Shuttlecock XXV: Cool Hats Club

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Here is a long-ass little 'essay' (probably too long for one post, we'll see how it goes), where I rank the 10 shows I have seen in 7 countries over the course of (almost) 19 years. Whoever has the patience to read this, good luck! And I invite all of you people here (five or six of you) to do something similar.
10. 2009-08-10 – Maksimir Stadium, Zagreb, Croatia, 360 Tour

It is odd and ironic that my hometown show is at the bottom of this list. Nevertheless, this concert remained the least impressive in my memory. Even though it was announced first, it turned out to be the second out of two in Zagreb, after August 9th (which caused some anger among local fans who paid the ticket for this show but did not want to experience a 'replay') :rolleyes:. It certainly had the better audience and atmosphere of the two shows, but a slightly weaker setlist IMO, and a personal fatigue ensued during the second half for having seen the same thing the day before, as the only changes were in the first half (Mysterious Ways / I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For / Stuck in a Moment instead of Elevation / Until the End of the World / Stay (Faraway, So Close!)

My overall impression of the 360 Tour is that it never realised its potential (outside of possibly the 2011 shows which I unfortunately haven't seen), with the overreliance on songs from the 2000s, including the mellow ones that slowed down the pace way too much. The show suffered from a lack of heavier and darker material, and the political aspects were ridiculously on-the-nose even for this band (the Aung San Suu Kyi masks during Walk On… shudder). The Horizon songs also did not work its charms on the audience much (Breathe was an odd opener), and Bono's attempts for the audience to sing along during Unknown Caller was one of the more embarrassing moments I have experienced at a U2 show (along with that dreadful Crazy Tonight remix). On the plus side, there was the amazing version of Ultra Violet, the Shine Like Stars verse in With or Without You (only time I got that one), and the delight that was The Unforgettable Fire (even if this version was not up to par to its 80s counterpart). The castrated Mysterious Ways, without Edge's solo, was the first time I’ve seen the song live, but it was fun to see and the audience participation was certainly high.

The biggest surprise and one of my most cherished memories actually happened before the concert, when I listened to Your Blue Room – my favourite Passengers song - being soundchecked outside of the stadium. This was the first time it was soundchecked before its debut on the 2nd leg of the 360 Tour, and it did not feature awkward astronaut vocals (in fact, Adam seemed to have sung his verse). So yeah, it says a lot about the gig that a personal highlight was during the eavesdropped soundcheck and not during the gig itself.

Highlights: Ultra Violet, Shine Like Stars

Lowlights: Unknown Caller, Crazy Tonight, Walk On

WTF Moment: The failed 'sing-along' to the chorus of Unknown Caller, the masks, Your Blue Room soundchecked for the first time before the gig

9. 2018-10-12 – Mediolanum Forum di Assago, Milan, Italy, Experience + Innocence Tour

This one would have easily been the last on the list if not for the fact it was the first time I have seen Acrobat, my holy grail of live music in general. And it was quite a magnificent version to witness, a living proof of the band still being an amazing live act, with Edge’s playing in particular losing nothing of its vigour and feel. I also consider myself lucky to have seen this show as more 90s material started to pop during the tour, and the full band version of Stay was a particular highlight. One should also point out the return of Zoo Station and Wild Horses, the latter being an effective closer to the first set.

Otherwise… eh. One bizarre decision early in the show was to bring back All Because of You out of all songs, which had a lukewarm response, even among the lively Italians. The general Broadway atmosphere of the show, particularly in the second half, with Bono incessantly talking before, during and after the songs, made the whole ‘experience’ slightly underwhelming. And the fact that I had to endure Get Out of Your Own Way and Love is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way live makes me a very tolerant fan. Overall impression: good, but not great.

Highlights: Acrobat, Acrobat, Acrobat. A fan’s dream come true. The MacPhisto speech was eerie and a fitting introduction to the track. Zoo Station/Stay/Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses trio.

Lowlights: The aforementioned dreadful new songs. All Because of You. The ‘Broadway’ speeches (with the exception of MacPhisto). Bono ‘talking’ to his wife before The Best Thing. No guitar solo in Even Better Than the Real Thing, replaced by Bono’s incoherent blabbering about the Holy Spirit.

WTF Moment: The Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me interlude, accompanied by impressive comic book visuals… but without a live performance of the track. And the fact that anybody in the U2 camp thought that Bono talking over what seemed to be a third of the show would be a good idea.

8. 2009-08-09 - Maksimir Stadium, Zagreb, Croatia, 360 Tour

My first exposure to the 360 Tour, and it was the first of two shows in my hometown, at a derelict concrete landfill of a stadium that is sadly still the biggest one in a small country famous for its World Cup football successes. I vividly remember the audience’s muted reaction to the first four songs from No Line on the Horizon, and the energy palpably going up as soon as Beautiful Day started, with Bono reciting a lovely snippet in Croatian of Dubravka by Ivan Gundulić, a poem by one of Dubrovnik’s greatest poets and symbols of Croatian literature (the version from the 2nd Zagreb show, also featuring this poem, is available on U22 live compilation).

A big personal highlight was a very good performance of One, with Hear Us Coming/Unchained Melody to finish it off, followed by a monstrous version of Until the End of the World, which was my first time seeing it live. Edge never disappoints with Achtung Baby songs, though I can also report a relatively quiet response in the audience to the song (unlike, say, Elevation). He got a well-deserved belated ‘Happy Birthday’ performance from the audience that night. The Unforgettable Fire and Ultra Violet were delightful, and even though I had many issues with the pace and feel of the second half of the show, the novelty and the occasion of the show made up for any reservations I had.

Highlights: Until the End of the World (Bono and Edge ‘dueling’ over the bridges) with a fantastic Edge performance, One featuring Hear Us Coming and Unchained Melody, The Unforgettable Fire (with a spectacular background of the screen splitting and lowering), Ultra Violet

Lowlights: A lacklustre audience (2nd show was much better), Unknown Caller, Crazy Tonight remix, Walk On, the awkward bishop Tutu introduction to Streets

WTF Moment: Again - Unknown Caller. Masks.

