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U2 travels with 'The Claw' to give all its fans a view out of this world

Imagine a four-legged beastie from the nightmares of Tim Burton: a malevolent arachnid, an advancing reptile. Now breed that sucker with a metallic hulk from the Outer Limits, something Steven Spielberg would use to wage war on the world.

Now, for the finishing touch, stick U2, perhaps the only band brazen enough to conquer this leviathan, in the middle of it all.

Are you ready to rock?

Or run screaming?

When the Dublin Four invade Raymond James Stadium tonight — as the only Florida stop on the tour — they will do so via "the biggest rock 'n' roll production to ever tour the world," says U2 360 tour director Craig Evans.

On Thursday, the 49-year-old Evans offered a sneak peek of U2's setup, which reportedly costs the band around $755,000 a day during the course of the 44-show tour. (That includes off-days, too!) The idea for the stage — dubbed "the Claw" by designer Willie Williams and architect Mark Davis and the "spaceship" by the band — came from frontman Bono, as most of U2's gaudiest ideas tend to do.

He "wanted to play in the 360-degree configuration," said Evans, "so every seat would have an intimate view of the stage."

"Intimate." That seems like an odd word to use to describe That Thing, which takes 31/2 days to build — and 11/2 to tear down. The tour employs more than 350 staffers, traveling on 114 trucks; another 1,500 local workers will be on hand to make sure it's all pulled off with panache.

The Claw — I prefer that vaguely threatening name better — stretches from Raymond James' 50-yard line to its south end zone. It spreads sideline to sideline. Inside the Claw is a 54-ton high-def circular video screen that will "share our 3D vision," Evans said. There is also a 160-meter runway for Bono to gambol and proselytize upon.

If you're looking for deep philosophical meaning behind the structure, well, don't. This is U2's first stadium tour since '97; it wanted to give fans bang for their buck, in the nosebleeds or elsewhere. The design, explains Evans, "is not so much esoteric as functional."

The basic structure is 90 feet tall, but my favorite touch is the center pylon, which is topped — at 165 feet — by a disco ball. Rest assured, that will not go unused.

For all the numbers Evans tossed out, the most impressive, and most daunting, was this one: 70,000. That, he said, is the record for attendance at Raymond James Stadium, set during this year's Super Bowl. He expects U2 to draw even more. Live Nation, the promoter of the tour, won't announce a sell-out yet — but it plans to.

Yes, the show will be majestic, but it will also be mayhem.

Be prepared.

The Claw awaits.

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.

If you go

Listen up, U2 Fans!

If you're one of the 10,000 or so with general admission tickets, the first-come, first-serve line starts at 9 a.m. HOWEVER, they won't start admitting people until 5 p.m. The temperature is expected to be a brutal 90-plus, so plan accordingly. And don't worry about not bellying up to the stage; the sight lines will be great no matter where you stand.

Ready to rock?

U2, with opening act Muse, performs at 7 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium, 4201 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets are $30-$250, if there are any left. Toll-free 1-877-598-8698; livenation.com.

U2 travels with 'The Claw' to give all its fans a view out of this world 10/08/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 9, 2009 8:16am]

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