By Eric Shivvers: There he stood. Tall, handsome and well dressed. If I looked up quickly from my sheet of questions that I printed out in the morning, I swear I was looking at Pierce Brosnan of James Bond 007 fame. It wasn’t. The man I’m speaking of, facing a small crowd of Chicago media just a few steps below me, was Mr. Craig Evans, U2’s tour manager. I, along with sprinkling of other Chicago media, were sitting in a corporate suite, overlooking a sunbathed Soldier Field, ready to listen to Mr. Evans elevator pitch about U2’s 360 stage, which was just in its naissance of being built over his right shoulder.
I was calm as the press conference commenced. I started my audio recorder, which would capture every moment of this event. Sadly, we were competing with the overhead noise of the air conditioner system, filling the suite with cool air. Mr. Evan’s soft-spoken, yet business demeanor was being drowned out. I wanted to make sure I caught every word of Mr. Evans’ presentation so I ever so slowly increased the recording levels. I learned from previous press events that there are no second chances, no make-ups nor time-outs for technical difficulties. We were here on Craig’s time not ours.
With my camera in hand, I ripped twenty quick shutter snaps, catching Craig’s opening sermon about the 360 tour set-up. He was polished in his speech and why wouldn’t he be. I’m sure he’d done this sort of press conference on at least every other tour stop of this massive global concert tour. After all, it may have been Bono’s idea to play with forks in order to get the stage to concept but it was Craig’s responsibility to oversee the movement of the three Claw stages across the globe. His broad shoulders had to carry off this delicate dance of immensity without a hitch. We were glued, hearing the story about how his team streamlined the set-up and tear down, shaving off twenty four hours on the front end and about ten hours on the back end since the tour’s opening night two years prior.
Once Mr. Evans opened the field for questions, a couple attendees, unfamiliar with U2’s stage, let alone year and a half old tour, asked pretty general questions. I could tell, from their inquiry, we weren’t going to get any more insight than what was in the press packet, which lay at my feet, unopened. My query was going to have to dig deeper because I wasn’t here as a fan, I was here on assignment, representing the fans and getting insight that couldn’t be gotten anywhere else. I wasn’t nervous. I was poised. I wanted to know what was the one thing the band had to have backstage on this tour. I also wanted to pry and see if I could find out if local talent would join U2 onstage for Tuesday night’s show. You do know Bono likes the Smashing Pumpkins and this is the hometown of Billy Corgan? Craig stayed to script and didn’t garner us any insight on either.
As others asked about the four cranes and the footprint of the claw forming behind us, I readied myself for an appropriate bigger question, “What venue caused the most issues with the Claw?” I got my answer in a long winded story about problems with venues not having close enough parking for the trucks to unload and another tour stop where they had to repave an entry because the brick paved road was too bumpy for production, assuming he was speaking of the giant but fragile LED screen that hung above the stage. Craig said those were the small issues compared to what just happened to them in East Lansing where they had to take out sections of the concrete stadium in order to fit the four footings of the base of the stage. I was now on a roll with my questions and wanted to have fun with him. I wanted to know about the underworld and the hammocks we saw on the web, cradling sleeping crew. Craig laughed and went back to his script about how the underworld houses all of the monitors and crew during the show.
Silence filled the room, except for the errant burst of air from the air conditioning system above us. Mr. Evans asked for last questions. My sheet was taxed. A few more came to mind, but I didn’t want to hog the news conference. Craig mentioned earlier in the press conference that they were discussions about the Claw being sold as venue structures. I wanted to know if the money from these sales would go to charity. Later on in the afternoon, after the press conference, other questions came to me as Dave, my friend and fellow guest at this event, and I rode our bikes up Sheridan Road, getting in a few pedal strokes of a workout. Dave was still overwhelmed with excitement as he too was a fan of the band and saw the show in Dublin. Dave wanted to know why Blackberry’s logo was no longer prominent in the stadium? There were others too that came up in conversation between long climbs and interval sprints. As we wound down our workout, we agreed on one thing, we did what were we asked. We made sure Mr. Evans was aware that we were asking questions you fans wanted answered.