7. 2015-10-10 – Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona, Spain, Innocence + Experience Tour

I consider this show to be a pleasant surprise, as my expectations were quite low. Outside of a couple of songs close to its end, Songs of Innocence was an album that I found to be borderline unlistenable. The fact that I decide to go to a show to promote these songs seemed to be dumb. But it was an extremely fun arena show, with the Spanish/Catalan crowd contributing massively to a lively atmosphere. It is also the longest show I’ve seen with 25 songs, including surprises like Spanish Eyes (even Larry was smiling when they had no idea how to finish it) and first-time experiences of songs like Gloria, Even Better Than the Real Thing, Desire, October (great!), along with Bad/”40”, which was easily the best closing set of songs I have seen thus far.

This was the first show where I feel I had truly experienced the magic of Streets, as the Zooropa introduction benefited massively to its power, even though that snippet left me a bit frustrated I have not been able to see the 2011 live version. I have had mixed feelings about this tour’s version of Bullet, which Bono used as a vehicle to talk about himself (a problem that will be exacerbated during the mirror Experience + Innocence Tour). The political undertones were also a bit of a mixed bag, since the Troubles section reminded me that there were superior songs like Please and Love is Blindness in the vault, instead of a clumsy stripped-down version of Sunday Bloody Sunday, not to mention that Raaaaaaihhhsed by Wolves songlet. Penelope Cruz showing up and a drunk Javier Bardem with a feather boa trolling the band during Mysterious Ways (again, the castrated version) was a nice bonus. The fact that it was the fourth show in the same city contributed to a loose and entertaining night.

Highlights: Even Better Than the Real Thing (with the solo intact!), Gloria, October, Zooropa/Streets, Bad/”40”

Lowlights: Songs of mutilated innocence.

WTF Moment: Javier Bardem in a feather boa pretty much wishing to impregnate Boner on stage. A 5-minute version of Spanish Eyes, with the band having no idea how to conclude the track (a good WTF moment that was).

6. 2018-11-13 – Mercedes-Benz Arena, Berlin, Germany, Experience + Innocence Tour

I had second thoughts about revisiting the E+I show. However, certain songs that were rehearsed and played during the last weeks of this tour made me reconsider, not to mention that a Berlin show with a number of Achtung Baby songs would probably prove to be special. And it indeed turned out to be quite an event, with possibly the best crowd I’ve seen at a U2 show. As far as changes compared to Milan were, there was the bizarre version of Dirty Day, one of my favourite U2 live tracks, where Bono decided to yammer away instead of singing the bloody thing. A very good version of The Fly was a treat, despite the odd decision of having the falsetto chorus being swamped by backing tracks. Zoo Station with the production background of the actual Zoologischer Garten station in Berlin was a nice piece of meta-entertainment.

Other than Dirty Day, The Fly, and a high-energy version of Gloria to replace All Because of You, the show was quite similar to the Milan show. There was a magnificent version of Acrobat again, and I feel honoured that this show was filmed and released (in a weird way through though). The One sing-along was organic and quite powerful. This version of New Year’s Day was not the greatest one I’ve seen, but I feel blessed at not having the torture of hearing American Soul live. The awkwardness of the new songs and endless speeches remained, yet the celebratory feel of the show puts this above Milan by a certain margin.

Highlights: The whole 90s set – this time ‘complete’ with Dirty Day and The Fly, and an excellent version of Gloria in the opening salvo. Emotional audience sing-along to One. Great version of Acrobat again.

Lowlights: Songs of dreadful experience (with the exception of The Blackout and Lights of Home, which were a decent opening set of songs, all things considered). Bono talking. And talking. And talking. And talking some more.

WTF Moment: That version of Dirty Day. Edge’s explosive guitar during the chorus was still there (no solo though), so it was worth seeing it live, but how does Bono change a song about a father abandoning his family to some kind of a misplaced ode to his late dad? Why does not anybody stop him?
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5. 2017-07-09 – Twickenham Stadium, London, United Kingdom, The Joshua Tree 2017 Tour

Axver and I had attended the two shows in London, and this 2nd show was overshadowed by the fact that good old Ax was robbed of A Sort of Homecoming in a particularly cruel way (they played it at all other 2nd shows in Europe on that leg, including Rome, Amsterdam and Paris). I’ll never forget his forlorn face when Bad started playing during the potential ASOH-slot (one of his favourite songs, ironically). One thing was to get Ax’s blues settled and… well, get shitfaced. Therefore, we watched the show from the backward vicinity of the stadium bar, which resulted in going crazy for songs like Elevation and Vertigo. I will talk in more detail about the JT30 show in my review of the first one, but I will say that a big personal highlight took place during this one – an uncastrated, fully endowed version of Mysterious Ways, finally featuring the long-awaited slide solo. The version of Exit was even more intense than the night before, and I would submit this song as a proof that this band is still a powerful live band act. On paper, this was the best setlist that I’ve witnessed up until that point.

Highlights: Finally Mysterious Ways featuring the slide solo. One Tree Hill and Exit. Full version of New Year’s Day with the final verse included.

Lowlights: That version of Red Hill Mining Town… not great. The decision to go with the piano instead of guitar was not a smart one.

WTF Moment: The omission of A Sort of Homecoming, probably due to rehearsal laziness.

4. 2017-07-08 – Twickenham Stadium, London, United Kingdom, The Joshua Tree 2017 Tour

The fact that they would play one of my favourite albums live front-to-back, and that this would be an opportunity to attend a U2 concert without the baggage of dubious new material, was a wonderful gift for this jaded transpotter and a reluctant fanboy who kinda thinks most of the post-2000 material is the musical equivalent of the Antichrist. So I went with it, with Axver at my side, and it was easily the best U2 show ever since my first one. The band was in a good mood, there was a stunning snippet of “Heroes” in Bad, the whole JT section was a godsend, with a special nod to Running to Stand Still, One Tree Hill, Exit (masterful) and Mothers of the Disappeared. Even Trip Through Your Wires was amusing enough! Hearing Miss Sarajevo in full for the first time was also a memorable moment, and I think this guitar-based arrangement was far superior to the Running to Stand Still piano one, even though Bono did not try the Pavarotti vocals. Honouring the victims of the Grenfell Tower (I had seen the building that day – it was reduced to a sinister wreckage, only weeks after the terrible event) with Noel Gallagher was a unique end to the concert, and who could resist 60,000 Londoners and Earthlings singing along to Don’t Look Back in Anger?

Highlights: The entirety of The Joshua Tree played live. A monstrous performance of Exit.

Lowlights: Elevation and Vertigo. I had enough of these two at this point.

WTF Moment: Closing with Don’t Look Back in Anger featuring Noel Gallagher.

And for a grumpy epilogue… There was this dickhead next to me who stood like a pillar of salt without any energy or movement for the entirety of the show… until Elevation came along and then he was jumping around like a horny schoolgirl. After which he was hibernating again. Can I submit a hypothesis that a song is objectively shit if it proves to be a magnet for dickheads? ;)

3. 2005-07-02 – Ernst Happel Stadion, Vienna, Austria, Vertigo Tour

My first U2 concert, and my first big international concert as well, happened at the absolute height of my U2 fanboydom. I even thought at this time that Atomic Bomb was a great album. I can admit now I also had the Teenage Axver Fever back then, where I thought a song like Miracle Drug was the equivalent of ecstasy (full disclosure - I tried the real thing years after and I can proudly state that ecstasy is better than Miracle Drug).

Anyways, not even shit seats could turn me off from feeling completely elated during the whole Vienna show. This was a concert denigrated by the always cheerful Larry Mullen Jr. in U2 by U2, where he snarkily stated that it was hardly one of their best shows due to Live 8 taking place that same day. I actually thought that helped the show’s momentum, with band arriving late from London and the crowd just being hyped enough in anticipation. The Electric Co. was fantastic, New Year’s Day was amazing, and I still claim that Love and Peace or Else is a great live song, with Samurai Boner goofing around on Larry’s drumkit. In my proudest Anti-Hive moment, I can submit without hesitation that I very much enjoy the Vertigo version of Bullet the Blue Sky, with the Hendrixian ZooTV arrangement solo still intact, albeit filtered through a bluesy palette, and a melancholic ending which had a freshness to it that any JT arrangement in later tours lacked (some versions during this leg actually combined the JT and ZooTV solos, which made for some interesting renditions). Loved Running to Stand Still as well, with a Walk On snippet that actually made me emotional (I was young). The Africa intro to Streets was as awkward then as it is now. But the true highlight was the ZooTV encore, where I came close to spontaneously combusting. To experience Zoo Station and The Fly in that stadium, with those visuals (limited visibility though due to crappy seats), was the best memory that even that underwhelming 2nd encore could not debase.

Highlights: The Electric Co. with Edge going wild on the catwalk. New Year’s Day. Bullet and Running to Stand Still. Zoo Station/The Fly combo.

Lowlights: All Because of You-Yahweh-Vertigox2 encore. Not the best way to end a gig. The lack of Mysterious Ways on the majority of that leg of the tour, which had the unfortunate consequence of me having to wait for a proper slide solo version for a very long time.

WTF Moment: Vertigo 2. One of those baffling decisions we got used to more and more as time went by. I guess one reason was to show the visuals, since the production would not be visible in daylight, which was when most concerts started during those European summer days (remember, during the 1st leg in North America, the decision to play Vertigox2 was always “spontaneous”). But what was the point of Vertigo 1 then? Could they not open with, say, Until the End of the World? They had to be stubborn and always open with a new song…

2. 2024-02-18 – The Sphere, Las Vegas, USA, U2: UV Achtung Baby Live at Sphere

Turns out I was so impressed by my first Sphere show in October 2023 so much (spoiler alert for no. 1) that I took my older brother and went again to Las Vegas four months later, armed with a nasty jetlag and a sleepless night, to have another majestic experience at the Sphere. Needless to say, the show was pretty good. Among many excellent performances, one that truly stood out was oddly… One, a song that was turned into a cliché and a political playground for so many years and countless concerts, but this version was faithful to the album one, without a big political or hippie intro, not to mention (confirmed by the bootleg) that a ZooTV-worthy falsetto had a cameo appearance. In 2024.

The Edge was at the top of his game during the show, especially during those fantastic performances of Acrobat and Love is Blindness, which represent the pinnacle of his live playing in my mind. Clayton was in a showman mood for the whole gig, and Bram van den Berg deserves a special mention at being so comfortable (trolling the band with a huge fake moustache parodying Clayton’s new image; he looked like he was playing in the famous Croatian band Let 3) and giving the band that much needed extra punch live. It is a crime that Mysterious Ways still lacked the slide guitar solo, and I wish that any other song would open the encore other than Elevation, but those are truly minor criticisms.

Another memorable and unique moment was Bono’s passionate speech about Israel and Palestine, where he actually got confrontational with the crowd, ordering them to SHUT UP when they started cheering as soon as murdered Palestinian children were mentioned (as you do). Somebody from the audience shouted back at him to shut up… it was intense for a bit, which is a rarity at a U2 show nowadays. After the speech veered toward mentioning the Troubles, it finished with a moment that left me as blueballed as I could ever be, since I sadly convinced myself that they would play Please… turns out it was Peace on Earth, the dreadful tree deficit song. Alas, an underwhelming end to quite a passionate moment. The transition to Acrobat worked very well though, and it only got better toward the end of the main set. The encore may seem frustrating and underwhelming on the page, but one should keep the Vegas audience going after what must have been a challenging set for the challenged. Even Beautiful Day seemed to have worked as a closer (makes sense once you see how they connect the lyrics in the bridge with what is happening on the screen). I don’t believe this will be the last U2 show I’ll see, but it would be as good as any to end on a very high note.

