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Old 02-24-2009, 06:08 AM   #1
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Setlist structure discussion

I started a thread about this before the Vertigo Tour, and I think the topic is worth revisiting. This is for discussing the general structure of setlists and how individual songs have worked within this structure, as opposed to "pride sux live & shood b droped!!!11!!1" or "make a totally mad custom set". As I noted last time, you can follow a general progression of U2's setlists over time. Naturally, you can find exceptions, but speaking in generalities:

1980-87

- Main set
- Encore
- Possibility of further encore(s); this essentially ceased to happen by the end of the War Tour, once 40 was cemented as the closer.

1989-90
- Main set
- Encore with BB King
- U2's encore
(This was sometimes varied, e.g. closing with Love Rescue Me, or finishing the main set with BB King)

1992-93, 1997-98, 2001
- Main set
- Stripped down b-stage set
- Continuation of main set
- Encore
(In 1997-98, and to a lesser extent in 2001, the encore was split into two encores.)

2005-06
- Main set, with two distinct segments based around war/human rights at the end
- Encore #1
- Encore #2
(Occasionally the two encores were played as one. Almost always 6-8 songs split roughly equally between two encores.)

Last time, I noted the general tendency of 1992-2001 sets to have a mid-main set trek to a b-stage and that it had started to become a bit of a cliche. Well, they stopped doing it on Vertigo. Stripped down performances of songs were typically worked into the encores instead. However, some cliches have endured rather well. Winning formula or lack of imagination? I suppose it's up to the concertgoer. Some examples:

- Pride at or near the end of the main set. It has served in this role since 1984, with the notable exception of Popmart. 1984, people!
- WOWY in the encore. It was in the main set at a handful of JT/Lovetown shows and once on Vertigo, but it tends to live in the encore, often as a first encore closer.
- Streets as the Big Number in the final three songs of the main set.
- Bullet and UTEOTW as the non-single songs that regular concertgoers have now heard more times over the years than your average single.
- UTEOTW --> NYD. Try as they might to avoid this segue, U2 always end up falling back on it at some point.
- One in the set at all. It's the only pre-2000s song to not miss a concert since its debut.
- And it now looks like a new cliche is developing of featuring the lead single within the first three songs of the concert. This occurred with Beautiful Day at every Elevation concert, and Vertigo at every Vertigo Tour gig. Looking back at this historically, Discotheque was an encore opener, The Fly was second on ZooTV, Desire was anywhere from second to an encore opener on Lovetown, WOWY was normally in the JT encore, NYD and Pride were near/at the end of the main set, Fire opened the encore, and ADWM struggled to even find a setlist spot.

I don't believe U2 would so radically change their setlist structure as to eliminate all of these cliches in one big hit. Songs like WOWY simply work better in the encore. Pride is well suited to end a main set or encore on a big, anthemic note. However, NLOTH has signalled a resurgent creativity and a desire to do something different, and I hope this carries over to the tour.

Unlike last time, I don't think they need to change their basic set structure. Main set plus two encores works well, especially if they don't tie themselves too much to any segments and allow for some flexibility in order and selection. But getting rid of some of these cliches within said structure would be good not just for those of us rolling our eyes at "oh, Streets at the end of the main set again", but for the songs themselves. Finding new ways to present them or putting them into rotation and making their appearance more special could refresh the warhorses. Look at Bad. I'm sure that after the second leg of ZooTV, fans thought it was never going anywhere. It was the Big Moment near the end of the main set and had been since 1984. Then it went into rotation with SBS before being dropped for Dirty Day; it barely appeared on Popmart; it was rotational on Elevation; and on Vertigo, it was sometimes rotational and sometimes a rarity. Its performances have now become legendary, perhaps valued higher than Streets. Today, I think people treat One, Pride, and perhaps WOWY with the certainity that Bad once was. I think it's time they got the Bad treatment.

Sorry, I know this got a bit into tl;dr territory.
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Old 02-24-2009, 06:55 AM   #2
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I think it would be great if they did a tour with a couple of different openings. Like on the JT tour where there was the main opening of Streets, Follow etc... but also there was the other one that started with Stand By Me.

We can wish for a lot with regard to U2's setlists and history tells us our wishes probably won't come true unless they do something revolutionary (for U2).

