U2 "Steels the Show" and Keeps One Jet Lagged Soul Awake

Ever since getting back from a few days of R&R in August, I've been going non-stop, traveling to the West Coast twice and the UK once. The schedule shows no sign of letting up, but fortunately, being married to someone who likes to head out and do things, the social calendar is still in good order. The weekend before last, I caught the first flight out of Heathrow to head back to Chicago, attempting to preserve as much of Sunday as possible with the family. Usually after such trips, I tend to fall asleep in the early evening hours. But that night, my wife had plans for me in the form of the U2 concert in Chicago.

Now, saying no to U2 under any circumstance would be difficult (even if, like me, you don't particular care for rock compared to other genres, you've got to respect The Edge's rhythm on the guitar). But if there was ever a case to bail, it was after a crazy week on the road overseas and the "groundhog day" effect of flying back and living the same day twice. Still, I persevered and made the show, which I must admit was more spectacle than concert given the massive stage set-up.

My wife, Lisa, being the analytical sort, decided to carry out her own analysis of the cost of the massive "Claw". But first a few facts about it (before getting into the procurement angle): "The individual elements of the legs themselves weigh 1.5 and 3 tons. The whole thing weighs 220 tons, not counting the 90 ton steel ballasts ... The structure is approx 164 feet high, the set takes five days to load in and two days to load out, there are three steel crews for the tour, one for each of the 3 stages." Moreover, "It takes 38 trucks of Stageco steel per set with 25 Stageco crew. The total production crew requires 250 people."

Lisa pegs the cost of the three sets making their way in various stages around the world at $75 million. Given U2's Irish/EU -- not to mention green -- bent, you might think that the materials were all sourced locally. But in fact, "some of the steel parts came from Eastern Europe," Lisa writes. But more important, was all of this metals spend worth it? Someone commenting on Lisa's column suggested that one of his co-workers "testified to the "great spectacle" effect produced at this concert. She was mesmerized by the structure of steel mandibles which was only one element of a multimedia experience. Steel, in a very supportive way, facilitated stimulating the audience's senses."

I can personally say that I managed to stay awake for nearly 26.5 hours thanks to the show. Now, whether the steel itself stole the show alone, I can't say. But given the jetlag, I'm not sure if without the spectacle of it, if I could have lasted through the show. Which was evidenced by my falling asleep on the bus on the way home. All in all, I'd suggest U2's investment is a great example of why you sometimes need to spend more than you might otherwise in order to delight your fans. Not to mention pulling in what must have amounted to a record-setting ticket hall in some venues. Alas, I did have one beef with the show. And that's I could not bring myself to spend $10 bucks -- that's right, ten greenbacks -- on a pint of Guinness at the concession. Thankfully, personal spending habits have their limits even when it comes to going to a show.

Jason Busch

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