The stage is set -- or at least the 150-foot mega-claw above the stage is set.
University of Minnesota staff opened the doors of TCF Bank Stadium to media this afternoon as Saturday's U2 concert nears. Not that a person actually needs special access inside the stadium to see the progress on the giant production, much of which can be viewed from the street thanks to its looming size. Thursday's press gathering did give TV reporters the chance to ask questions that the Star Tribune answered long ago (one even asked if there will be alcohol at the show). But a few new and/or useful questions were answered. Among them:
*What if the weather turns dangerous? Forecasters are now strongly hinting at rain and possibly severe thunderstorms on Saturday night. U of M officials confirmed that they are carefully going over evacuation plans should the weather turn bad enough, which would include moving some fans to outlying buildings since there's not enough room in the innards of the stadium to hold them all -- as they found out last year during a drum and bugle corps show there.
*What if it's just rain? The show will go on. One of the 360º Tour production managers, Rocko Reedy, said of the band, "I've seen these guys play in driving rain, and it just seems to drive up the energy level of the show." He also pointed out that the Irish foursome are generally as exposed to the elements as fans are. A gruff Irishman who has worked on five U2 tours, Reedy said, "Their feeling is, if fans are getting wet, they should get wet too." He quickly added, "It drives me nuts!"
Oh, and umbrellas are prohibited.
*What about Aquatennial fireworks? U of M officials said they did not consider the impact those fireworks on the Mississippi River might have on the concert -- about a half-mile away, a half-hour long and due to arrive half-way through U2's set. Reedy the roadie boss smiled when he learned of them: "Bring 'em on," he quipped.
*How has the concert setup gone so far? The action started on Monday right as Minnesota learned the meaning of "Heat Index," and everything is still right on schedule. One smashed finger has reportedly been the only medical concern. Reedy and other crew members not already in town arrived overnight in Minneapolis following last night's concert in East Rutherford, N.J. The whole crew is reportedly a little emotional about the fact that ours is the third-to-last show on the tour (which started in 2009!), but Reedy said Minnesotans are getting them and the band at the top of their game: "When you're on a roller-coaster ride, the best part is always right before the end."
*Is there really no alcohol? Answer still is yes.
*So how does the whole shebang look close-up? Damn impressive already. The media gathering was way up in the glassed-in suites at the top of the stadium, and the vantage point seemed great even way up there. I also walked down closer to the stage and confirmed my initial hunch that the general-admission field ticketholders -- who paid among the cheapest prices ($55 pre-fees) -- have the best seats in the house. Never mind that there are no seats.
Be sure to check out our package from Sunday's newspaper detailing the 360º Tour stage production and all the FAQs surrounding the concert. The U of M also has its own useful web guide to the ins and outs of the first-ever stadium concert (including all the roads that are out).