But I reckon if the setlists have to continue to be structured, which implies the band spends serious brainpower on the issue before a tour designing a setlist with the aim of more or less sticking to it for the entire tour, then it would be nice to see them experiment (again by U2's standards) with a few different openings. Not just the opening song, but the opening few songs. Mix that up. The rest of the setlist, esp. the encores, do tend to get changed throughout a tour anyway. So why should the opening few songs be any different.

Oh yeah, and I thought that LAPOE was a great Vertigo opener. Not sure why they dropped that. Seems that rather than it being my wish above coming true the band decided it was wrong as an opener. It could have been on rotation as the opener during the whole tour. On a related note, the opening of the Vertigo tour, I have to say that Vertigo x2 was dumb. Hope they don't do that again.

So my #1 vote would always be for U2 to do a Love Town on us and give us varied setlists. Then the whole 'structure' issue is irrelevant. But scaling my hopes back to reality, what about lets keep it structured as U2 have just about always done, but have a few different opening choices. Like I said above, this would mix in nicely with the fact that even static U2 do vary the endings over a tour.
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Old 02-24-2009, 11:31 AM   #3
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My prediction:

1. Main Set

-Instrumental break (With the stage in the middle of the stadium, a b-stage seems pretty unlikely. Instead I think there will just be two parts to the main set. I suspect there will be an instrument break between the two in the form of the band playing without Bono or something playing over the speakers. Fez, maybe?

2. 2nd part of Main Set

3. Encore (which I think will be like two were glued together)

4. Sometimes a stripped down 2nd Encore (maybe on rare nights the band comes back with a song or two.)


I feel with the "spaceship in the middle of the crowd" that the show will be in three parts. I also think that the stage may perhaps reconfigure after each one.
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Old 02-25-2009, 02:10 AM   #4
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I, for one, hope the acoustic set comes back. I loved it.

Can we talk about segues here? It seems like an appropriate place to talk about segues. I think a great segue is something special. I thought of one earlier this evening that would kick all kinds of ass live: Get On Your Boots->Mofo.

Picture it: Instead of playing the last 40 seconds of boots after the 'let me in the sound' parts(all that's left after let me in the sound anyway is "SEXY BOOTS GET ON YOUR BOOTS" and then a few repetitions of the riff over "HEY HEY HEY"), Boots ends with the last let me in the sound repetition. As the whole band is screaming LET ME IN THE SOUND LET ME IN THE SOUND LET ME IN THE SOUND, the intro to Mofo kicks in. That would kick so much fucking ass, imo.

Also, one I thought of a few days ago: Lemon->Moment Of Surrender. Basically, imagine the ZooTV Lemon->WOWY transition, but replace WOWY with MOS. Midnight...is where the day begins...midnight(have the MOS organ start underneath these final repetitions).

If Please comes out back, I'd love to see Please->Streets come back. That was magical.

Oh, and I don't recall UTEOTW->NYD being done much if at all on the Vertigo Tour.

Segues
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Old 02-26-2009, 12:19 AM   #5
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Axver, can you handle a tough question since you're the set list God and all? It sort of involves structure. Did the stadium shows that closed out the Vertigo tours have a greater song variance than the second American leg?

Also, what's the spread in song choices if we don't count tracks from All That You Can't Leave Behind that were obviously played on the end of the Vertigo tour simply because the band hadn't been to those regions on Elevation?

Just wondering because I think with the advent of stadium shows in America, the band will have less reason to mix up the setlist since they'll be performing not nearly as much in each city/region.
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Old 02-26-2009, 12:43 AM   #6
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BigMacPhisto... answering your question. I'm pretty sure that whenever U2 has been in stadium mode they have had bugger all setlist variation. The most variation during the Vertigo tour was during the indoor US legs.

You are correct to suggest that they will have less reason to mix up the setlist when doing stadium shows. This is what they have always done.
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Old 02-26-2009, 04:16 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AndrewCowley View Post
I think it would be great if they did a tour with a couple of different openings. Like on the JT tour where there was the main opening of Streets, Follow etc... but also there was the other one that started with Stand By Me.

[...]

