THE STAGE IS SET: A STADIUM TRANSFORMED
Mike Ross, Edmonton Sun, July 12, 1997
Randall Fraser doesn't mind being a cog in the machine - especially when it's creating one of the biggest concert spectacles in history.
Fraser is a member of the local site crew for U2's PopMart tour, which lands in Edmonton on Saturday and Sunday.
With three stages leap-frogging their way across the continent, moved by 75 trucks, 16 buses, a 50-seat 727 and a total of more than 450 personnel, PopMart is a massive project that's being handles with military precision.
Hundreds of hard-hatted workers were busy putting up the stage in Commonwealth Stadium yesterday, preparing for tommorrow's arrival of the sound and lighting equipment from Winnipeg (where U2 plays tonight) along with the mirror-ball lemon, the giant olive, the miles of disco rope lighting, the world's largest TV...and, oh yeah, the musicians.
"Go here, do this, go here, do this, wait," is how Fraser describes his work, which mostly consists of placing and removing hundreds of sheets of plywood so the cranes required to move the steel rigging don't chew up on the football field.
"It's pretty good, actually," Fraser says of his job. "I'm excited about the theatrics and the production of these shows. I mean, I like U2, I wouldn't say they're my favorite band in the world, but I like the big spectacle. Just to see how they put together this bif is fascinating. They're very organized."
Former Edmonton native Dave Clarke is the site co-ordinator for the PopMart tour. As such, he's responsible for everything from booking forklifts to making sure Bono has enough brown M&Ms. He says it takes about five 12-hour days to assemble the PopMart stage, the biggest he's ever dealt with.
"It's pretty close to the Rolling Stones," he said. "It's probably marginally bigger."
Dealing with so many outdoor shoes, the big question Clarke always gets is the about the weather.
Yesterday's media tour of the site was thwarted by a sudden thunder shower that came just as the crews were wrestling the giant golden arch into place on top of the stage.
The only problem with the weather so far, Clarke says, was in Washington, D.C., where a severe downpur shorted out the giant TV. It's since been weatherproofed.
Short of a tornado, the show will go on - rain or shine.
"If we get severe weather, we'll have to reassess at the time," said Clarke.
"But the weather forecast looks good. We're expecting nice nights."
"I'm an optimist. You plan for things but you don't discuss them. It's like jinxing yourself. We deal with the weather."
"The band will put on a performance and we'll have a stage ready for them."
POP HITS 'PEG (cp)
Irish superband hauls its PopMart megatour off the beaten concert path and into Winnipeg tonight for its first Canadian date of a global foray that has failed to match expectations.
A packed house of 50000 - many from Sasketchewan, Northwestern Ontario and states in the Upper Midwest - is anticipated for a Winnipeg Stadium spectacle.
The band has said it wanted to explore smaller Canadian cities to give core fans a chance to see U2. Guitarist the Edge says bigger fans live in smaller places, small-town fans are more receptive and playing there is more fun.
Lead singer Bono, the Edge and the rest of U2 play at Commonwealth Stadium Saturday and Sunday before leaving Canada.
Pop last week sat at No. 22 on the Canadian retail chart.