All indications are that Bono is ready to rock and fully recovered after back surgery that sidelined him for two months. Now, U2 is set to crank up its massive, record-setting 360 tour tomorrow night in Turin, Italy.
"Things have gone very, very well," U2 manager Paul McGuinness told Billboard.biz in a phone interview last night from Turin, where he had just watched the band rehearse the entire show on stage. "We did a full run-through, with no breaks, straight through the show, and Bono was moving very well," McGuinness said. "He's fit."
The 360 tour staging, known as "the Claw," along with the crew, and promoter Live Nation's team, have been in Turin for about 10 days, according to tour producer Arthur Fogel, chairman of Live Nation Global Touring. "The band's been here about a week, they've been rehearsing and doing run-throughs on the stage the last few nights," says Fogel. "Everything came back together really efficiently and everybody's in great spirits, glad to be back at it, and the band's sounding great."
The production made it to Europe by way of Salt Lake City, Utah, where 360 had been set to resume June 3 before Bono's injury. "Bono's doing just fine," says Fogel. "He's been working hard on his rehab, doing quite a bit of work on that every day. He's looking good on stage, he sounds great. We're ready to go on that front."
Likewise, "the Claw" is ready to go. "All the pieces are here," says McGuinness, adding that other 360 productions are on the ground in Frankfurt and Hanover, Germany. The size and logistics of the staging necessitates three sets that are hopscotched across the continent.
On July 13, Live Nation announced that all 16 postponed North American dates had been rescheduled, a monumental task for a tour of this magnitude. "We went at it pretty hard and came up with a routing fairly quickly," says Fogel. Those North American shows had moved about 1 million tickets and would have grossed approximately $100 million.
"I have to say that the buildings were incredibly cooperative, and we got it together pretty quickly and were able to get it announced," Fogel said, adding that announcing the rescheduled North American shows prior to Europe beginning was a priority. "Pretty remarkably, considering the number of tickets sold, there were very few refunds. And of the tickets refunded, probably a third of them have been resold since we announced the new dates."
McGuinness says that Live Nation "did an amazing job at rerouting the tour so that we were able to perform in the buildings we had originally booked, a real piece of skill by [LN Global Touring COO] Gerry Barad and the rest of the Live Nation people," he says. "We got an incredible amount of cooperation from the building managers and sports teams. There were a lot of people involved in getting it together, and I'm very pleased with the results. We're talking about over a million ticket buyers, and they will all be sitting in the seats they originally bought, albeit rather later."
The run through Europe, where U2 began 360 last year, includes 22 shows through Oct. 8 in Rome. Most of the markets will be new to this tour, though the band is returning to Paris where it sold out two Stade de France dates last year. Depending upon currency fluctuations, the European run will end up grossing more than $120 million and move about 1.25 million tickets.
Last year, 360 grossed more than $311 million and sold more than 3 million tickets, according to Billboard Boxscore. Had the North American dates taken place, U2 would have come very close this year to topping the $558 million generated by the Rolling Stones' 2005-2007 Bigger Bang tour, the highest grossing tour of all time, according to Boxscore.
The all-time gross record will probably come next year for U2, or perhaps sooner. Neither Fogel nor McGuinness would confirm speculation that the band will head to Australia and New Zealand for a series of shows following Europe.
Either way, McGuinness expects U2 to set the record and he believes it will stand for a while, given the 360-degree configuration that the 360 tour allows, a first for stadiums. The tour will likely end up grossing close to $600 million when all is said and done.
"The figures will probably be unbeatable, unless somebody else does a tour that increases the capacities of the buildings by 20% these records we're setting will stand for a long time," says McGuinness.
The size of the capacities allowed U2 to price approximately 10,000 seats per show at about $30 U.S.