Opening Thoughts – *Spoilers*

I’m now about a day or so removed from opening night of the U2 360 Tour in Turin, and after the shock and awe of the new songs, I have to say that it’s been a long time since we saw an opening like we did yesterday.

To the best of my knowledge (and please correct me if I am wrong here), this is the first time since the Zooropa ’93 tour where U2 began a concert to a song that wasn’t on their most recent album. “The Return of the Stingray” is the first unreleased opening song to be performed live on the stage in any formal tour since the pre-Boy days. Then to put “Beautiful Day” in as the second song made me question if they are touring to support the songs off their current album or if they’re looking to slowly retire No Line on the Horizon.

Looking back, the War Tour had “Gloria” or “Out of Control” as their opener. The Unforgettable Fire Tour opener was “11 O’Clock Tick Tock.” It wasn’t until The Joshua Tree tour where a song from the new album was the opening song. Technically speaking, The LoveTown Tour was after Rattle and Hum, so this could be debated as some nights opened with “Hawkmoon 269” or “God Part II,” and others had “Bullet the Blue Sky” or “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Zoo TV was pretty consistent with “Zoo Station.” While the Zooropa ’93 and Zoomerang ’93 legs of Zoo TV are lumped together as being part of the Zoo TV experience, those tours saw the Zooropa album being the most recent release. They did perform some songs off of Zooropa as a part of set, but they didn’t open with a song from that release.

Popmart was consistent with “Mofo” and the Elevation tour had “Elevation,” with “Beautiful Day” thrown in as a surprise in South Bend, Indiana. The Vertigo Tour had rotated “Love and Peace or Else” and “City of Blinding Lights” in the opening slot. Up until yesterday, the opening song on the U2 360 Tour came from No Line on the Horizon (“Breathe” or “Magnificent”). They also came out as they did on the Elevation Tour with full house lights up for the first song.

What does it all mean? Heck if I know, but looking at the band’s history one would think that they either wanted to make a huge statement like “Honey, we’re home!” or that they’re looking in a forward direction. The tour was supposed to be called “Kiss the Future,” after all!

13 Responses to Opening Thoughts – *Spoilers*

  1. partygirl43 August 8, 2010 at 9:00 am #

    They’re looking to slowly retire NLOTH, which is a bummer. I think they lost faith in the songs from NLOTH–or at least the fans it takes to fill stadiums. I was in The RZ for Chicago One–and it seemed that the NLOTH songs were met warmly–but I was amongst the hardest of the hard core fans, or at least the one that wanted to sell out $600 bucks to be up close and personal. I saw the show again in Raleigh, this time behind the stage in the uppers. The NLOTH songs went over like a lead balloon–but of course everyone was happy when the war horses were trotted out. So maybe this should have been a giant greatest hits tour, and I would have settled seeing all of the NLOTH songs in a smaller setting. But thats just me…theres something screwy with this tour.

  2. jcoriha August 8, 2010 at 9:38 am #

    My 2 standouts above anything at the Giants Stadium show were NLotH and Ultra Violet, so you can guess how I am taking the change. I was shocked at the crowd singalongs to the new songs that night. I would much rather see some alternate the big hits, and leave the songs that were truly making the concert special. But I will also say that the reaction on stage may seem different than in the crowd. I do love HMTMKMKM, but I would add it to UV instead of dropping UV.

  3. Keir August 8, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

    I think what everyone needs to consider is the role of a song in any given set—as opposed to the songs we’d LIKE to see—because it’s obvious that the band does consider this for every tour, and often every leg of every tour.

    There’s a reason the “Boy” songs made a comeback for Vertigo, there’s a reason we had a mini-Zoo TV in Vertigo’s encore, there’s a reason for the death/mourning sequence in Elevation (Stuck in A Moment, Kite, Gone), there’s a reason for the Mofo/I Will Follow PopMart opener, there’s a reason for the ambient section of 360 (Unknown Caller, Electrical Storm, Blue Room, etc), there’s a reason for the Joshua Tree “heart of darkness” sequence, and a reason for the Vertigo “war” sequence (Love & Peace/Sunday/Bullet/Standstill-Sarajevo).