Highlights: The Zoo Station/The Fly/Even Better Than the Real Thing opening combo (even though speakers failed during Edge’s solo on The Fly), great performance of One, Until the End of the World, Acrobat, Love is Blindness, the Vegas visuals in the encore… and so on. Bono with his Fly shades on is still a mythical figure.

Lowlights: The whole ‘leaving the balloon for Ali’ shtick during (a musically very good performance of) Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World did not work, and gave me some E+I PTSD flashbacks. Why would one make an universal drinking/hangover song about himself and his missus? Elevation is such an infantile encore opener, but a great piss break song.

WTF Moment: SHUT UP! Peace on Earth instead of Please.

1. 2023-10-05 – The Sphere, Las Vegas, USA, U2: UV Achtung Baby Live at Sphere

After around 15 years of being underwhelmed and disappointed by so many choices made by this band, and most importantly, having a cruel aversion to their new music, it would have taken a lot to make me a proud contemporary fan of these four individuals. If anybody would have told me it would take a Las Vegas residency, minus one member of the band, to change my mind about their status in today’s climate, I would have sent her or him directions to the closest asylum.

I went in as spoiler-free as possible, and I was pretty impressed by the colossal monstrosity of that venue, the production, the performances, and the general atmosphere of joy and bewilderment. As soon as Boner started singing I Could Have Lost You (or Found You as it is in this new iteration – a clever nod to the first two legs of ZooTV), followed by the glorious return of the Fly shades, while the ‘cross/holy light’ opening/cracking of the screen was initiated during Zoo Station, I knew I was witnessing something iconic.

The production, going from futuristic to psychedelic, from gorgeous to disturbing, is something that can never be described or shown by an uploaded video. Being in the middle of a high-speed chase in a spherical spaceship at the far end of the universe while high on LSD would be my closest description of the thing. I actually had to be dissuaded by the Internet afterwards that the stage was not lifting during those crazy Even Better Than the Real Thing visuals.

What also needs to be emphasised is that the GA experience was the most intimate it ever felt for me on a U2 gig. It was this combination of intimacy and bombast that made the show work so much. The show was both a Zoo TV tribute and an entirely new thing with its own identity. I was never so emotional during a concert as when I was watching The Edge play his Love is Blindness solo, his greatest in my mind. Acrobat and The Fly (despite a Clayton fuck-up during the solo in the latter track) were huge highlights. The focus was on the songs, without political speechifying, Broadway nonsense, numerous interludes, or Bono shouting over great instrumental parts (something that really went out of control during the 360 Tour for instance). Bram van den Berg brought a new vitality and energy to the songs, especially on Acrobat, Wild Horses and With or Without You. Bono was focused on his vocals, attempting solid falsetto during Even Better Than the Real Thing and One.

And there were some amazing unexpected tributes, like Bono dedicating All I Want is You to Eddie Vedder, the frontman of my other favourite band. It was a pleasure seeing Eddie on the VIP balcony having a pretty good time. The story went full circle as my older brother - who saw the Sphere show with me the second time around - saw U2 for the first time on the Zoo TV tour in Verona, where Pearl Jam served as the opening band. And to keep the continuity intact, crazy Javier Bardem was also losing his shit next to Eddie, yet this time without a feather boa...

Meanwhile, there was the odd surprise of Love Rescue Me, which is not a song I enjoy much, but I could actually say it sounded better in this denuded format. The encore may not have been a dream one setlist-wise, yet it provided the energy and the familiarity needed for the Vegas crowd. The show was indeed a dream come true, and it surpassed all expectations I had. Good stuff.

Highlights: The Zoo Station/The Fly/Even Better Than the Real Thing opening combo (despite Clayton’s fuckup during Edge’s solo on The Fly), One, Until the End of the World, lovely Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World, first time hearing Angel of Harlem live, insane versions of Acrobat and Love is Blindness, crazy visuals on With or Without You… The list goes on.

Lowlights: Elevation as the encore opener. No slide solo in Mysterious Ways.

WTF Moment: The Sphere.

In any case, as Orson Welles had put it, if you want your story to have a happy ending, it is up to you to decide where to stop the story. These concerts in Vegas are a good way to have a nice closure to this. We'll see what 2025 brings us and how they manage to fuck it up!​
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Here is a long-ass little 'essay' (probably too long for one post, we'll see how it goes), where I rank the 10 shows I have seen in 7 countries over the course of (almost) 19 years. Whoever has the patience to read this, good luck! And I invite all of you people here (five or six of you) to do something similar.
Wasn't that long ass of an essay.
Good write up and solid memories of shows from years back.

Think my ally is at 31 shows currently, not going to do a write up on 31 shows. perhaps I'll try and just compile a list of some of the more memorable moments.
Well, long ass for a message board post anyway. ;)

Do that list! And some terrible moments as well - we need some variety...
Fuck though, I forgot how much I love Holy Joe. Also happy to see these all consolidated into one single. Since 97, I think I had 3 different discs with all of them that I ended up uploading to Apple Music and throwing in a random U2 playlist.
Well, I don't dislike any of the tracks outright, and even my least favorite (SATS) isn't something I'd kick off the album. I've messed with alternate tracklistings before (putting Mofo first, having Discotheque open "side 2", etc.) but never arrived at something I retained for posterity. I actually think the order works very well as-is and it's the last U2 album I think you can say that about.

If I was going to put it somewhere it would be very prominent because I think it's better than half the songs on there. Maybe track 4 or 5.

