“Curiouser and Curiouser!” cried Alice.
Original story (u2wanderer.org) by Christopher Jenkins (2015-06-24)
[Photos updated August 9, article updated July 5]
Live performance is the breathing of life into an album, often through the band’s re-creation of the songs, and sometimes through a detail in a song introduction or a prop like a white flag. With ZOOTV, the extension of ideas and concepts – some only hinted at on Achtung Baby, or only inherent in the tour production itself — grew beyond simple props and simple introductions into more elaborate set design, use of video, audience interaction from the B-stage to the ZOO confessional, and the development of characters like the Mirrorball Man and MacPhisto. Symbols, allusions, and Easter eggs appeared as the tour progressed. For casual fans they may have been just part of the theatre of a rock show, but for others they were a fresh draw toward possible meaning and something to talk about with other fans. U2 tours have become an art to themselves ever since.
The Innocence and Experience tour is no different, and its scripted visuals provide much for fans to reflect on. There is a coherence to the narrative of the set and the visuals that is new. Two sets of props, that are dwarfed by the screens and easy for fans to miss, require fans to come together for a fuller picture of what the band is presenting. The first is the “confetti” – various torn pieces of paper that fall over the stage and crowd in a fairly tight area from the main stage and along the walkway, not reaching as far as the E-stage. According to Willie Williams, there are “eight confetti machines that shower the audience with pages from Ulysses, Lord of the Flies, The Psalms, and Alice in Wonderland.”[ i] Willie quotes Bono: “When they fire-bombed the library in Sarajevo, pages from books rained down on the city for days. Words, poems, sentences, all mixed up, fell into people’s hands. Do you think we could recreate that?”[ii] For the audience, the overall effect may simply be part of a rockshow, of simulated debris from the car bombing played out on the stage, of an allusion to the Dublin bombing in which a newspaper stand was blown up – “A newspaper stand was blown into the air past me and the newsboy next to it just disappeared in front of my eyes,”[iii] and the aftermath described as “walking into ‘Dante’s Inferno’ as dust and debris fell over blood and scattered limbs.”[iv] Or, the effect may come from some other personal attachment – in Boston, perhaps the Marathon bombing.[v]
The second set of props drawing attention is the books Bono began tearing up and throwing into the audience starting with the second show in Phoenix. This video from sjgomez gives a nice view of the confetti falling around Adam and the main stage starting at ~3:45, while Bono walks back to the main stage ripping and tossing books at ~4:32. Another video, from Harpreet Walia, shows the confetti falling from the ceiling over the crowd around the main screen starting at ~4:00, and Bono rips and throws books throughout – apparently he starts near the end of Raised by Wolves and continues through Until the End of the World. The books are placed on stage before the show starts with a pile on one side of the E-stage and another pile on the walkway. We’ll hold off on discussing the books until a later article, in part because information is sparse, and begin with the confetti.
The confetti may have varied slightly from show to show, but the picture is far from clear yet. At least one person reports that copies of Bono’s handwritten lyrics for “Invisible” were in the confetti at the first show of the tour in Vancouver[vi], and on other dates blank paper seems to have been at least part of the mix. So far, pages from Ulysses and Lord of the Flies haven’t turned up, though they are reputedly among the books Bono has thrown from the stage. In general though, there are three types of confetti, individual pages torn in two from: 1) Alice in Wonderland featuring Sir John Tenniel’s illustrations on white paper 2) Psalm’s from Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” translation of the Bible on beige paper, and 3) Cantos from Rev. Henry Francis Cary’s translation of Dante Alighieri’s Paradiso on off-white paper. Blank pages are of the three types used for these printed pages – white, off-white, and beige.
Our initial focus here is with assembling the pages from Alice in Wonderland based on the pictures fans have provided online. The pages are printed on only one side, and each features one of the illustrations by Sir John Tenniel. From 53 fragments, we’ve been able to fully or partially assemble 16 different pages.
Two observations on the specific text of the pages, working from The Annotated Alice The Definitive Edition. First, no expertise at distinguishing editions is claimed on our part, however, there are at least two possible clues to the edition the text was derived from: 1) it routinely drops the initial apostrophe in “Wo’n’t” to give “Won’t,” and 2) the reference to [Pg7] on the page with the “Drink Me” picture, and similar references to [Pg12] on the Pool of Tears page with Alice splashing about and to [Pg33] on the page with the Duchess. Second, the text in some cases is edited. The most extreme example may be with “Page 15,” which uses an illustration from Chapter 11 and text that comes in fragments from the narrative of Chapter 12 with a few excursions for specific phrases into Chapter 11 and either Chapter 7 or 9.
The sixteen pages are presented with a first line consisting of a Page number, the number and title of the Chapter the Tenniel illustration is found in, plus a bracketed working title that helped in assembling the pages. A rough double line / series of equal signs is used to indicate where there appears to be a confirmed top or bottom edge of the page. Note that the chapter number and title may be repeated after a double line / page edge if it actually appears on the top of the page. Hyphens and “torn” (—-torn—-) is used to indicate where there isn’t a confirmed top or bottom edge of a page, and also where a line of text appears incomplete due to a tear. In a few spots likely missing words are presented in red, though, given the editing mentioned above, they are presented with caution.
In the list of sources for the “page” fragments, the illustration number corresponding to the Tenniel illustration is given for each “page” (for all forty-two illustrations, see http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/114). Also, the full list of forty-two Tenniel illustrations has been used to generate a frequency distribution for the fragments.
We’d ask that you help us both further our efforts and help us keep the process transparent, free and open to all fans by uploading additional photos you may have of confetti fragments, tagging them as “U2 confetti” (or “U2 thrown book”, as may be the case) in the u2wanderer.org or U2.com forums. We’d also love to hear your thoughts on the confetti & the books in the forums.
Part I: “Curiouser and Curiouser!” cried Alice. Part II: Dante’s Paradiso from the Skies Part III: “You got my head filled with Psalms, You got my shoelaces undone”
[iii] “When I close my eyes, you disappear” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/may/17/newsid_4311000/4311459.stm)
[v] Wikipedia: Boston Marathon Bombing
© Christopher Jenkins and Aaron Sams, 2015.