From left to right: Premier David Alward, promoter
Donald Tarlton, Mayor George LeBlanc and the
City of Moncton's economic development, tourism
and culture general manager Ian Fowler
Heavy rains turned concert site into quagmire and forced production delays
By Alan Cochrane, Times & Transcript staff
With 75,000 fans at the gate, the pressure of hosting the last show of the world's biggest rock tour and heavy rains that wouldn't seem to let up, Saturday's U2 concert was the most challenging ever.
"We were very thankful when it stopped raining, because the fans were able to enjoy a wonderful show in reasonable conditions," Ian Fowler, the City of Moncton's economic development, tourism and culture general manager, said as he flopped into a chair in the media tent after the show was over.
Heavy rains over two days had left the grassy field sopping wet and spongy. Heavy equipment rolling over it tore up the grass and threw a wrench into the tight schedules of setting up the production, the food vendors, sound checks and other aspects of the show. Saturday morning brought with it a steady downpour that continued through the afternoon. It was only at 6 p.m., just as the first band went onstage, that the rain stopped and the clouds began to clear. At times, there were spots of blue sky and sunshine, and by the middle of the U2 show, around 10:30 p.m., there were actually stars visible through holes in the clouds.
But the heavy rains made the day miserable for security guards, police and fans who were trying to do their jobs and get to where they were going. Fans waited patiently for the gates to open at 3 p.m., while media representatives sat isolated in their cars until they were allowed onto the site at 4 p.m.
This was the final show on the U2 360 tour and the concert site was set up differently, with huge metal bleachers to accommodate some 30,000 people. Fowler said this was different and a larger bleacher setup than was used for the Rolling Stones, Eagles and AC/DC.
The wet and sloppy conditions made it slippery during the day. Many people were seen slipping and falling into the mud. Medical teams used four-wheel-drive vehicles to pick up the injured and sick. There was no immediate word on whether there were any serious injuries. There were long lineups for washrooms, food and beverages. Fowler said it was a day of resolving problems and issues from many angles.
"I'm very proud of the city team from a corporate perspective. But again, the reason for our success is community," Fowler said. "You look out there and see the health care people, the RCMP, the community groups coming into clean the site. All of those components are why you're able to do this in such a small city. Look at 2005, the Rolling Stones Bigger Bang Tour was the biggest tour out there and we hosted it well. Tonight we hosted the U2 world finale, which is an honour but has a lot of pressure, a world-record tour. A city of 60,000 people having hosted the two largest rock tours in the history of music in the world, is quite something to be proud of."
With an attendance figure of 75,000, the crowd was close to that drawn by the Rolling Stones and bigger than it was for AC/DC.
"We built a city here for a day. We had to provide all the amenities of living in the city - sewer, water, public safety, food and beverage, medical, fire, electrical, security. Everything except mail delivery we probably had to provide.
"So it takes a very intricate plan and there's no question that there will be people that weren't happy or didn't have a great experience.
"There's things we could have done better, but I think when you look at the hurdles we overcame because of the elements and the minor issues that came along, we're very pleased with the final deliver and the promoters are as well."
Donald Tarlton, chairman of Donald K. Donald Productions, said the Moncton site continues to improve and show its potential for hosting huge shows. He said the natural vista of the hill and Moncton's proximity to a large audience have been keys to its success.
"One of the great things here is that the government of New Brunswick has recognized the economic impact that these concerts have on the area and they have been very supportive of the City of Moncton in funding infrastructure, as opposed to some other provinces that give the promoters money and say go play in the traffic, they do it through the City of Moncton.
"If someone wants to give me money, I'll never say no but I think it works better for the fans and everyone else, because the money being pumped into the site, you provide facilities that we don't have to go out and buy and rent for the show, which creates a budget possibility of lowering costs."
Tarlton said the economic risks of running a show like this one run into the millions of dollars. He said U2 took a big risk throughout the tour but it paid off for them. As Bono joked with the crowd Saturday night, 'enjoy it, you're paying for it.'
"It's incredible," Tarlton said. "In this business you work on very slim profit margins. People laugh. They see all these people and multiply it by $100 or $150 and say 'oh boy somebody's gettin' rich.' But I tell you, when all the people who are involved in this show line up to get their paycheque, it's a good thing there are lots of people here."
Officials will hold meetings to discuss how the shows can be improved. It was during one of these postmortem meetings after the AC/DC show that it was decided they would continue to pursue the idea of bringing U2 to Moncton.
So who might come next year?
Well, Tarlton won't say, other than hint that it could be the biggest act touring at that particular time. Rumours and speculation were circulating at the hill that it could be Eric Clapton or perhaps Rush and Van Halen.
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