U2 does not do anything small, as the band's takeover of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this week has demonstrated.
The conversion of the Dome from football stadium to concert venue commenced over the weekend, as crews started covering the artificial turf with plastic flooring five days before Thursday's show.
A typical arena production usually requires no more than 10 hours to build. A stadium-sized spectacle like U2's demands much more time.
Craig Evans, who has overseen U2 tours for 20 years, gave members of the media an overview of the production at the Dome on Wednesday.
Not seeing the video below? Click here.
A long-ago performance aboard a New Orleans riverboat changed U2 forever.
The stage and its steel superstructure were already in place, having required more than two days to erect. Three identical versions of the superstructure leapfrog around the country so that the band can play a show every two nights.
Vocalist Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. flew into New Orleans late Tuesday night after performing at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
But the convoy of 30 semi-trucks containing their sound system, massive video wall, lighting and instruments wasn't scheduled to pull into the Dome until late Wednesday afternoon.
The band's well-honed, 84-member stage crew would need 6½ hours to finish building the production.
Don’t be surprised if your ears are ringing more than usual.
On Thursday morning, technicians will tweak the sound and lights. In the afternoon, the musicians will turn up for a sound check.
"They are absolutely involved in every aspect of this show, from beginning to end," Evans said.
U2's current tour celebrates the 30th anniversary of its watershed 1987 album "The Joshua Tree." Over the course of 33 concerts in North and South America and Europe, the band will play to 1.7 million fans.
The Dome's capacity for Thursday's concert is about 39,000. Unlike when U2 last played the Superdome, in 1997, the venue is expected to be nearly full this time.
Generally, U2's elaborate tours are planned at least two years in advance. But the idea for the "Joshua Tree" anniversary tour was hatched in December, Evans said, leaving a scant six months to plan and build a production that "pushes the boundaries of technology."
The most obvious example of that technology is the 8,000-square-foot video wall, reportedly the largest and highest-resolution LED screen ever taken on the road. Standing 40 feet tall and 200 feet wide, it consists of more than 1,000 individual panels. Over 1.5 million clips, affixed by hand, are used to attach decor to the video wall.
The sound system is also cutting-edge. Sound will be delayed slightly in certain speakers to account for the distance it must travel in the vast stadium. The entire system is designed to be loud but clear, to have "fidelity without the power that hurts," Evans said.
The goal is to have "a lot of rock 'n' roll feel, but clarity, so you don't go home with your ears ringing. It's what we believe is the clearest stadium sound you'll hear," he said.
U2 has not performed a full concert in New Orleans since the "PopMart" tour 20 years ago. But collectively and individually, the band has visited for special occasions. In 2002 at the Superdome, U2 was the halftime entertainment for the first Super Bowl after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Four years later, U2 teamed with Green Day and a bevy of local musicians for the "Domecoming," the reopening of the Dome after Hurricane Katrina. The Edge co-founded the philanthropic Music Rising organization, which helped churches, schools and individual musicians replace instruments.
That history will not be lost on the musicians when they take the stage Thursday night.
"To be able to come back to a city that they have supported and enjoyed and developed an affinity with is a special opportunity," Evans said.
"They've long maintained that artists and influences from New Orleans have affected their music as they've developed. The whole connection they have to the music, the people ... this city has always been an important hub for U2."
Beck will open Thursday's show at 7:30 p.m. U2 is scheduled to arrive onstage about 9:10 p.m.
Once the final notes have reverberated around the Dome, the U2 crew will dismantle the staging in less than four hours, then pack it in the trucks for the long drive to the next show in St. Louis.
The musical options in New Orleans for the coming week include a husband-and-wife blues-rock…
Much like dates on Beyonce's tour last fall, these later dates on the "Joshua Tree" stadium tour were scheduled around football games. "We've found these little windows where we can fit in between NFL games," Evans said. "We were happy to find this one."
After U2 departs, the Superdome's staff will convert the building back into a football stadium for Sunday's noon kickoff of the Saints' home opener against the New England Patriots.
The turf covering should be removed by late Friday. "That will give us a full day to groom the turf, touch up the turf paint as needed and reinstall the Saints branding on the field walls," Superdome General Manager Alan Freeman said. "We should have no problem being ready for football on Sunday."
The Superdome will allow early-arriving U2 fans to line up along Sugar Bowl Drive starting at 7 a.m. Thursday. The Dome's doors will open at 5:30 p.m., two hours before show time.
Fans with general-admission floor tickets must enter via the Gate A ground entrance, on Poydras Street. All other ticket-holders must enter via the various Plaza-level gates.
Parking in the Dome garages and nearby Champions Garage is $20, cash only.
The Smoothie King Center box office will be open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Superdome box offices at gates B and H will be open from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
For many U2 fans, the band’s music is akin to a religious experience. The Rev. Bill Miller t…