So my #1 vote would always be for U2 to do a Love Town on us and give us varied setlists. Then the whole 'structure' issue is irrelevant. But scaling my hopes back to reality, what about lets keep it structured as U2 have just about always done, but have a few different opening choices. Like I said above, this would mix in nicely with the fact that even static U2 do vary the endings over a tour.
I'm with this. Given the static nature of stadium sets (for unjustifiable reasons, but it's the sheer reality), rotating between two would at least add some interest and value, and give some different takes on songs. LAPOE had a different feel as the opener compared to being middle of the main set. I saw it in both spots, and I thought it was a very effective opener; it packed more of a punch with the audience than when it was in the middle of the main set.

I think the Lovetown setlist strategy is probably the best for a band like U2. They have a bunch of clear song segments, e.g. Desire/Watchtower/AIWIY and Streets/IWF/ISHFWILF, but they can be shuffled around at will. It keeps a fair degree of stability for the band, as they seem to prefer that, but brings a level of variety fans can appreciate and that will surprise people even if they're following setlists online.

Quote:
Originally Posted by namkcuR View Post
I, for one, hope the acoustic set comes back. I loved it.

Can we talk about segues here?
I hated the acoustic set. Dull as dishwater. I don't think U2 should ever play anything acoustic, really.

And yeah, segue discussion is quite welcome. I agree with you that they can really add something to a show. I'm interested to see what they do with Streets this time, though the segue into Streets has become a bit of a cliche and I think they rather wore it out with the forced Pride --> Streets segue on Vertigo. I like the idea of Lemon --> MOS, especially since U2 never quite seemed to figure out how to end Lemon live anyway!

UTEOTW --> NYD was avoided for most of Vertigo, but re-appeared for the fourth and fifth legs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigMacPhisto View Post
Axver, can you handle a tough question since you're the set list God and all? It sort of involves structure. Did the stadium shows that closed out the Vertigo tours have a greater song variance than the second American leg?

Also, what's the spread in song choices if we don't count tracks from All That You Can't Leave Behind that were obviously played on the end of the Vertigo tour simply because the band hadn't been to those regions on Elevation?

Just wondering because I think with the advent of stadium shows in America, the band will have less reason to mix up the setlist since they'll be performing not nearly as much in each city/region.
The two US arena legs of Vertigo had more variety than the European stadiums leg. However, the Latin American and Pacific legs had fairly comparable variety with the US arena legs, despite being in stadiums.

The only ATYCLB song played on the fifth leg that hadn't been done earlier in the tour was Kite. You also had Saints and Rockin' In The Free World as covers, One Tree Hill from JT, and WITS in the non-album category. The Vertigo Tour page on U2gigs actually gives you the spread of songs by album below the list of all songs played (you can get this for all tours, and individual legs): U2 Vertigo Tour - U2 on tour

I've adjusted the count below to remove songs only played on the fifth leg:

· How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb (10 songs)
· Achtung Baby (7 songs)
· Boy (6 songs)
· Cover songs (6 songs)
· The Joshua Tree (6 songs)
· All That You Can't Leave Behind (5 songs)
· Rattle And Hum (3 songs)
· The Unforgettable Fire (3 songs)
· War (3 songs)
· B-Sides (1 song)
· Non-album songs (1 songs)
· October (1 song)
· Pop (1 song)
· Unreleased Songs (1 song) [this is The Cry]
· Zooropa (1 song)
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Old 02-26-2009, 11:47 PM   #8
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Thanks for all the information! I guess I've resigned myself to even more static set lists than last time...
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Old 02-27-2009, 12:04 AM   #9
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Just to depress you further, here's the song play counts for Popmart. I've taken the liberty of removing Edge's karaoke.

· Staring At The Sun (95 times played)
· Bullet The Blue Sky (93 times played)
· Discothèque (93 times played)
· Even Better Than The Real Thing (93 times played)
· Gone (93 times played)
· Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me (93 times played)
· I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (93 times played)
· I Will Follow (93 times played)
· Last Night On Earth (93 times played)
· Mofo (93 times played)
· Mysterious Ways (93 times played)
· One (93 times played)
· Please (93 times played)
· Pride (In The Name Of Love) (93 times played)
· Until The End Of The World (93 times played)
· Where The Streets Have No Name (93 times played)
· With Or Without You (93 times played)
· If You Wear That Velvet Dress (90 times played)
· New Year's Day (68 times played)
· Miami (62 times played)
· All I Want Is You (58 times played)
· Sunday Bloody Sunday (33 times played)
· If God Will Send His Angels (23 times played)
· Unchained Melody (23 times played)
· Wake Up Dead Man (22 times played)
· MLK (19 times played)
· Desire (12 times played)
· Bad (9 times played)
· Do You Feel Loved? (6 times played)
· Rain (6 times played)
· Hallelujah (5 times played)
· 40 (4 times played)
· Mothers Of The Disappeared (4 times played)
· Can't Help Falling In Love (2 times played)
· Slow Dancing (2 times played)
· Miss Sarajevo (1 time played)
· Stand By Me (1 time played)

