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Old 06-12-2002, 04:42 PM   #1
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Willie Williams opinion of U2 Setlists

For those of you who haven't read the interview at atu2.com please do it is great but here is an interesting exerpt.





There's a certain percentage of fans who complain about the setlist, and how it hardly changes from night to night. They point to Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews Band, and others on that level who mix up the live shows regularly. What's your response to that criticism?

It's quite touching that in the 21st century there's still a belief that a rock show is (or should be) an entirely spontaneous event even on its 100th show. For me, a flexible set list is a mixed blessing. Much as it brings variety and keeps up interest for those of us who see the show more than once, lack of familiar structure places a limit on how technologically complex a show can be. The ideal for me is a situation where parts of a show -- say beginning, middle & end -- are set in stone, then, in between times, it's an improvisational free for all. Even this, though, is easier said than done and you'd be amazed how much any show pulls and pulls towards settling down and wants to get into a routine.

The other downside to a more improvised show is, of course, that -- visually at least -- the quality of the result varies dramatically from night to night. R.E.M. is a good example - on their 1995 tour I was using nine cinema-sized film projectors overlaying film sequences chosen from a group of about 50 clips we had with us on tour. The set list was a real movable feast and due to the mechanical limitations of using film, this necessitated my using different films for different songs on different nights. On a good night this would throw up new ideas, new combinations & wonderful surprises which showed R.E.M. at their random, glorious, untethered, experimental best but it wasn't something you could expect to work 100% night after night.

When you add to this the advent of the Internet you have to accept that as soon as you've done one show everyone in the world knows what you're up to. To seriously try to maintain a level of surprise on a nightly basis would drive you insane and probably result in some highly unsatisfactory experiments. I've come to accept that a known structure which includes some room for nightly manoeuvre allows U2 to create a show which is not only at the very top of its league but also ensures an unparalleled level of consistency from night to night. Given that most people will only see one show, it's important to guarantee that every single one is absolutely as good as it can possibly be.

Doing multiple nights helps U2 shake it up a bit. There was generally an "A" and a "B" set on Elevation. In towns where we did three shows, the third night got pretty loose and in the few places where we did a fourth night all bets were off. I think it was Boston show 4 where we opened with "Elevation" followed by the first seven songs from the Zoo TV show!

You mentioned what I think is the key element that most fans overlook when they complain about the lack of variety in the setlists: U2 is not a jam-session band; a U2 concert has a well-defined beginning, middle and end. It's almost like theater in a way. That seems to be what U2 wants in its live shows. Would you agree?

Yes, though allowing some room for improvisation is very important.



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Old 06-12-2002, 05:09 PM   #2
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Re: Willie Williams opinion of U2 Setlists

Quote:
Originally posted by Swan269

I think it was Boston show 4 where we opened with "Elevation" followed by the first seven songs from the Zoo TV show!
[/B]


Ah . . another reason Boston 4 was so cool. I'm so glad that I was there! Thanks for posting the excerpt. I'll go and read the rest now.
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Old 06-12-2002, 05:49 PM   #3
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great article by Willie, but no mention of Mark Fisher = shame!
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Old 06-12-2002, 06:00 PM   #4
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I knew Boston 4 was special. And not just cuz I was there.
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Old 06-12-2002, 06:15 PM   #5
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Re: Willie Williams opinion of U2 Setlists

Quote:
Originally posted by Swan269
I think it was Boston show 4 where we opened with "Elevation" followed by the first seven songs from the Zoo TV show!
Actually, I'm 99.9% sure this was Chicago 4, not Boston 4. I was there, and they did start it off just like ZooTV.
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Old 06-12-2002, 06:22 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mirrorball Girl


Actually, I'm 99.9% sure this was Chicago 4, not Boston 4. I was there, and they did start it off just like ZooTV.
From u2tours.com, the setlists:

Chicago 4, May 16, 2001

Main Set: Elevation, The Fly, Even Better Than the Real Thing, Mysterious Ways/Sexual Healing, One/Wake Up Dead Man, Until the End of the World, New Year's Day, Stuck in a Moment, Kite, New York, I Will Follow, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Sweetest Thing, Angel of Harlem, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, All I Want Is You, Where the Streets Have No Name, Pride
Encore(s): Bullet the Blue Sky/Young Americans, With or Without You, Beautiful Day, I Remember You, Walk On

Boston 4, June 9, 2001

Main Set: Elevation, Pride, Until the End of the World, The Fly, Even Better Than the Real Thing, Mysterious Ways, In My Life/Stuck In A Moment, Kite, Gone, New York, Out of Control, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Desire, Party Girl, Stay, Bad, Where the Streets Have No Name, Beautiful Day
Encore(s): Bullet the Blue Sky, With or Without You, One/She's a Mystery To Me, Walk On


someone who knows zootv setlists better than I can do the math.
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Old 06-12-2002, 07:01 PM   #7
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Chicago 4 is closest.

That would have been so amazing! Im suprised Bono didnt try and surf the TV channels after The Fly.
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Old 06-12-2002, 08:44 PM   #8
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Thanks for looking up the setlists! Yes, definitely Chicago 4. I'll never forget the collective confusion/excitement when they launched into One as the fifth song of the concert.

I have the boot of Boston 4, though, and that was awesome as well!
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Old 06-12-2002, 09:41 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mirrorball Girl
Thanks for looking up the setlists! Yes, definitely Chicago 4. I'll never forget the collective confusion/excitement when they launched into One as the fifth song of the concert.
Yes! Chicago 4 was awesome. It was nice to have the standard setlist shaken up. Since I didn't see ZooTV I guess I got to have a little taste of it- if only Bono had come out as The Fly!
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Old 06-12-2002, 11:02 PM   #10
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blah, what a nice spin, can't change the setlist because the props won't be as impressive??? what the fuck is that?? if the band can't maintain 40 or 50 songs in their repertoire, then just say it, don't b.s. everyone
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Old 06-12-2002, 11:06 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by The Wanderer
blah, what a nice spin, can't change the setlist because the props won't be as impressive??? what the fuck is that?? if the band can't maintain 40 or 50 songs in their repertoire, then just say it, don't b.s. everyone
amen.

that was the excuse for popmart and zootv.

elevation was back to the basics, wasnt it?!

if CLUB bands can do it, anyone can. especially if its a stripped down tour.

that is all.
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Old 06-13-2002, 07:25 AM   #12
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yeah but arenas are bigger than clubs. more to do and more that can go wrong. and its even little things that need to be queued like the red screen for Streets. Its just red but someone has to take care of that.
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Old 06-13-2002, 08:17 AM   #13
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the only problem i have with what willie says is that he makes the assumption that the visuals are as important as the music. i guess from his stand point it probably is and maybe to the casual fan, but my guess is the real avid U2 fans would prefer the music variety and suprise over visaul stunts and suprises. i cetainly would. although, for example, the writing on the walls during walk on was very cool- but i would much rather that do away with things like that and played different songs. that really dosent make the concert for me, i didnt walk out saying that concert was so great b/c of the way they projected the words on the walls. i really didnt think about it. all that said he is right they are the best at what they do, and i'll still see them as many times as i can whether the change it up or not (and we all know they wont).

jp
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Old 06-13-2002, 11:55 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by jphelmet
the only problem i have with what willie says is that he makes the assumption that the visuals are as important as the music. i guess from his stand point it probably is and maybe to the casual fan, but my guess is the real avid U2 fans would prefer the music variety and suprise over visaul stunts and suprises. i cetainly would. although, for example, the writing on the walls during walk on was very cool- but i would much rather that do away with things like that and played different songs. that really dosent make the concert for me, i didnt walk out saying that concert was so great b/c of the way they projected the words on the walls. i really didnt think about it. all that said he is right they are the best at what they do, and i'll still see them as many times as i can whether the change it up or not (and we all know they wont).

jp
Actually he kind of addressed exactly this. His point was that the only person that really cares about the changed setlist is the die hards that go to more than one show (which is most of us here). Most the audience only goes to one show though and they dont know or care about the setlist variety. It is obvious U2 likes to get in a comfort zone or flow with the setlist and they feel their performance is better when they do this. It is their perogative to do what they want. They are playing for the masses not the diehards. It has always been this way with U2. Why do we feel the need to continue to complain about it. It isnt going to change. Just be happy if you get to see them live period. That is my theory.
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Old 06-13-2002, 12:52 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by Blue Room


