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Old 07-29-2009, 10:58 PM   #1
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Some interesting U2 historical setlist facts

OK, I apparently have way too much time on my hands lately, but I've been sifting through great sites like u2gigs.com and u2tours.com and following the setlist evolution the past couple weeks, which got me thinking about prior tours.

I wanted to see exactly how much U2 does - or does not - "change it up" over the course of a tour. Will we see the same 20 songs each night for an entire tour? Maybe, maybe not, but the data was revealing in confirming that U2 does have a very limited bag of tricks within their own catalogue.

I looked at each tour behind a studio album (counted Lovetown as the "Rattle" tour and Zoo encompassed 2 albums, where every other album had its own unique proper tour). I looked at how many ORIGINAL U2 songs were played in the entirety of the tour. I did not count snippets nor covers. Why not covers? Covers distorted the actual amount of change from show-to-show (ie in Popmart, the Edge kereoke slot had 20+ different songs), and with a couple notable exceptions (Satelite of Love, for example), covers were inherently rare and unlikely to have 2 or more slots in the same show represented by covers.

The results: during Vertigo U2 performed 52 different U2 songs (132 shows), Elevation: 42 songs, Popmart: 33 songs, ZooTV: 37 songs, Lovetown: 31 songs, Joshua: 30 songs, and the tours before that fewer than 30. Now, to some degree, the declining totals make sense, as with each album U2 adds to its library (approximately 120 studio tracks, and dozens more b-sides and oddities). But generally U2 have performed approximately 30-35% of their studio tracks in concert for the entirety of a tour. Currently on 360 U2 have done 32 different tracks, and are only at about 22% of their total studio releases. So to equal the historical 35% amount they'd need to add another 16 or so songs over the remainder of the tour, not an outlandish thought but probably on the high side.

Also of interest: U2 always has played minimum 7 tracks off the "current" release during the supporting tour. They've generally played a healthy representation of the immediate prior album as well, at least 4+ songs with the notable exception of PopMart (where prior album Zooropa got a goose egg). With only 2 tracks from Bomb thus far, (unfortunately) look for that album to be a likely candidate to add tracks going forward. The 2nd prior album has generally taken a big dive two tours later in terms of representation, although 360 is defying that convention as 2nd prior album All That already has 5 songs represented.

In terms of "bringing songs back", Vertigo was unprecendented in resurrecting songs that had not been heard the previous 3+ tours. Boy went from 2 songs on Elevation to a whopping 6, and even Joshua and Achtung went to 7 songs each from 5 each on Elevation (even if those totals are inflated by one-offs like Blindness and location-only songs like Mothers and One Tree Hill, 7 off each album is nonetheless impressive). Not surprisingly, October and Zooropa have been historically shunned albums, though POP is entering those unfortunate ranks. Interestingly, War/Fire/Rattle have held very steady at 2-3 songs each the last 5 tours, Fire getting a slight uptick to 4 songs on 360 already. Of course, no surprise that Josh/Baby get the most love from the older albums.

So in sum, U2 has generally had a working live catalogue of only 35-40 songs for an entire 100+ date tour. Vertigo expanded that to 52 over 132 dates, some improvement no doubt, but Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam fans will note that you could legitimately expect to hear 50 different Bruce and PJ songs in the span of about 4-5 shows, not 130. Of course, U2's production aspects, as well as their usage of sequencers and effects, probably limit their ability to bust out electric versions of more than 30 different original songs. While we can legitimately expect to hear acoustic versions of a few more songs, and the oddball cover every now and again, U2 are not going to change stripes at this point and for both better and worse, are what they are.

Hope some find these stats useful and look forward to any comments.
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Old 07-29-2009, 11:16 PM   #2
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U2's lower rotation than Pearl Jam and Bruce for me is two-fold:

U2's focus is more on the tour production and the show in general, how it transmits live as a sinle entity, rather than a collection of songs. The other two definately mix it up more, to the delight of harcore fans, and the detriment of the shows cohesion and the 80% or higher more casual fans.

The other reason is, I feel, U2 are and have been for a little while, more relevant in the global music scene than either of Pearl Jam and bruce. Maybe not in Bruce's prime, but definately now. The other's, while releasing new material still find more members in the crowd that come from various stages in their careers and are polarised as to what they like and dont like, so they have to cater to a wider variety of groups.