Full count: U2 Popmart Tour - U2 on tour

I believe it'll be more varied this time, though. I won't clog the page by copy and pasting them, but check out the counts for fourth and fifth legs of Vertigo. For relatively short legs in stadiums, that's not bad by U2's standards - beats longer indoor legs of some tours!

U2 Vertigo Tour 4th leg: Latin America - U2 on tour
U2 Vertigo Tour 5th leg: The Pacific - U2 on tour
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Ian McCulloch the U2 fan:
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"And as for Bono, he needs a colostomy bag for his mouth."

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Old 02-27-2009, 12:07 AM   #10
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· One (93 times played)
· Pride (In The Name Of Love) (93 times played)
what's the one show either song wasn't played? it'd be too much to hope it was the same show.
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Old 02-27-2009, 12:15 AM   #11
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what's the one show either song wasn't played? it'd be too much to hope it was the same show.
Unfortunately, they were done at every show. Although there were 94 concerts, only 93 were actually played. The Raleigh gig was called off at the last minute due to damage to the big screen.
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Ian McCulloch the U2 fan:
"Who buys U2 records anyway? It's just music for plumbers and bricklayers. Bono, what a slob. You'd think with all that climbing about he does, he'd look real fit and that. But he's real fat, y'know. Reminds me of a soddin' mountain goat."
"And as for Bono, he needs a colostomy bag for his mouth."

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Old 02-27-2009, 12:15 AM   #12
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Unfortunately, they were done at every show. Although there were 94 concerts, only 93 were actually played. The Raleigh gig was called off at the last minute due to damage to the big screen.
ohhh, is sats counted twice because of the restart in vegas then?
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Old 02-27-2009, 12:19 AM   #13
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ohhh, is sats counted twice because of the restart in vegas then?
Yes, and in Memphis.

It wasn't done in Thessaloniki except as a brief thing after One. I was going to cut those post-One mini-songs from the list as well as Edge's karaoke and lowered its count by one, then when I decided to keep them (since MOTD, 40, etc. really were performed properly), I forgot to restore SATS's count to 95 plays.
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Ian McCulloch the U2 fan:
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Old 02-27-2009, 12:20 AM   #14
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Yes, and in Memphis.

It wasn't done in Thessaloniki except as a brief thing after One. I was going to cut those post-One mini-songs from the list as well as Edge's karaoke and lowered its count by one, then when I decided to keep them (since MOTD, 40, etc. really were performed properly), I forgot to restore SATS's count to 95 plays.
ha, i didn't know they didn't play it once. had that not been the case, i would've kicked up a fuss for you not counting it twice for memphis! and you forgot to do something? i'm shocked. really, i am. you're like a machine!
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Old 02-27-2009, 12:30 AM   #15
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Well I've corrected the earlier post now so that SATS says 95.
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Ian McCulloch the U2 fan:
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Old 02-27-2009, 12:40 AM   #16
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I like the idea of Lemon --> MOS, especially since U2 never quite seemed to figure out how to end Lemon live anyway!
Oh no... the Lemon to WOWY segue on the Zoo TV Sydney video is totally amazing. I adore it. So for me that was a good way to end Lemon. And I thought Lemon was phenomenal live. The only issue being the amount of backing tracks and sequencers required to make it happen was a little silly.
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Old 02-27-2009, 12:47 AM   #17
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Oh, I think the Lemon --> WOWY segue worked, but I think it worked in part because the band weren't really sure how to end Lemon, so instead they dodged the problem entirely by letting it blur into WOWY.

