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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Clash of the Um...Big Robots

Battling Stage Sets Wreck North Jersey after U2 Show
The Met's "Machine" set in a performance of last season's Das Rheingold.
The usually placid swamplands around the Meadowlands Sports Complex became a mechanical armageddon as two giant stage sets did battle in North Jersey last night.

The clash was between the Claw, the 150-foot four-legged monstrosity built for the Irish rock band U2, and the "Machine", the 16-ton Rube Goldberg contraption (chiefly consisting of two dozen spinning planks) designed and built for the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Around 9pm, the multi-million dollar Ring set escaped from its storage container located in the shadow of the New Jersey Turnpike, and started its slow, inexorable march across the swamp, reaching the Meadowlands just as U2 were wrapping up their show.

Ready to rumble: U2's "Claw" set before combat.
The Irish band had just finished a late set at the New Meadowlands Stadium last night, closing the show with "Out of Control", the band's first single.

"All of a sudden I heard a whirring, clattering sound," an eyewitness said. "Then this crazy thing with the spinning planks started playing the flight of the Valkyries, or whatever. It was go time!"

The U2 Claw set, which has toured the world with the band on its acclaimed 360˚ Tour, wrenched itself free from its floor anchors. Using its 100-foot legs to scuttle like a crab, the Claw climbed over the three-tiered football stadium to do battle with its operatic counterpart. Its giant digital lozenge screen flashed with the message "This means war!" and the long central spire became a stabbing energy lance.

"This is awesome," one teenager said, staring up as the U2 set started to fire blasts of concussive BonoForce™ at the Machine's spinning planks. "Go U2! Bono rules!" he screamed before being crushed by one of the giant Claw legs.

Another local on her way home to Long Island told reporters, "This is stupid. What do they think they're doing, fighting like this? I just want to go home."

The Met's Machine set, last seen in the opera house at the company's 2010-2011 productions of Das Rheingold and Die Walk√ľre issued the following statement in Morse code:
Battleground: crews clean up the Meadowlands after last night's robot rumble.

"People of Earth, your days are numbered. The OperaBots Have Come."

The U2 Claw responded: "Let's go. Let's go. Discotheque!" before blasting at the other machine with a thunderous rendition of "Zoo Station" that set its planks spinning. The two mechanical combatants grappled for supremacy above commuters, terrified witnesses trapped in the post-concert traffic.

The fight continued across the vast Meadowlands parking lot, partially damaging the nearby IZOD Center. The fight finally ended when both machines, exhausted, collapsed in the destroyed rubble of the former Xanadu shopping complex.

Scientists at NJASA, the New Jersey Alien Science Analysts, an organization founded and funded by the state after the 1938 attacks by Martians on Princeton NJ, were unavailable for comment. Governor Chris Christie has been critical of NJASA as a "hoax" and has promised to slash their funding "to the bone." But after the events of last night this may have been a bad idea.

Neither the Metropolitan Opera representatives, nor U2 band manager Paul McGuinness were available for comment. But Governor Christie's office said that Trenton legislature has high hopes that Xanadu will be rebuilt as the "fantasy shopping Utopia" of tomorrow. Funds for reconstructing the troubled project will be drawn from the slashed NJASA budget.

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.