“Frankly, if you want to open the presents early and spoil the surprise on Christmas morning, then don’t complain to me about it afterwards.” Willie Williams, U2’s Creative Director
U2 will launch the European leg of their iNNOCENCE+eXPERIENCE tour in Turin, Italy tomorrow night. I was very fortunate enough to be at the opening night of this tour back in the middle of May in Vancouver. To be among the first people in the world to see a major tour like this was a pretty great thrill, something I don’t expect to experience again in my life. It was one of the few times that I went into something pretty much completely blind. Of course there were rumours flying around of what the setlists would look like, what the stage set up would be like, but nothing was for sure. In fact when Willie Williams was asked about his favourite moment on the tour so far in this interview, he said it was the moment when the big screen (SPOILER!) comes down about 5 songs into the concert and Bono climbs up into it. He you could hear the gasps from the audience and that would be pretty tough to beat. He went on to admit that it does get a bit frustrating to plan a big show like this, only to have details leaked via social media as they play out. “I guess secrets died out with the 20th century,” he lamented. He said it was even worse with the 360 tour, since they were playing outdoor stadiums. Every time the band would soundcheck something new, twitter would explode, which was kind of funny to him, but also a little sad.
I remember during the last tour there were some fans who took vacation time around the tour and attended 3 or 4 (or more!) nights of the concert in a row, only to express disappointment online that the setlists were exactly the same each night. It bugged me when I read these comments, because I was jealous that these fans could see my favourite band so many times. I considered myself so lucky to see them TWICE over the two-year tour (Toronto in 2009 and Winnipeg in 2011). And with an incredibly complex stage, sound, light and video set up ike the 360 tour, I can only imagine that it was like trying to turn an aircraft carrier around every time you wanted to drop or add a sequence of songs. Also, come on. They are called tour rarities because they are supposed to be rare. Adding a song here or there on a special night is what makes them special. Plus: they shows are designed to be seen once for 99% of the people in the audience. It’s a little like buying tickets for a week’s worth of shows in London to see Benedict Cumberbatch play Hamlet, only to be disappointed that the play ends the same way every night.
Having said that, I HAVE been following the setlists every night of this latest U2 tour (and I fully expect to do so starting tomorrow night too.) I just find it fun, and it’s cool to see the variation from between shows. The song selection is more diverse on this tour than on any other U2 tour of recent memory. That may have to do with the “residency model” they are following this time round, where they set up camp in a city for anywhere from 2 to 8 nights. I suppose in cases like this, you COULD get fans going to multiple shows. I know I’d be tempted to get tickets to more than one night in my city if the opportunity arose. The trade-off is that the band is more settled, possibly more rested, and the structure of the i+e tour allows for a lot more “wiggle room” than other tours. Sure, you’ve got your big video and stage moments that probably can’t be changed from night to night, but there are also many moments on the b-stage (or the e-stage, if you prefer: tour nerds), for improvisation and spontaneity.
Where is all this going, you wonder to yourself?
This Friday, Disney is doing this thing called #forcefriday, where they are launching their toy line for the upcoming Star Wars movie. (Ha! You thought this blog post was about U2, but it was really about Star Wars all along. But you are TOO FAR IN to stop reading now. Might as well power through, right?)
They are calling it “Force Friday” but it’s already underway. There is some live youtube channel that is jumping between 13 cities around the world where b and even c list celebrities (and some children, but mostly adults which is kind of sad) are pretty much just opening boxes of star wars toys and showing them off for the first time.
Merchandising and Star Wars is not new. In fact, Star Wars (way back in 1977) was the first movie that really tapped into this whole “toys from the movie tie-in” thing. So you can only imagine that with almost 40 years worth of experience, they’ve gotten pretty damn good at it. Through in the muscle of Disney, and I just can’t even wrap my head around it. If this were 20 years ago, I would probably be lining up at Toys R Us tomorrow when they open to be one of the first in to grab up whatever I could.
Luckily, (and I mean this sincerely), that whole “collecting gene” has pretty much gone dormant inside me. It might be because I know I don’t have the physical space to store any of it, or maybe it’s because I know that I don’t have a lot of extra money lying around my bank account these days, or maybe it’s just because I have grown up and away from that compulsion. I don’t even collect comics anymore.
Also: come on guys. Aren’t you worried about spoilers? (Refer to Willie Williams’ quote at the beginning of this post). Sure, I’m human, and I’ve clicked on a couple of the links to the new toys. Luckily I haven’t seen anything that is TOO spoilery, but it’s only a matter of time. I already know that the shit goes down on some planet called Jakka, and that Capt Phasma is a lady and she has awesome armour. And that’s all I need to know. MORE than I should know, actually. Also: looking at some of these toys, I just think of my daughter losing some of the pieces, or breaking it 5 minutes out of the box. She is 6, and probably the perfect age for most of these toys. And yet most of these toys seem like the types of things that are meant to be kept in their boxes. I feel like I’m at the stage of fandom where I can look at this toys, or NOT look at these toys and still look forward to seeing the movie in December. What I’m trying to say here people is that I’ve grown as a person and I’ve made some meaningful progress.
Admittedly, the some of the LEGO looks great, especially Poe’s LEGO X-Wing. Is it weird to want to stick a poster of Oscar Isaac as Poe up in my office somewhere? Check out the cool colours on that X-Wing! And it comes with BB-8! Does BB-8 fit in the Astromech slot? WHY CAN’T IT BE DECEMBER ALREADY???
Wait, STOP. I’m not buying any damn LEGO or sticking up any pictures of Oscar Isaac anywhere, okay? That was just a little lapse in judgment.
Believe me, I WON’T be tuning into the Star Wars toy opening stream tomorrow on #forcefriday at all. Trust me.
You know why?
I’ll be too busy looking up U2 setlists from Turin.