    So take the Ultraviolet/HMTMKMKM switch – maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. As a performance, I liked UV better, but I think the switch is interesting—why switch out that particular song with THAT particular song? Could be he wanted to sing the “53” line, could be something more meaningful. At this point in 360, the band is free to make the tour about whatever they want, and while I’m bummed that the most interesting (to me) songs seemingly got the axe, well. this is ONLY ONE SHOW, and it doesn’t mean they’re gone forever.

    Like the Fly. I wasn’t thrilled that it was dropped from Elevation before I had a chance to see the show, but later I understood the reasoning—it didn’t work in a post-9/11 context. And then it came back bigger and better in Vertigo.

    This is all obviously speculation, but I’ve learned from being in my own band that building setlists is not only super-fun and exciting, but another chance to express your work in a different context. You get to draw parallels and make connections that people (or you!) may not have noticed before. especially when you’re not tied to a huge production’s set of light-show/etc cues like U2’s tours. I think that the 360 show sets have been remarkably fluid—though not as much as Elevation or Vertigo—considering they have to work together with Willie’s great productions.

    But yeah, I’d sure like to see Breathe and Ultraviolet come back, at least. If not, though, they’ve done an interesting job with replacing the latter for sure, and it’s not like they haven’t thought it through.

  4. U2isABLE August 8, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    Keir’s point about song placement meaning is one that I’m sure the band scrutinize each chance they get.

    The UV/HMTMKMKM switch got me thinking that it’s just the other side of the same coin. I feel UV is a song about creation sung from the point of view from a savior. Going with UV / With or Without You / Moment of Surrender is taking things from a creator’s angle. Switching it up to HMTMKMKM is taking it from the MacPhisto (or the destroyer’s) angle, bringing more drama to the night’s encore. That’s an extremely deep perspective and one probably not shared by everyone in a stadium at a rock and roll show. But, I appreciate the switchup and the role reversal.

    At least we have the Rose Bowl DVD to forever enjoy Ultraviolet. However if I was a paying ticket holder who hadn’t seen the show yet, and all I heard about was how powerful UV was and it didn’t appear in the show, yeah I’d be bummed. It seemed that the main takeaways from the tour so far was the Crazy Tonight rave to introduce this tour’s “Heart of Darkness” section (SBS / MLK / Walk On), and Ultraviolet. So to remove a key element that so many enjoyed is a little tough to accept.

    Thanks, everyone, who’ve replied so far to this topic! Keep up the conversation 🙂

  5. Keir August 8, 2010 at 4:17 pm #

    Good points about UV. If you’ll recall, I once interpreted UV biblically, as Satan singing to God, so if HMTMKMKM is sitting in the same spot now, I wonder what it means in that context! You also must have noticed how historically, UV has almost always preceded With or Without you (meaning Moment of Surrender is in the Love is Blindness slot?). Also HMTMKMKM is in virtually the same place it was in PopMart – kicking off the second encore.

    Following that, the big bad ’90s songs have (mostly, with a few notable exceptions) been late in the show for Elevation and Vertigo and, if you count UV, in 360 as well. Well…now that I think about it, maybe not—but The Fly was late in the show for both Elevation and Vertigo, and Discotheque’s few Vertigo appearances were late in the set, too. Mysterious Ways and End of the World have been placed all over the set, but the revived ’90s songs—Zoo Station, the Fly, HMTMKMKM, and Ultraviolet have all been late in the show.

    Sidenote: I can’t believe I forgot Unforgettable Fire in the ambient 360 bit I cited in my above comment. That was the key piece!

    I haven’t yet seen a 360 show—and I’m not sure that I will—but I think the band has (so far) executed a good balance in the set as far as hits vs fan faves. Personally, I liked seeing how the NLOTH songs presented live (even Boots, a song I detest), and REALLY liked the choices for revivial: UV, Ufire, Blue Room, HMTMKMKM, and Electrical Storm (another song I’m not a fan of, but it worked in context).

