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U2 ‘claw’ gets a grip on Croke Park ahead of homecoming gig

AS A live band, U2 are used to making gargantuan statements of intent, as evidenced by their Zoo TV and Pop Mart tours.

Nothing the band has attempted before compares, though, to the giant claw-like edifice which will be the band’s stage for their homecoming concerts starting tomorrow night.

The Claw
The elaborate stage for the U2 concerts taking shape at Croke Park

Standing 60 metres tall, it is nearly as high as the stands surrounding it on three sides at Croke Park. The four sides of the claw extend across a third of the pitch.

A small army of crew were yesterday putting in place the lighting and sound, and sweeping rainwater from the stage area which is dwarfed by the roof overhead.

The set is meant to achieve a sense of intimacy allowing the audience to get close to the band, yet also creating a sense of scale.

“It is the biggest of all time. It is bigger than anything U2 or The Rolling Stones have done previously,” said tour director Craig Evans.

He added the band had been talking about playing their home town for a “long, long time”.

Mr Evans declined to say how much the stage set-up has cost, but it was “more than I would be thinking about”.

U2, he explained, think about what they want from their live gigs and then think about the costs afterwards.

“I’ve never seen them consider it from that point of view [money]. It was about doing what it takes to provide the show for the fans,” he said, though he conceded their 360 tour was “still a very successful business”. The concert will have the biggest video screens for a concert and a specially designed sound system. Despite the technological wizardry, the challenge of playing fully in the round has been defeated by the layout of Croke Park because the terraced Hill 16 end presents health and safety issues.

“We looked at every option we could to play the full 360° show that we have been taking to every stadium,” said Evans. “Unfortunately, with the power and the access that goes into that area, and the safety and sound requirements, it simply does not allow us to do it.” However, fans will be able to go to the pitch area at the back of the stage giving a semblance of the band playing in the round.

Gardaí have issued warnings about traffic restrictions around Croke Park which are likely to be particularly heavy for tomorrow and Monday’s concerts because it coincides with rush-hour. They are also warning of potential heavy volumes on Monday when Ikea opens in Ballymun.

Though fans are coming from all over the world, the concerts tomorrow and Monday are not yet sold out. However, the Irish Hotels’ Federation is reporting the busiest weekend of the year in the capital with most hotels booked out.

The forecast is not good, and fans are urged to bring their rain gear. Heavy showers are forecast for tomorrow evening.

The concerts have raised the ire of local residents because of the concerts and the disruption involved in constructing and dismantling the stage.

Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna said they were talking to residents. “We are trying to limit the impact these concerts will have and those discussions are ongoing. We are very conscious this is having a huge impact on residents,” he said.

Stage facts: the 360˚ tour

  • U2 have three custom-built “claw” stages for their tour.
  • While one is in use, another is being dismantled and a third is being constructed for the next concert venue.
  • The stage designer is Willie Williams, who has been with U2 since 1982. Mark Fisher serves as architect.
  • A total of 189 trucks transport the stages around. There are 380 drivers and 12 buses.
  • The U2 entourage constitutes 550 people.
  • The video screens weigh 56 tonnes.
  • The claw-like edifice can take 165 tonnes of equipment freeing up more pitchside space for fans.

- irishtimes.com