Just my two cents
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Old 07-29-2009, 11:17 PM   #3
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That was a really interesting read, thanks.

While you mention that the Vertigo tour had 132 dates, you didn't mention how many dates made up earlier tours. I wonder (if you care to look into it, that is) to what degree the number of songs played is a function of how many dates there are per tour. It would also be interesting to look at which points of each tour had new songs added - was this more common early in the tours, when they were still working on the setlist? At the beginning of legs? Or was it completely random?

Given that this is a stadium tour, and that they'll be playing fewer dates (while actually performing to as many or more people), I'm not holding out much hope for very diverse setlists this time around.
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Old 07-29-2009, 11:26 PM   #4
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That was great. I'm glad you have too much time on your hands.

But I find myself wanting graphs.


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Old 07-29-2009, 11:42 PM   #5
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Just an aside to add to the stats...

13 shows into 360 - 32 original tracks
13 shows into Vertigo - 28 original tracks (29th not added until the 19th show)
13 shows into Elevation - 25 original tracks (26 not added until the 15th show)
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Old 07-29-2009, 11:43 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dan_smee View Post
U2's focus is more on the tour production and the show in general, how it transmits live as a sinle entity, rather than a collection of songs. The other two definately mix it up more, to the delight of harcore fans, and the detriment of the shows cohesion and the 80% or higher more casual fans.
Those are some pretty bold conclusions IMO.

U2 couldn't mix it up as much as PJ or Sprinsteen even if they wanted to... it's not that the focus is on "tour production", that's just the compensation.

I'm also not convinced that the looser PJ or Springsteen shows lack cohesion (seems to me, dudes penning their setlist before the show and then performing it provides for a pretty cohesive product... no sleepwalking through that).

I'm also not convinced that 80%+ of PJ or Springsteen show attendees are casual fans.

I'm finally not convinced that the looser shows are to anybody's detriment... probably instills more appreciation for the band.
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Old 07-29-2009, 11:45 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by VintagePunk View Post
That was a really interesting read, thanks.

While you mention that the Vertigo tour had 132 dates, you didn't mention how many dates made up earlier tours. I wonder (if you care to look into it, that is) to what degree the number of songs played is a function of how many dates there are per tour. It would also be interesting to look at which points of each tour had new songs added - was this more common early in the tours, when they were still working on the setlist? At the beginning of legs? Or was it completely random?

Given that this is a stadium tour, and that they'll be playing fewer dates (while actually performing to as many or more people), I'm not holding out much hope for very diverse setlists this time around.
At the 13 show mark, this is easily the most diverse set.
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Old 07-29-2009, 11:47 PM   #8
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Those are some pretty bold conclusions IMO.

U2 couldn't mix it up as much as PJ or Sprinsteen even if they wanted to... it's not that the focus is on "tour production", that's just the compensation.

I'm also not convinced that the looser PJ or Springsteen shows lack cohesion (seems to me, dudes penning their setlist before the show and then performing it provides for a pretty cohesive product... no sleepwalking through that).

I'm also not convinced that 80%+ of PJ or Springsteen show attendees are casual fans.

I'm finally not convinced that the looser shows are to anybody's detriment... probably instills more appreciation for the band.
TBH I couldnt give to shits whether you were convinced. As I stated at the bottom it was just my 2 cents. I am interested to know why you think U2 COULDN'T mix it up as much as them, as they arguably have a much better back catalogue than either.
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Old 07-30-2009, 12:08 AM   #9
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TBH I couldnt give to shits whether you were convinced. As I stated at the bottom it was just my 2 cents. I am interested to know why you think U2 COULDN'T mix it up as much as them, as they arguably have a much better back catalogue than either.
Who knows? They lack confidence, they're not as skilled musicians, they're afraid...

These guys have been playing rock shows for 30 years, and they can barely switch it up... they just played 3 carbon copy shows (for all intents and purposes) in Dublin.
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Old 07-30-2009, 12:17 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by ZooMacPhisto800 View Post
Who knows? They lack confidence, they're not as skilled musicians, they're afraid...

These guys have been playing rock shows for 30 years, and they can barely switch it up... they just played 3 carbon copy shows (for all intents and purposes) in Dublin.
Don't like it, leave.

