Willie Williams Explains Everything

26 Jun 2001
U2 Show Designer Willie Williams on the look and feel of the Elevation tour, bringing 'band and audience as close together as possible.'

On the arena: When you're in a stadium you take every stick of the environment with you, so quite literally the sky's the limit. When you're indoors at an arena, you can't play with that same sort of scale. But the plus side, of course is that the band and the audience are under one roof. So it's a much more intimate surrounding.

On the goal of Elevation: The overall goal really was to design a concert situation which brought the band and the audience as close together as possible. Both physically and emotionally. That was sort of the mandate that came down from day one.

On the stage: The most important design element is obviously the stage itself. And we spent a lot of time working out how to make the catwalks and the ramp and the area with the audience inside the stage. Logistically, that was all tricky, because of fire marshals and entrances and exits and that kind of thing. So that was pretty tough, but once we cracked that part of the design, everything else came from there and followed. Because once the band can get out there, the rest is easy.

On the visuals: I think in terms of the visuals, it was quite clear that this time around, I wanted times when basically I just get out of the way, and we let the band do it. A lot of the show is very simply lit, and there's no special effects or anything like that. But then of course there are other times when you have to push all the buttons. U2 now have a reputation for spectacular stage shows, and so you can't leave the audience with nothing. I think we got the balance of that right.

On his lighting style: Not just with U2, but generally the way I approach lighting a show tends to be more subtle than most rock and roll light shows you would see. I like to build very strong, bold, simple lighting looks, and pretty much leave them there. My thought has always been, if you go and see a theater show, or you go and see an opera or something, and you come out talking about the lighting, then something is terribly wrong. My goal is to just create the right kinds of environments and the right kind of moods for what the band is doing. Obviously there are moments where there are big lighting effects.


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