They are playing for the masses not the diehards. It has always been this way with U2.
you right. that is ture they play to the masses and not the diehards. the frustrating thing about that is t you can have it both ways. pearl jam for example most definelty plays to their dieheard fans, but i dont think it is at the expense of the masses enjoyment of the shows. they play just about their entire catalog including b-sides that the majority of the audience has probably never heard. i think the same would be true if u2 were to adopt this. the masses are their to hear the hits, the songs they know form the radio and dont care about the rest.

the point of my original posts was not to complain about setlists, i am extremely grateful that u2 continues to tour and play as many shows as they do. my point was that it was interesting to me that willie seem to put such a high premium on the visual complexity of the show. he sounds as if that is as important as the music. i was simple disagreeing with that. u2 are the best live band ever and to me it is has nothing to do with the visuals. i do understand he is saying they get into a flow and their isnt going to be spontaneity after 100 shows, but it also sounds like to me the how fixed the setlist is has (at least to a certain degree) to do with the visuals. you are right its u2's perogative if they want to sacrifice the variety of different setlists, for the visual grandness. i dont have a problem with that- in the end it looks great. but for me i dont really care how it looks, its just about the music.
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Old 06-13-2002, 12:56 PM   #16
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remember guys, this was written by U2's lighting/design/director. Of course he is going to comment on the visuals because that is his love/job etc.

Lest you forget U2 incorporated over 40 songs in the tour (not including covers...)
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Old 06-13-2002, 01:19 PM   #17
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Um, i thought the setlists were fine.

When you use visuals/prerecorded intros like U2, that limits the options to what songs/when they appear in the setlists. These days EVERYONE has visuals and special stage designs, and it's only normal that a band as big as U2 uses it too. Besides, i watched the Boston Elevation show on TV and IMO the visuals enchanced the experience, and blended with the music without overshadowing it.
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Old 06-13-2002, 02:00 PM   #18
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Re: Willie Williams opinion of U2 Setlists

Quote:
Originally posted by Swan269
When you add to this the advent of the Internet you have to accept that as soon as you've done one show everyone in the world knows what you're up to.
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Old 06-13-2002, 05:11 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally posted by jphelmet


you right. that is ture they play to the masses and not the diehards. the frustrating thing about that is t you can have it both ways. pearl jam for example most definelty plays to their dieheard fans, but i dont think it is at the expense of the masses enjoyment of the shows. they play just about their entire catalog including b-sides that the majority of the audience has probably never heard. i think the same would be true if u2 were to adopt this. the masses are their to hear the hits, the songs they know form the radio and dont care about the rest.

the point of my original posts was not to complain about setlists, i am extremely grateful that u2 continues to tour and play as many shows as they do. my point was that it was interesting to me that willie seem to put such a high premium on the visual complexity of the show. he sounds as if that is as important as the music. i was simple disagreeing with that. u2 are the best live band ever and to me it is has nothing to do with the visuals. i do understand he is saying they get into a flow and their isnt going to be spontaneity after 100 shows, but it also sounds like to me the how fixed the setlist is has (at least to a certain degree) to do with the visuals. you are right its u2's perogative if they want to sacrifice the variety of different setlists, for the visual grandness. i dont have a problem with that- in the end it looks great. but for me i dont really care how it looks, its just about the music.
I actually do agree with you jp. My post was more about the whole topic in general and directed at those that DO complain about the setlist ALL THE TIME! LOL I didnt think you were complaining about the setlists. As a diehard who goes to multiple shows I would absolutely love for U2 to mix it up every night like Springsteen does and as Pearl Jam does as you pointed out. I do think U2 made more of an effort to mix it a little bit on Elevation. They played more different songs on Elevation than any other tour they have done (except maybe JT, cant remember). I saw 8 shows and although the structure was similiar for most, every single one was different in some way as far as the setlist. So I was extremely happy. But I would have been even if the setlists were all pretty much the same.

I guess my point is why do people bitch about it incessantly when there is nothing they can do about it, U2 has always done it this way, and I highly doubdt they are going to change now after playing live for over 20 years and generally regarded as one of the best live acts around. I think their point of view is probebly, if it isnt broke, then why fix it.
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