Sorry, but they changed 4 songs each night. I don't know how many more times I can say this, hoepfully this time it will wriggle it's way in to your skull: U2 have never apologised for the fact they play shows for the spectacle of the show. They care more about the overall experience than being shocking for the sake of pacifying 10% of the audience. Good on them. I admire them for that. I would much rather see a show that is a complete show, a triumph of perfect setlist selection adn ordering, as well as lighting, stage presentation and performance. They offer this EVERY time they play. If it's not good enough for you, you are following the wrong band.

The only possible scenario you have any right to complain about it is if a) you attend every show, or b) you want more varied bootlegs. U2 operate under the assumption that a) noone does attend every show, and if they do, it is what they should expect because that isn't normal, and b) they play for the benefit of the people who pay the money, not the jerk infront of the computer with his hand down his pants waiting for Acrobat
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Old 07-30-2009, 12:19 AM   #11
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Is it just me, or is it the same people say that U2 dont vary the sets enough that complain when albums lack cohesion?

Logic would state that if they crave cohesion they can grasp the simple concept that a more rigid setlist offers more practiced and better flow
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Old 07-30-2009, 12:26 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by dan_smee View Post
Don't like it, leave.

Sorry, but they changed 4 songs each night. I don't know how many more times I can say this, hoepfully this time it will wriggle it's way in to your skull: U2 have never apologised for the fact they play shows for the spectacle of the show. They care more about the overall experience than being shocking for the sake of pacifying 10% of the audience. Good on them. I admire them for that. I would much rather see a show that is a complete show, a triumph of perfect setlist selection adn ordering, as well as lighting, stage presentation and performance. They offer this EVERY time they play. If it's not good enough for you, you are following the wrong band.

The only possible scenario you have any right to complain about it is if a) you attend every show, or b) you want more varied bootlegs. U2 operate under the assumption that a) noone does attend every show, and if they do, it is what they should expect because that isn't normal, and b) they play for the benefit of the people who pay the money, not the jerk infront of the computer with his hand down his pants waiting for Acrobat
Did you reply to the wrong post?
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Old 07-30-2009, 12:32 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by dan_smee View Post
At the 13 show mark, this is easily the most diverse set.
Yes, I saw your post, that's an interesting stat. It'll be interesting too to see if that number continues to rise, or if it plateaus.


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Who knows? They lack confidence, they're not as skilled musicians, they're afraid...
I think that lacking confidence *may* have something to do with it. Before people pounce on me, just let me say that I've been reading U2 by U2 lately, and the one thing that jumped out at me is the way they seem to minimize their abilities as musicians. They focus a lot on their shortcomings. Whether they really feel that way, or it's more of a show of humility, who knows. But the one thing that's certain is that they really don't seem to give themselves enough credit, at least in that one book. So, in that sense, I think that they might be extremely uncomfortable in jumping into unrehearsed numbers, at least more so than PJ and Bruce.*

Another factor could be that they also pride themselves on putting on a very professional, polished show, and that's why they vary the setlists less - they're much more comfortable performing songs that they're rehearsed heavily and have perfected (in their view). I've heard them rehearse. They don't run through each song a few times to reacquaint themselves with it and call it a day, they go through them ad nauseum. In 2 1/2 hours, they literally only rehearsed two songs (Discotheque and Mofo), and then only ended up playing Discotheque - they obviously weren't happy with Mofo.

I'd also like to add that the reason Pearl Jam gets away with playing so many rarities and such a diverse setlist is because I think their audiences are made up of a much higher percentage of die hards than are U2's audiences. PJ have made themselves into the biggest little cult band around, and so that style of performing suits them and their audience better. Springsteen? I haven't quite got that one figured out...


*Eta - I should add that I also think that along with those reasons, the added complexity of their staging cues and sequencing as compared to PJ and Bruce has a lot to do with it, too. Their stage shows just don't lend themselves to being all loosey-goosey with their setlist, there's a certain amount of planning that needs to be done.
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Old 07-30-2009, 12:35 AM   #14
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Logic would state that if they crave cohesion they can grasp the simple concept that a more rigid setlist offers more practiced and better flow
Does cohesion equate to more practiced and better flow?
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Old 07-30-2009, 12:36 AM   #15
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Did you reply to the wrong post?
Definately not. You made a ludecris claim, and I told you why... I don't see where you are confused?
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