Sometimes being squeezed between 50,000 new friends and having your ears singed by the supersonic licks of an electric guitar, weird things happen.
Maybe it was the magnificent, space-age set or Bono, the lead singer of the world’s most popular rock band, proclaiming the Bay Area as the birth home of all things musically wonderful. But seeing U2 perform at its over-the-top best at O.co Coliseum a few days ago made one thing crystal clear: San Francisco needs to regain its footing in the musical world, and it has the perfect stage in “The Claw” — the other-worldly set upon which U2 has been circling the globe.
Now lest you think foreign substances (besides Irish rockers) have altered my brain, a quick history. Two years ago, U2 came up with a design for a stage so futuristic and efficient that its like has never been seen. And this four-legged thing, which deserves its nickname, has now become the most dynamic set in the music universe.
Just ask the fans, who marvel at both the size and the pyrotechnics contained within “The Claw’s” 164-foot-tall steel frame. Its video, lighting and sound components have no equal — it’s by far the largest stage ever erected — which is why it takes a crew of about 400 people to put it together over four days.
U2, which created “The Claw” as a way of overcoming the traditional appearance of outdoor concerts and allowing its fans closer to the stage, has said that it plans to donate possibly three of the set designs as permanent structures — no small offer, since they cost about $20 million to build. And now I’ve found the perfect place for one: Candlestick Park.
In this case, San Francisco’s loss could be San Francisco’s gain. The 49ers have now spent about four years claiming that they’re leaving The City that gave them their name to a place called Santa Clara, which barely has one. Much ink has been spilled on this subject, which has lingered in various forms for almost 15 years. If the 49ers want to bite the hand that has fed it, they will get served up with a “Claw” instead.
Here’s why it makes sense. The 49ers have boldly claimed they will build a new stadium 40 miles south that will cost nearly $1 billion. But the team owners have neither the financing nor the financial backing to carry off their grand plan. There’s an ongoing lockout that threatens the coming season, further diminishing their hopes. And the stadium the team currently plays in, Candlestick Park, is one of the oldest and the most decrepit stadium in the NFL, and would, under normal circumstances, be deserving of a giant wrecking ball.
The only function Candlestick would provide The City without a team is as one of the world’s largest wind tunnel laboratories. But that provides no revenue to San Francisco. There’s only one thing that could fill an empty stadium that would provide music to The City’s ears — a thought Bono summed up when he said: “Music shaped the Bay Area. And the Bay Area shaped the world.”
The new shape is a 360-degree stage with enough lighting to be seen from Mars — or at least the International Space Station, which provided one of the video montages for “Beautiful Day.”
What band wouldn’t want to come to San Francisco to experience the wonders of “The Claw”? Led Zeppelin would probably reunite just to play in it. The Rolling Stones would host their 70th birthday bashes just to jump inside it. Michael Tilson Thomas would re-record his 2,600th Mahler symphony just to hear himself in it. Katy Perry could make a giant, sugary, musical creampuff out of it. Madonna could remake herself in it.
Forget Outside Lands. Think Inside Park.
People would pay to play in it. It would be its own music festival. “The Claw” is so sweeping by itself that it could be a tourist attraction. People would be blown away — on several levels.
Bono told the crowd that U2 is talking about a tour with Bay Area music stalwarts Green Day and Metallica, a thought that should have fans reaching for their earplugs.
It all starts on a stage that has its own name.