And while we're at it, I also rate I'm Not Your Baby VERY high, and have put it on previous custom versions of Pop. Technically not part of the Pop sessions as it was't recorded until Spring of 1997 but it has the same production team.
the new mix of Your Blue Room :drool:
You got me excited, it sounds exactly the same lol. 10/10 song tho.
the Monster Truck Mix is an interesting answer to "what if U2 was The Prodigy?"
That was pretty great. Don't love the Sad Bastard one, the fuzzy HMTMKMKM solo freakout aside.
Also forgot about North and South of the River. Great song.
The original also rules. Shame every time they've touched it since they've neutered it.
Are these remixes all ones that came out at the time? And this is just the first time they're available for public streaming/purchase?
Might fuck around and listen to an hour of Discotheque remixes at work.
And while we're at it, I also rate I'm Not Your Baby VERY high, and have put it on previous custom versions of Pop. Technically not part of the Pop sessions as it was't recorded until Spring of 1997 but it has the same production team.
Yes! I've actually come back to this song quite often lately.
I'm Not Your Baby is excellent. All their band/solo collaborations with Sinead O'Connor were great (Heroine in particular).

I would actually love to hear a studio version of their 360 version of Your Blue Room with Sinead (without the astronaut though, that was dumb and Clayton should have always recited that verse). American stadiums were simply the wrong venue for that rendition. Without the cheesy "planet Earth" motif, I think that would have been an interesting alternative version to have.
Are these remixes all ones that came out at the time? And this is just the first time they're available for public streaming/purchase?
They are the same. I bought all of the Pop singles on CD as they were released in ‘97 and they all have the same mixes and track lists as these “new” releases.

Speaking of “Your Blue Room”, on the chorus lyrics says that Bono sings “Saw Me Coming” on both refrains, where to me it sounds like something different on the first like “Saw me come alive?” and then on the second “Saw me coming”.

What do you guys hear/think?
Here is a long-ass little 'essay' (probably too long for one post, we'll see how it goes), where I rank the 10 shows I have seen in 7 countries over the course of (almost) 19 years. Whoever has the patience to read this, good luck! And I invite all of you people here (five or six of you) to do something similar.
Thanks for doing this, djerdap, it was lovely to read and you inspired me to do the same. Ax is indeed a hoot, and though I like Miracle Drug, you're right, MDMA is better.

10. Brisbane I, 360 Tour, 2010
My third and final show of the 360 Tour and pretty comfortably the worst U2 show I’ve seen. The crowd was pretty flat and the setlist was awful. Melbourne II was pretty bad, but at Brisbane I they played North Star instead of Stuck. 2010 was the worst time to see 360, because they’d dropped all the NLOTH songs, but they hadn’t started playing the awesome setlists with Zooropa and so on yet, which came in 2011. So some nights you’d get Bad, and then other nights you’d get North Star. I can’t remember anything about it, other than it being really fucking boring and uninspired.

Highlights: Going with one of my U2-loving cousins (who lives in Brisbane) was about the only saving grace, aside from hearing a bunch of great U2 songs live, of course.

Lowlights: North Star.

9. Melbourne II, 360 Tour, 2010
After the highs of the previous night, which I speak to below, to be subjected to a very staid and boring setlist, as well as being miles away in the cheap seats behind the stage, and getting told not to stand up and dance, this show was pretty souring. But it ranks higher because Stuck is better than North Star.

Highlights: Getting to see U2 and Jay-Z for $60.

Lowlights: Boring setlist.

8. Los Angeles II, JT30 Tour, 2017
From here on out, a lot of these shows are very, very close to each other. Only the previous two were shows that I didn’t absolutely love on some level. But this one easily ranks in this position because they played one less song than the previous night - dropping A Sort of Homecoming. I was so far back on Night One that, sadly, I have a really poor memory of A Sort of Homecoming, and so I was expecting that on Night Two I’d really be able to soak it in, being closer. But when they went straight into Streets after Pride, I was absolutely devastated, and that was a feeling that really hung around. Otherwise, really amazing show. This was such a good tour.

Highlights: One was the best it’s ever been live, in my fandom. Hear Us Coming, after 12 years of being an obsessive fan.

Lowlights: A Sort of Homecoming getting dropped, not replaced, and them finishing the show well before the curfew.

7. Brisbane I, JT30 Tour, 2019
Got to see one of my favourite albums of all time performed in full with some U2-loving family I don’t see very much. Magic.

Highlights: Can’t remember. It was all great.

Lowlights: None.

6. Los Angeles I, JT30 Tour, 2017
Went with Laz and some of his friends. We were walking for a long time beforehand because Laz wanted to buy a bottle of water, but he wouldn’t buy it from certain shops lol. This show took place just after Chris Cornell had died, and Running to Stand Still was dedicated to him. This was my first time hearing this song live, after loving it so dearly for so many years. RTSS and Exit were the sole reasons I travelled halfway across the world to see this show. RTSS had me absolutely weeping. And they played A Sort of Homecoming. I remember loving it, but it was in daylight, and god we were a mile back, and sadly I just really don’t have good memories of the performance. They also played I Will Follow as the closer, which fucking slapped so hard, and though I enjoy Little Things it was a way better way to end things.

Highlights: Being present for U2 playing a fucking A Sort of Homecoming, Running to Stand Still, the ferocity of Exit, which proved a million times over that the band still rock fucking hard, the incredible screen, and how it was used for the Joshua Tree segment of the show in particular. How fucking good is I Will Follow.

Lowlights: the Rose Bowl is not a great venue imo.

5. Las Vegas X, Sphere Residency, 2023
Night two of my two Sphere shows. I had a lovely connection with a couple before, during and after the show. It’s probably the closest I’ve ever been to the band. We got WLCTT instead of Angel of Harlem. It was a great show and awesome to experience from the floor, although the visuals are better from higher up, I felt more connected to the band this night. Ranks lower because I knew what to expect, although being able to rock out more to some of the songs than I could in the seats was nice. I said a thank you and goodbye to the band, in case it’s the last time I see them.

Highlights: Looking around during Streets and seeing everyone on their feet absolutely adoring this band that I’ve been obsessed with for me than half of my life.

Lowlights: Paying $100 US dollars for a red wine, a G&T and a whiskey.

4. Melbourne I, 360 Tour, 2010
My second-ever U2 show, and at perhaps the height of my fandom. A lot of great performances of songs I love. The only time I have heard Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.

Highlights: Mercy followed by Bad. Quite simply the best one-two punch I’ve witnessed at a U2 show. Yes, they fucking ruined the best song they’ve written in nearly 30 years by truncating it by two minutes and that fucking abomination of a chorus, but I don’t care. To hear fucking Mercy live was unreal, and the guitar and the verses were in tact, and to then follow it up with Bad, it was just unreal.

Lowlights: The setlist parties making me hate Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me with a passion.

3. Melbourne I, JT30 Tour, 2019
This was an incredibly special show for me. I caught up with a good friend beforehand and then went into the gig with her, another good friend and my partner at the time who is very dear to me. I felt the most ‘grown up’ I’ve felt at a U2 show and the entire experience was just an absolute joy, and extremely moving. I felt so, so, so happy. They added I Will Follow to the setlist before JT, which was so fucking good, and I preferred Love is Bigger to Little Things.

Highlights: Hearing and singing “your love was a light bulb / hanging over my bed” while weeping next to my girlfriend. Really special moment. Also, the Into My Arms snippet during Bad was awesome.

2. Las Vegas IX, Sphere Residency, 2023
First time seeing the band in four years, about a year after the most significant change I’ve ever been through in the separation of the aforementioned partner. The second Zoo Station started I was in tears, and everything thereafter just meant the world to me. I bawled several times. This was also, to my ears, the best they have ever sounded in all the years I’ve seen them live.

Highlights: Everything, really. The lady who asked me if I needed a huge after I wept all through WOWY was pretty amazing though. Also, discovering My Way by Frank Sinatra, which has since become an anthem of mine.

Lowlights: None.

1. Melbourne I, Vertigo Tour, 2006
To this day, the best night of my life. I was a pretty lonely 16-year-old boy, whose life had started to revolve around U2 and this forum. I’d lost both my grandfathers in the 18 months prior. At my mum’s dad’s funeral, I read out the lyrics to Kite. To hear through the forum that, ahead of this tour, they were rehearsing Kite (as part of an ATYCLB tribute because the Aussie dollar was too weak for them to bring that tour down under), was unbelievable. More unbelievable was the version they ended up playing on this leg, as the closer, which was eight minutes long and included a local Indigenous man playing didgeridoo. I was genuinely high for like the next three weeks. Felt so lucky to have witnessed it.

Highlights: Kite.

Lowlights: I begged my dad to buy me a ticket to the following night but he wouldn’t. They played The First Time, and then played Bad - with the Ruby Tuesday snippet, my favourite ever snippet in Bad (although they didn’t also do Sympathy for the Devil looking back at the setlist) and a 40 snippet - after Kite.
Despite the baffling Mercy hyperbole ;), that was a fun read, El Cobblerino.

We seem to have similar history regarding tours and shows. I wish I'd experienced Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me live, but I don't think another 360 Tour show in 2010 was worth the trip to be honest.

It's Hewson's turn.
Yeah the 360 tour was weird. I forgot that as it dragged on they played as little as 4 songs from the album they were supposed to be promoting.
The last 360 leg was pretty much the Achtung Baby leg (I wish I'd seen one of those shows - before the Sphere, it was the most 90s-focused setlist they had in this century, apart from some shows at the 1st leg of Elevation Tour). Only 3 Horizon songs were played for most of that leg. Sexy Boots, Crazy Tonight and Moment of Surrender (of course, there was that Philly show where Magnificent was played and The Fly was omitted...).

As a comparsion, more than 50 per cent of the show on the 1st leg consisted of material from the 2000s, which included 7 Horizon songs. Never has the setlist been so out of touch with the production.
Here she is - my top 10.

10. July 1, 2018 - eXperience and iNnocence Tour - Madison Square Garden - NYC

There's nothing that stands out about this show from a setlist standpoint. It was, more or less, boilerplate e/i - which is something I've actually been critical of. There was no need to bring back the i/e first set in North America - as mind blowing as it was on i/e. Alas...

So why is this show in my top 10? I don't know. There was just something about the vibe. The previous two shows I saw on the tour were at Capital One Arena (and I'm typing this in the same building, ironically). COA just isn't a great building for concerts. Maybe with the refurbishments we're about to undertake it'll improve - but sound is kind of muffled and the vibe is very meh. So coming into MSG - where the vibe is always off the charts - probably helped push this show up the list more than the setlist deserved.

It was also only my second time back in New York since I moved to DC in 2017. There were so many friends who I hadn't seen in a while who were at the show - and I hung around the back of the floor with them for the entire show and just had a fucking blast.

9. June 19, 2001 – Elevation Tour – MSG - NYC

Hey, it's an MSG show again.

Standard Elevation setlist - which, hey, let's be real - Elevation had an amazing setlist. ATYCLB had a ton of hits - so those songs all went off - but it was still close enough to the 80s/90s peak to have a ton of those songs in there as well. One of my favorite setlists in all of U2 concert history.

But the reason why this one makes the list is pretty simple - it was my first U2 concert. I was 20 years old - went with my dad (because, well, he paid - because i was a broke 20 year old). But the bonus of going with your dad to a show at 20 is that people tended to not ID you at bars and restaurants, which was nice.

MSG was soooo loud - especially during the stretch of Out of Control, 11'O'Clock TIck Tock and then Sunday Bloody Sunday. Those first two are just bangers - and then when the drums hit to close off that stretch the place just explodes.

Setlist Highlights: Bad into Streets, full band Desire, Out of Control into tick tock into Sunday, THE FLY

8. May 14, 2005 – Vertigo Tour – Wachovia Center - Philadelphia

Very standard setlist for the tour - but what made this one special was two-fold. One - it was the start of what was a crazy week centered around U2 shows... Phillies game the night before, the show at Wachovia, two shows in Jersey later that week, an Unforgettable Fire show at Flannery's, Mets/Yankees at Shea, the Belmont and finally a U2 gig at MSG. I needed a week off to recover lol.

