Rocks Off's Self-Guided Tour of U2's Stage Setup, and Other Fun Stuff We Learned About the Most Gargantuan Tour In Rock History

"At a certain point, the only thing you can compare it to is the Stones. I've done the Stones. This is bigger."

That's Jake Berry, Production Director for U2's 360 Tour, talking about the gargantuan "Claw" configuration stagehands were in the final, well, stages of completing at Reliant Stadium Tuesday afternoon at a media preview of the tour. This "Claw" is one of three custom-built for the biggest tour - in terms of size and attendance - in the biggest band in the whole wide world's whole career.

Paradoxically, the stage's size makes the cavernous Reliant Stadium - anyone who's been to a rodeo concert there, where you practically need binoculars to see the performers on the rotating stage, knows what we're talking about - seem a little more like Toyota Center. By going bigger than ever, U2 hope to achieve the intimacy with their live audiences the band is almost as famous for as Edge's signature guitar tones.

Rocks Off's favorite part of the afternoon, though, was our own little self-guided tour through the north loading dock of Reliant Stadium - where we were wrongfully directed by a (well-meaning, we're sure) Reliant Park employee - into its concrete bowels as golf carts, Gators and forklifts zipped by and finally out onto the floor, where we walked the entire circumference of the stadium, marveling at the massive stage (as Bono might say, it's fookin' huge) before finally catching up with our camera-toting colleagues by the two-story soundboard, which is itself bigger than a lot of Montrose bungalows.

At no point during our little walk did anyone with a clipboard, laminate, walkie-talkie or security shirt stop us to ask who we were or what we were doing back there. It just confirmed one more time what we've learned from over a decade of covering the concert business: as long as you look like you know what you're doing, you can pretty much do anything you want. Sometimes we really do love this job.

Some more fun facts about tonight's 360 tour:

  • The roof of Reliant Stadium will in fact be open for tonight's show, unless it rains. As of 3 p.m., our pals at Channel 39 were forecasting partly cloudy skies, with lows in the mid-70s and winds out of the south at 5-10 mph. No mention of rain.

  • The steel "Claw" structure is 90 feet tall, with the center pylon - which grazes the Reliant roof - stretching up 180 feet, or almost as high into the heavens as Bono's ego. At U2's show at the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington Monday, they had to move the infamous "Jerrytron" scoreboard to accomodate the structure. Dallas sucks.

  • The video screen weighs 54 tons, has the same square footage as two doubles tennis courts and consists of more than 1 million pieces.

  • The stage takes 48 hours to dismantle and load out, which means it will be long gone by the time the Texans return home to lose to the San Francisco 49ers October 25.

  • U2 visited Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center Tuesday afternoon, and rented out the Big Top Tuesday night for their crew party, and the band showed up. Rocks Off lives above the goddamn bar and still couldn't get in.

  • U2 will return to North America next summer for more 360 stadium shows. Since they hit Dallas and Houston this leg, hello San Antonio!

  • None of this will matter a lick once the band kicks into "Breathe" at about 8 p.m. this evening.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray