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The rarity of extended mid-tour rehearsals

As we reported earlier, U2 look set to begin on-site rehearsals for their 2010 concerts tomorrow or Wednesday. The unusually long length of time of between the start of rehearsals and the first concert of the tour on 6 August 2010 - ten days assuming rehearsals begin Tuesday - has not gone unnoticed by fans. Has it happened before?

Although U2 often rehearse extensively at the first venue of a wholly new tour (or at a similar venue if the first venue is unavailable for the time required), they do not normally do such extensive on-site rehearsals before subsequent legs of the same tour. Rehearsals prior to subsequent legs rarely last longer than a couple of days. Even when there have been lengthy gaps between tour legs, rehearsals have not usually been on-site; if the band have rehearsed extensively, it has been in their own studios or otherwise privately.

When Vertigo's fifth leg began, eight months after the band last performed, only two days were spent rehearsing in Brisbane before the opening concert on 7 November 2006. In 1993, U2 had not performed for over five months when the European stadiums leg of ZooTV began on 9 May 1993 in Rotterdam, but the band did not even arrive in the Netherlands until the 6th of May, performing a semi-public dress rehearsal the next day. In these two cases, and in many others when subsequent legs were not so long after earlier ones, the band already knew the stage and how the songs and performance worked within it. As the shows were not extensively changed, not much time was needed on-site to become re-accustomed to the live setting.

The only past example of U2 rehearsing extensively on-site before the subsequent leg of a tour already under way is the third leg of ZooTV in 1992. After two arena legs, the band moved to stadiums. With only a handful of exceptions, the band had not performed in stadiums since December 1987. Consequently, although the band had less than a two month gap between legs, they sought an extensive period of on-site rehearsals to adapt the existing ZooTV show to the new and much bigger setting. The first concert of the third leg was on 12 August 1992 in East Rutherford, and in preparation, the band booked a week at Hershey Park Stadium in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Rehearsals there began on the 1st of August and culminated in a public rehearsal on 7 August 1992.

This year, the stage is unchanged from last year - as far as we know, anyway. The previous longest gap between legs, on the Vertigo Tour, did not prompt the band to rehearse any more extensively on-site than normal despite a couple of notable setlist changes. Back in May this year, it looked like the band were going to rehearse for slightly longer than normal before the original Salt Lake City date, but only slightly.

So why the break with tradition? Two reasons stand out. Firstly, Edge indicated at the time of the North American postponement that U2 were looking at doing some different songs, possibly even some brand new songs. The desire to actually do this may be reflected in the extended rehearsal time. As noted, setlist changes did not lengthen Vertigo Tour rehearsals, but this is a more complex stage requiring more forethought on performances than Vertigo, hence it could be a factor. Just look at how long it took U2 to introduce Your Blue Room to the setlist; they were rehearsing it on-site at European soundchecks in August 2009, but it did not make its live debut until 13 September 2009.

Secondly and seemingly more significantly, there is Bono's injury to contend with, which has undoubtedly been a consideration for the band. Will the show have to be adapted to make life easier on Bono and his back? Extended rehearsals on-site will allow Bono to ease back (an unintentional pun, I promise) into the live setting, and allow the band to understand how much impact there will be on the performance and what changes may need to be made. Of course, this is only speculation and other factors may be at play, but the second reason in particular seems an obvious trigger for lengthier-than-usual rehearsals.

Posted on by Axver

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