And two - it was my first time meeting up with some of you wacky bastards - including Dave, Zoney/Jeff, and many many more who are no longer here. Not, like, dead... just not on interference.

It was also the first (and last) time I did the GA lineup. Day was supposed to be overcast with a high chance of rain. It ended up being sunny without a single cloud to be seen. And this guy didn't bring any sunscreen. My legs were purple a few days later. Not my finest moment. But it didn't bother me at the time!

Setlist Highlights: An Cat Dubh / The Black Cat, The Cry / Electric Co., Zoo Station.

7. October 8, 2005 – Vertigo Tour – Madison Square Garden - NYC

Saturday night at MSG - the best, Jerry. the best.

By now I was in tight with Unforgettable Fire and had started doing their webpage. Tony (Bono) was asked by some folks on U2's crew to do some pre-show work at the VIP parties... which more or less was just him showing up not in full costume (sorry, Pavel) - but just be there and bring your glasses in case people wanted to take some photos. Which he did - but mostly it was just enjoy yourself and drink for free. And hey, bring some friends! And oh, by the way, here's a pass to get you inside the ellipse.

So - we did that. Free drinks and free passage to the ellipse is a fine way to see a show - especially at MSG - where the floor literally bounces when the crowd gets into it because the arena is on the 5th floor. Before the show I got to hang out with Tom Morello for a good 5 minutes. What a nice dude who really did not need to take time out of his day to talk to some drunk 24 year old kid - but he did! Also how cool is it that he skipped the VIP and just hung out in the ellipse with everyone else?

After the show we were brought back stage - which is a holy shit moment. Not where the band was - more with the crew. Dennis Sheehan, Bob Koch, Joe O'Herlihy were all there, among other random folks. Had a nice conversation with JOH about how they record every single concert and store it in the vault for possible use in the future. And then the decision was made to hit up a bar in Midtown - so we all left the room and walked to the loading dock to wait for a van. While we were there Edge walked out, waved and jumped into his a waiting black car. Then our van came up and we all loaded in. As we went down the ramp (again - MSG is on the 5th floor, so the loading dock goes down and not up like at most arenas) and out onto 33rd Street, there was a crowd waiting outside for band members to come out - including some people who I knew. The look on their faces as I waved at them as we drove by was hilarious.

Ended up at a bar in the 50s - where I ended up just pulled up to the bar drinking pints of Guinness with Dennis Sheehan - who was just a gem of a guy. Great great night.

Setlist Highlights: All I Want Is You (full band) early in the set, a first for the tour. Mary J. Blige hoping on for One. The infamous Bono cell phone rant during Sunday Bloody Sunday. Fast Cars and full band Original of the Species and a great rendition of 40 to close it out.

6. June 29, 2017 – Joshua Tree 30th - MetLife Stadium - East Rutherford, NJ

Another show that isn't on here because of the set - absolute boiler plate JT30 set. But it's on here because I literally moved from NY to DC the next day - which was a huge move, considering that - college aside - I had lived in and around NYC for the entire 36 years of my life to that point. And I spent it hanging out in the parking lot and then on the field with the UF crew - band and close friends - which was special.

Setlist highlights: like i said - it was standard fare for JT30 - but for whatever reason Bad really hit me on this night. I mean - I knew it was my last night in NY - but that moment kinda hit me as Bad was starting, and it was pretty emotional. And I don't get emotional at U2 shows like some of these wackos. But yea.

5. September 29, 2023 - U2:UV Live at Sphere - Sphere - Las Vegas

It's hard to differentiate between the two Sphere shows I saw - because the setlists were identical. And this was opening night - which was a) the first time I had seen a U2 show on their opening night, and b) it was pretty special to be among the first people to see the Sphere in all its glory.

I'll explain more why this show is at #5 and the other show is further down the list when the other show pops up.

4. October 30, 2009 – Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert - MSG - NYC

I tried to not include non full U2 concerts on this list (i have a couple that i'm going to include in an honorable mention) - but the set they played was long enough to include, not to mention that this is the greatest concert I've ever seen in general - U2 or not - so it felt like I had to include it. But it only slots in at #4 for U2 shows.

Let's go over the full show, shall we?

  • Jerry Lee Lewis - Great Balls Of Fire
  • Aretha Franklin - A Natural Woman
  • Aretha Franklin - Baby I Love You
  • Aretha Franklin - Don't Play That Song
  • Aretha Franklin - Make Them Hear You
  • Aretha Franklin - Chain of Fools f/ Annie Lennox
  • Aretha Franklin - Theme From New York, New York
  • Aretha Franklin - Think f/ Lenny Kravitz
  • Aretha Franklin - Respect
  • Jeff Beck - I'll Drown In my Tears
  • Jeff Beck - People Get Ready f/ Sting
  • Jeff Beck - Freeway Jam
  • Jeff Beck - Cause We've Ended As Lovers
  • Jeff Beck - Let Me Love You Baby f/ Buddy Guy
  • Jeff Beck - Big Block
  • Jeff Beck - Rice Pudding
  • Jeff Beck - Rough Boy f/ Billy Gibbons
  • Jeff Beck - Foxy Lady f/ Billy Gibbons
  • Jeff Beck - A Day in the Life
  • Metallica - For Whom The Bell Tolls
  • Metallica - One
  • Metallica - Turn The Page
  • Metallica - Sweet Jane f/ Lou Reed
  • Metallica - White Light/White Heat f/ Lou Reed
  • Metallica - Iron Man f/ Ozzy Osbourne
  • Metallica - Paranoid f/ Ozzy Osbourne
  • Metallica - You Really Got Me f/ Ray Davies
  • Metallica - All Day and All of the Night f/ Ray Davies
  • Metallica - Stone Cold Crazy
  • Metallica - Enter Sandman
  • U2 - Vertigo
  • U2 - Magnificent
  • U2 - Because The Night f/ Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen
  • U2 - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For f/ Bruce Springsteen
  • U2 - Mysterious Ways / Where Is The Love f/ Black Eyed Peas
  • U2 - Gimmie Shelter f/ Mick Jagger, Fergie, Will.I.Am
  • U2 - Stuck in a Moment f/ Mick Jagger
  • U2 - Beautiful Day
It only proves out how amazing a show this was when U2's set was the weakest - other than the collaborations. I'll allow the Black Eyed Peas collabs because it gave us the absolute highlight of the night on the next song - alas.

