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From Sun Magazine: Q&A -- Going full circle with U2

MusicU2 (music group)BonoWillie WilliamsThe Rolling Stones (music group)Bon Jovi (music group)

U2's June 22 concert at M&T Bank Stadium is inarguably the biggest show Baltimore will have all year. The superlative applies not only because no other headliner approaches the band's supernova-sized star power, but also literally: The show, part of the band's 360 tour, is of unprecedented size and scope. Its centerpiece is a circular, four-legged stage that can support nearly 200 tons and allows for the namesake 360-degree view. It carries a video screen that, when open, is 14,000 square feet. The production is so intimidatingly large it requires hundreds of staffers to work over several days to build and then dismantle the stage. Craig Evans, the tour director, says the tour, already the most financially remunerative of all time, has altered the way stadium concerts are presented.

Q: This is not your first tour with the band. How does 360 compare to PopMart or even the most recent tour, Vertigo?

It's a lot more ambitious. It has set a standard of size and complexity that the industry has never seen before. I say that, having toured with the Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi and a bunch of others. It has done everything in such a custom level that no one had ever considered taking because what it makes you do is commit to selling 360 shows. And there's not many bands that could do that. Given U2's history, it was a reasonable gamble and risk.

Q: Explain what the name of the tour refers to.

The show allows the viewers an unobstructed view of all corners of the stadium. 360 refers to the fan experience and also to the band's view of the audience. They can see fans in all directions. In a normal stadium system, the band just looks forward. This one is a consistent, full 360-degree view.

Q:When the show was conceived, what was the overriding goal? To break records?

The first was conceived at the final show of the Vertigo tour, [in 2006] in Honolulu. Bono and [tour designer] Willie Williams were walking out the stadium, and Bono said, "Is there anyway we could play to the entire stadium?" The answer was yes, but it was a matter of making it happen.

Q: How big is the show, and how long does it take to set up?

It's its own city in a manner. We have three stages, and we leapfrog them [from city to city] to keep up with the schedule. I don't use the word ambitious often, and I don't use it lightly because I don't know that anyone has been this ambitious. But to take a stadium show that normally seats 55,000 and make it for 88,000 takes a lot of work. You have a day to set up a flooring system. The steel systems [for the stage] take three days to set up. One day of production — installing sound, video, lights and stage. One day for show day — sound checks, etc. And two days to take it all down and out. It's a total duration of eight days.

Q: The show was scheduled to come to Baltimore last year, but it eventually fell through. Was there something that made it happen at M&T this year?

The original tour contained 16 shows. There were a couple of markets that had huge demands and didn't fit into the schedule. Baltimore was one of them. We really wanted to come back. We're traveling from Anaheim to Baltimore. It was quite a jump to make it happen. But the response has been tremendous. In Baltimore, we'll end up playing to about 70,000 people.

erik.maza@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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MusicU2 (music group)BonoWillie WilliamsThe Rolling Stones (music group)Bon Jovi (music group)
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