U2’S LAST STAND

A safety consultant insists the decision is all about money...

U2 have been criticised by a concert safety consultant for having standing room at gigs on their 33-date US ELEVATION tour, which was announced on Tuesday (January 9).

Paul Wertheimer, owner of Crowd Management Strategies, who produced a controversial report last year claiming that almost 70 people lost their lives at concerts in 1999, said that U2’s plan to have “festival seating” – ie standing room in the centre of arenas – is “all about money, because more people can be stuffed into a space with no seats than with fixed seats”.

Unlike in the UK, standing area at US venues is uncommon. Wertheimer, who, also authored the report on the 1979 Who concert stampede in Cincinnati – where 11 fans were killed rushing into the open seating inside Riverfront Coliseum – recalled the spectre of the Roskilde tragedy and told www.sonicnet.com that U2 must think long and hard about the move.

He added: “We seem to keep relearning this lesson every year. One would have thought that Roskilde would have made SFX [tour promoters] and U2 think twice about crowd safety and crowd comfort.”

U2 have yet to respond to Wertheimer, though The Edge expressed great excitement at the arena set-up when talking to MTV’s TRL on Tuesday .

“We’ve got a thing going called ‘General Admission’ that we’ve never had before where the floor’s opened up, there’s no seats in front of the stage,” he explained. “The best seats are actually the cheapest seats in the house… right in front of us, and we’re going to elevate our mind, elevate our soul, elevate your hearts maybe.”

Meanwhile, US industry insiders feel Wertheimer is over-reacting to the standing plan. “Certainly, if there is a band that can pull off festival seating safely, it is U2,” said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of concert industry magazine Pollstar. “Their crowd isn’t going to be as volatile as say a Red Hot Chili Peppers crowd. How much moshing will occur in front of a U2 stage?”