'Cue the disco ball…'
"There are seven steps that each turn on a different part of the song…" Cathleen Falsani climbs into a Trabant as fans get a special preview of the multi-media Zoo Station exhibit, accompanying U2:UV at Sphere.
About a hundred delighted U2 fans had the run of the new Zoo Station exhibit at The Venetian© resort in Las Vegas during a special Zoootopia-hosted preview party Wednesday evening — a day before the multimedia feast for the senses opens to the public today and two days before opening night of U2:UV at Sphere.
Zoo Station is a cutting-edge, interactive love letter developed specifically for U2's legion of loyal fans in collaboration with Gavin Friday, the band's longtime Creative Director. It's intended to serve as a central destination and hub for fans to congregate, celebrate, indulge in a little retail therapy, and be immersed in the sights, sounds, and feel of the band's more than four decades of musical and creative history.
Mission accomplished, Mr. Friday. As fans began arriving through the exhibition entrance, which is designed to look like Zoologischer Garten (aka 'Zoo Station') — an actual train station in Berlin's city center not far from Hansa Studios where the band recorded much of Achtung Baby — there were many hugs and a few happy tears as friends reunited for the first time since the end of the The Joshua Tree tour in December 2019.
More than a few fans stood almost reverentially in front of a retrospective of photographer Anton Corbjin's work with the band that greets visitors as they enter the two-floor exhibition space, while others quickly headed to the U2 Pop Up Shop to snap up limited-edition products made exclusively for the Zoo Station experience.
But belle of the ball must be the Trabants — the East German cars that symbolized for U2 the epic changes that were happening in early-1990s Europe and also feels like a tip of the hat to the sweeping changes — good and bad — that we're living through today.
A life-size Trabant, which we're told still is in working order — it was literally driven into the exhibit space, according to Darwin Layco, a Vibee brand ambassador who served as docent for fans who were able to get behind the iconic automobile that featured prominently in the band's Zoo TV tour — is parked near the entrance and fans are invited to climb inside.
"Gas, brake, clutch, then flip, flip, flip, flip," Layco patiently instructed one technologically challenged fan (Me.)
"There are seven steps that each turn on a different part of the song," he said of the Cold War-era Trabant that's been retrofitted to play 'Trying to Throw Your Arms Around the World.'
"If you press them all at the same time…"
Cue the disco ball in the back seat.
Ronnie and Terry Kirksey of Colorado Springs made a b-line for the 'Trabi' and took it for a virtual spin almost as soon as they walked wide-eyed through the doors of Zoo Station, so named for the first track on U2's Achtung Baby album and the nickname given to the Zoologischer Garten train station in Berlin.
"We've been planning this for two years," Ronnie Kirksey began to say when she was interrupted by a small drone — aka 'The Fly' — as it whizzed past the Kirkseys and then flew through the open doors of the Trabi. "THAT IS AWESOME! What a good driver"
Like many on hand Wednesday evening, the Kirkseys gained admission to the preview party when they purchased a Vibee VIP package for opening night.
"I'm looking forward to whatever they want to play for us, for the fans," Terry Kirksey said. "Whatever feeling they want to pass on to us through particular songs, whatever they choose and however they put it together, will be great."
When seven-year-old Krishna Kapila goes to see the show at Sphere with his parents, Kush and Sadhya, and his brother Shiv, he's hoping to hear them play his favourite song, 'One.' "I like the beat and the sound of it — it makes me want to just jump," Krishna said.
Shiv Kapila, 12, is such a fan that he wrote a book report about Bono's Surrender memoir for school last year. Like his little brother, he caught the U2 bug from his dad, Kush, who saw his first U2 show at Stade Olympique in Montreal when he was 16 and has traveled the world to see the band play over the years. On Wednesday, he was wearing the Pop Mart tour t-shirt he bought at his first show on November 11, 1997.
"We have a lot of memories with U2," Sadhya Kapila said as her boys headed to the second floor to digitally spray paint the side of a cyber-Trabant projected on a wall. "It carries forward, and that means a lot."
Collectively, mother-and-daughter superfans Kami and Martha Fuller have seen U2 live in concert 130 times. Martha, now 72, took Kami to see her first concert: U2 at the Houston Astrodome stop on the Pop Mart tour on November 28, 1997. "That night literally changed my life," Kami Fuller said, explaining that she decided to go into the music business then and there. She's a tour booker and is missing the first two dates of her band, the Swedish electro-band, to attend the first two nights of U2:UV at the Sphere on Friday and Saturday with her mom.
The Fullers, whose U2 travels have taken them to shows as far away from Martha's home in Waco, Texas as Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore, were all smiles as they imagined what the band has in store for fans inside the 580,000 square-foot, 366-foot-tall Sphere. They've got GA tickets for the opening night, and Martha has a seat for night two.
"I just hope I wind up on Edge's side," Martha, a retired schoolteacher said, smiling shyly. "I saw his son Levi's band play in Austin last week. I went by myself." [CF2]