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The harness straps pull taut under his thighs, digging into legs not used to sitting. The band bursts into "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." The screen roars into life. She's wearing a maroon Eastpak backpack and carrying a lunch bag.Less than a minute after getting the first radio call, he's ready to work. She has removed her lanyard, which is strung with badges and a BIC lighter, and taken her cigarettes out of her back pocket. "You've gotta get comfy if you're going to stay here all night," she says, dropping the lanyard and cigarettes in a plastic bowl."I'm worried about drinking alcohol." He lets the guy through. Lawson is a thickset guy with short brown hair that's gelled up in the front so it crests like a wave that drips perspiration down his forehead.His mother was a roadie for Little Richard and Chuck Berry; his birth certificate is an IA union card. But he's wearing a yellow triangular local staff badge, and what he needs is a purple triangular local staff badge. Lawson steps out of the security line and starts anxiously swiping at his phone, trying to find someone already inside to bring him out the right badge.Local 632 does lights, rigging, heavy lifting—everything but perform. Jimmy Villani's office is almost at the end of the concourse—the only thing past here is catering, and that's six floors up. To put on a show at Met Life, you go through him, and this office, which is the size of a walk-in closet. A picture of the first Joshua Tree Tour, from 1987, is taped to the wall. So no more." In the pursuit of perfection, every inefficiency becomes a problem to be solved.
" asks a security guard wearing aviator sunglasses."What kind of drinks? "I don't drink alcohol.""I'm not worried about you drinking alcohol," says Aviators. But the guard takes one look at his badge and Lawson gets the freeze-out.
And they came back today—doors opened at 5 p.m., but they were here long before that, because that is who they are—and presented their markings, the lower the better, to an employee of Live Nation, the massive touring company, and were walked in to grab a choice position at the 20-yard-line barricades directly in front of the drum kit. It's nearly all carbon fiber, light and strong—so much carbon fiber that a spool of it the width of a sidewalk would be four miles long.
U2 started the show on the 45-yard line, but four songs in they're taking center stage for the main event: their first huge record, is 30 years old and on this tour they're playing it in full. Their numbered hands are poised to clap, and make raised fists, and wave cellphones into the jet stream of the biggest touring band in the world. U2 wanted it even bigger, but they realized anything wider wouldn't fit in the football stadiums where they would play.
After all, they've been here five days in a row now. There are 12 departments of union guys—lighting, carpentry, sound, and on and on—and each wears a different color so they're easy to spot, especially during load-out, when 180 International Alliance people will be working. When Met Life was built—maybe eight miles from his house—Jimmy would still sometimes take gigs in New York City.
It took two days to build out the steel that supports the stage, another day to build the stage, and yesterday they put on a show. There's a desk and a table covered with stacks of papers, hard hats, pill bottles, tape, a newspaper. Cliffside Park is just south of the George Washington Bridge, a major traffic bottleneck that crosses the Hudson River from New Jersey into Manhattan. "I used to hate—on the way home, I can see where I live on the top of the cliffs there, but I couldn't get there.
Geiger hustles from the AV booth, an upstream salmon through the crowd, to the rear of the stage—he's standing at the base of the screen, on the band's side (out of the audience's view). But the guard balks at a long cylindrical item: a camping chair. Her black tee says, "Steel Crew." She's a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local 632.