
It took $123 million to be the highest grossing tour of 2009.
A back injury flattened the band’s lead singer, Bono, and tour profits, for most of this year.
U2-360 resumed in August with sellout dates across Europe. US dates are scheduled next year.
U2’s manager, Paul McGuinness, confirmed the $850,000 daily running cost of U2-360. “That’s the overhead cost of being out here whether we play or not,” McGuinness said. “It’s important we play regularly. There is a discipline involved.
“Even though we’re spending a lot of money, we’re making a lot of money.”
McGuinness knows U2-360 is a new model for stadium rock. “We’ve always done landmark productions, or so we think,” he said. “Being able to play in the round, in stadiums, is the holy grail.”
Put simply, in the round means up to 30,000 more seats, which equals lower ticket prices.
“I can assure you the costs of putting this show on are the highest in history,” McGuinness said.
“But the audience looks at the show and can see what we spent the money on.
“They see an incredible spectacle.”
Clayton agreed: “There is a financial risk when you do something that hasn’t been done before. It’s a bit like inventing the wheel.
“We’ve now proved you can do a show by hanging light and sound off a structure. But to build that structure is a very high price. You have to make sure your tour is doing all right.” Clearly, U2 are astute businessmen.
But McGuinness said the numbers must never get in the way of creativity.
“The reason for being good in business is so you can do what you like creatively,” McGuinness said.
“By and large, we have succeeded. There aren’t too many instances of the business getting the better of the creative process.”
Berry said U2-360 took the creativity of stadium rock to an end game – purely because of cost. “It’s like the Beijing Olympics,” he said.