    I know I harp on about my own band a lot (much more than we deserve, considering we haven’t played a show for 4 years), but for better or worse I learned how to sequence a live set from U2 shows. Lots of other bands do it, of course—Wilco comes to mind, and Bob Dylan of course not only juggles the set, he reinterprets 40-year-old songs to keep things interesting—but U2 are my model for building a live set. U2tours.com and the “U2 Live” book have been indispensable for this.

    Jeez, what was I talking about again?

  6. Ashaiw August 9, 2010 at 3:52 am #

    Missing out Unknown Caller is telling us that they are retire NLOTH which is shame because that song did surprise people at the concert and give the “none” U2 followers chance to discover new aspects of NLOTH. It worked well in the concert, and became a new favorite for many.

  7. Johnno August 9, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    Thumbs up to add the new songs and intro.

    I dont think that they are so much “retiring” No Line as much as making room for new material and hinting at a new album’s arrival. It’s a good move.

    I would have preferred that they dropped “Boots” than “No Line on the Horizon”

    “Hawkmoon” would be a great insert at some point…Drop one more of the War Horses

    All in all, I like that they’re taking a chance or two

  8. Keir August 9, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    Well, they’ve dropped “Bullet the Blue Sky” for the entire tour. Is that a big enough warhorse for you? 🙂

  9. Shade August 9, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    Oh I hope they don’t retire the old songs -even though I don’t know how you can possibly ‘retire’ a song when they’ll echo for an eternity on radios and CDs and iTunes (ha ha) no matter what.
    I grew up on U2 and I’m not even really a U2 generation. Most kids at my school don’t even really realize who U2 is and if they do the only song they knew is Vertigo. Would it hurt to keep playing the classics? They’re important to both the band’s history and human history from all around the world. Sunday Bloody Sunday. Bullet the Blue Sky. Pride. They’re beautiful songs and well worth playing. Look to the future but never forget the past.

  10. christianjohn August 10, 2010 at 11:21 am #

    I agree with Johnno – U2 is not ‘retiring’ the NLOTH songs but merely doing what they do best…..evolving towards a new album, keeping the set lists fresh and fluid, and building a new, dynamic version of the 360 tour for the 2nd go ’round. I was able to see 4 shows during the NA tour and I’m stoked that they will be making some adjustments. However, as an insanely crazy-for-U2 fan I lament any of the songs being dropped off the list — especially the NLOTH songs. I marvel at their latest record and I love ‘Unknown Caller’ and ‘Breathe’ (rumored to be dropped from the tour). My 8 year old son and I love blasting ‘NLOTH’ in the car as we sing along and I took him to the show in Phoenix last year with an emotional connection to all the latest songs. I heard they were rehearsing ‘Trying To Throw Your Arms Around The World’ so I am excited to see if it makes a showing in NA. I would love to hear Bad, A Sort of Homecoming, Window in the Skies, and many more…….. If only U2 could just double their set lists…

  11. sheldonK August 11, 2010 at 9:50 am #

    I’m not truly digging the choices for replacement songs thus far. The absence of great NLOTH content is truly regrettable as opening the show with Beautiful Day/New Year’s Day makes them look like a band resting on its previous accomplishments or a greatest hits act that could be as easily touring Casinos…something I never would have expected from a band like U2. The show in Toronto last September had some amazing moments that came from NLOTH but to go back and rely on the same old same old is kind of tiring. I think the fair weather fans should just suck it up, frankly. I hope it changes up prior to North American leg or I may be prompted to sell my ticket…just saying

  12. Johnno August 13, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    I agree with Sheldon. Drop more of the old stuff. People forget that what is taken for granted now as long time U2 favorites were at one time not accepted…U2 had to fight and scratch and claw for those songs they believed in from the early albums (even got booed from time to time in the early days). In retrospect, people just think they were hits from day one. I would like to see a band that never stops fighting and scratching and clawing for its NEW material.

    I will get lynched for this but drop With or Without You…Bono is obviously bored with the song.

  13. Johnno August 17, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    Also take out Sunday Bloody Sunday, One, and

    Put in Mofo, Acrobat, 2 Hearts Beat as One, Drowning Man

    I am done with the warhorses for now!