Just a shame 1993 performances of WOWY were a shadow of the 1987-92 ones.
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Old 02-27-2009, 10:48 PM   #18
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Axver,
I have four questions for you.
1. Didn't you enjoy the first Vertigo setlists/ shows? Am I correct in saying that these shows had very few acoustic songs. The shows had a harder edge overall.
2. The Vertigo shows seemed to pull from the Boy album, with I believe six songs from that album being played at some point. Do you think on this tour U2 will specifically reach back to a certain album or era.
3. I believe the best versions of Desire are full band (Lovetown / Zoo Tv) by far. I am so tired of the drudged up acoustic version we have heard on the last three tours. Any chance they strike up the band on Desire for this tour. Setlists aren't always about changing songs, sometimes the arrangements and the way the song is used / played can change its feel. What do you think?
4. What older songs from the 80's and 90's do you think we have a chance to hear this tour? The Unforgettable Fire, Two Hearts, October, Love comes to Town, Even better, Mofo, etc.
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Old 02-27-2009, 11:08 PM   #19
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Axver,
I have four questions for you.
1. Didn't you enjoy the first Vertigo setlists/ shows? Am I correct in saying that these shows had very few acoustic songs. The shows had a harder edge overall.
2. The Vertigo shows seemed to pull from the Boy album, with I believe six songs from that album being played at some point. Do you think on this tour U2 will specifically reach back to a certain album or era.
3. I believe the best versions of Desire are full band (Lovetown / Zoo Tv) by far. I am so tired of the drudged up acoustic version we have heard on the last three tours. Any chance they strike up the band on Desire for this tour. Setlists aren't always about changing songs, sometimes the arrangements and the way the song is used / played can change its feel. What do you think?
4. What older songs from the 80's and 90's do you think we have a chance to hear this tour? The Unforgettable Fire, Two Hearts, October, Love comes to Town, Even better, Mofo, etc.
1. I loved the setlists for Vertigo's first leg. Speaking in generalities, I would say they were probably the best of the tour (though I think 20 September 2005, Chicago probably got the best individual set). Yahweh and OOTS were the only stripped down songs and the Boy/October emphasis was at its peak. Really glad I saw the three Boston shows.

2. Correct on the amount of Boy songs - six were done in full and a seventh was snippeted (for the curious: IWF, ACD, ITH, OOC, The Ocean, and TEC were done in full and Stories For Boys snippeted). Bono said on Chris Evans' show yesterday that they considered playing a whole side of Boy live; Twilight was the only song from Boy's first side that was not played. Anyway, for the coming tour, I don't expect them to do something exactly the same. U2 don't tend to repeat "gimmicks", so I wouldn't be expecting a couple of rotational songs from, say, UF within the first six songs of the set like we saw with Boy on Vertigo. However, I would not be surprised if they reach back to specific albums/eras that they think tie in with the tour's theme and insert that into the show in a different way.

3. I totally agree. Changing the way a song is played can really change how it works within the structure. Walk On is a great example here. The full band version is a great set closer (and I think sounds better than the acoustic version!), but when they played it mid-set in Brisbane and Sydney, it just seemed really out of place. However, when they did the acoustic version in the same spot in Auckland and Saitama, it worked ideally. I was lucky to witness Desire live on the fifth leg when they played a more rockin' version of it than on other recent tours. Sure, it wasn't as good as its intense Lovetown heyday, but at least it wasn't as dreary as the Elevation version. I think a rockin' version of Desire is a good chance as an encore song. Lots of energy, not hard to play, and it goes down VERY well with a stadium audience. It's the sort of song the band can rotate and play whenever they feel like it because it's so simple.

4. I'm not quite willing to make any predictions yet. The band have indicated that serious tour rehearsals will only begin after the current promotional tour is done. All sorts of decisions and directional changes could be made then. Since it's a stadium tour, I expect any songs the band resurrect will be tracks that they know will electrify a huge audience. For example, I'd love to hear them play Promenade for once, but it doesn't sound like much of a stadium song (note that The Ocean was NEVER played in stadiums on Vertigo, only arenas). However, something like A Sort Of Homecoming? "Oooh oooh oooh, on borderland we run" can be a huge stadium chant. What about something like Exit or God Part II? Those songs have the kind of intensity that can translate to a big audience just as well as a little one (see: TEC in Europe on Vertigo). EBTTRT? It's a big hit and was even rehearsed for Vertigo; I say it's always a chance. I'm not making predictions that those tracks will be played, but they define qualities that the band will probably look for.
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Old 02-28-2009, 06:37 PM   #20
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I thought of a new segue: Magnificent->New Year's Day.

Imagine that huge crescendo of drumming at the end of Magnificent exploding into the beginning of NYD!
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