Metallica REALLY understood the assignments. They bookended their amazing collaborations with HITS HITS HITS. U2 kind of felt the need to prove themselves as still relevant by including a current song with Magnificent. Magnificent should have been Sunday Bloody Sunday, and Streets ABSOLTUELY should have been in there. Alas - despite my issues with their decision making...

holy shit, U2 playing Gimmie Shelter with Mick Jagger?! And I was behind the stage for this - and could see Mick bouncing out before he hit the stage. He's hard to miss - his energy and his walk are unmistakable. What a remarkable moment. Honestly it may be that moment alone that makes it this high.

And - well - my Holy Trinity are U2, Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen. And to see two of the three play together will always be something very special.

3. November 22, 2004 – How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb Promo Tour – Empire Fulton Ferry State Park

Just a special day. The rumors started coming out here on Interference that U2 were going to play a concert in New York City. The original rumors had them playing at Washington Square Park in the Village. Then a random link popped up on 1iota - the company that does free ticketing for made for TV events - for a major rock band on MTV at Empire Fulton Ferry State Park down in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn, between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. I snapped up a free ticket and made plans to head from the Island into the city equipped with both options without knowing for sure which one was correct.

That morning it became a little clearer that Brooklyn was the location. So I made my way down there and the line was already long - but I ended up on the left side of the stage about 2 rows back from the speaker stacks. There were rumblings that the band were playing on a flatbed truck throughout the city and were going to make their way down here. It's 2004 so there's no twitter or anything like that so we have to rely on rumors and, well, places like Interference - but, ya know, it was pre smart phone so i couldn't exactly see what was happening on my flip phone.

As the crowd was really filling in behind us and the sun was starting to set - we finally saw some helicopters appear over the Manhattan Bridge. And then you could see the flatbed - slowly moving across the bridge. You could see Bono jumping up and down on the truck. It was pretty surreal to see from that angle. We later find out that they were of course filming the video for All Because of You - so technically speaking a speck in the distance at the end of that video is me.

They hit the stage maybe 30 minutes later and were just on fire. The album had already leaked - so a lot of people in the crowd knew the songs beyond just Vertigo. It was also clear when they played Sometimes that Bono's voice was in better shape than it had been in a number of years.

Just an amazing backdrop for a concert - especially as the sun fully set and the lights of the skyline across the river became more visible.

Setlist Highlights: Out of Control (i'm in the video on MTV at the start), She's A Mystery To Me, first time hearing the HTDAAB songs live

2. September 30, 2023 – U2:UV Live at Sphere - Sphere - Las Vegas

So to my earlier post - night one at Sphere, for me at least, was mostly about Sphere. It's hard not to be overwhelmed by the venue - especially at a time where nobody has seen any of the visuals yet. Everything was brand new. There were a few leaks that day on CBS - but it was hard to not be distracted by everything going on around you. The opening of Zoo Station? Utterly surreal. The Fly and the roof falling from the sky? The flames of Until The End of the World? The Vegas skyline? the WOWY Nevada Ark? It was all just - a lot.

So that's why I rank night two as the better night. The shows were identical, obviously. Which was actually a bit of a disappointment after Bono said they'd be rotating the middle, acoustic set. But until he said that on night one i expected identical sets each night, so i got over it. Plus how often do you get to hear Love Rescue Me?

Night two was about the band. Where night one seemed to be the venue being supported by the band - night two was the band supported by these amazing visuals. You know, like a normal U2 concert.

They were looser. I WAS looser. I was able to have a lot more fun, bopping around - not as afraid to run and grab a drink and miss something. Just able to enjoy the show for all it was worth. And god damn were these shows utterly amazing.

Setlist Highlights: Acrobat, So Cruel, Love Is Blindness, Love Rescue Me

1. July 20, 2011 – 360 – New Meadowlands Stadium (now MetLife)

The energy was utterly amazing at this show. Temps were in the 90s all day - similar to that Philly concert, not a cloud in the sky. Hung out with the UF crew in the parking lot before the show, as is the tradition. We actually hit the floor later than usual - so didn't get to go up into the inner circle and kind of hung back by the soundboard. But the energy - again - it was, sorry, on fire in there. Between the heat and the ZooTV start to the show (instead of No Line from the earlier 360 shows).

The other two 360 shows I saw I was either in the circle or in the Red Zone - so this was really my first time seeing the stage show from afar - and it didn't disappoint.

The idea of U2 doing a greatest hits style show isn't always looked upon favorably around here - but if they've ever done one, the second half of 360 - post Bono surgery - was it. And with this set? Yea, I really hope they do one before they hang it up. Maybe at Sphere. That would be utterly amazing. But these shows were as close to a greatest hits tour as they've gotten, and it was amazing. You forget how many great songs they have when they have to shoehorn the new stuff into the set. And i LIKE the newer stuff (mostly).

Anyhoo - the set just flowed so well and was filled with hit after hit, banger after banger. The No Line songs were largely cut - save for Boots and Magnificent - which, hey, weren't as bad when surrounded by everything else. And they had actually not been playing Magnificent on this leg - but added it back in here. And without taking away The Fly! (sorry, peef). Final set was 26 songs which I believe is tied for the longest U2 have played.

Miss Sarajevo had Bono doing the Pavarotti part - which has always been a live highlight (vs. on JT30 when he couldn't sing it live anymore and was, well, lame). And moving that into Zooropa (a first for me) - and the entire stretch from City through Streets - just doesn't stop. Sure, I could probably have done without the Crazy Tonight remix, but i'll deal.

They've been playing mostly Hold Me Thrill Me to start the encore on this leg, but occasionally would toss in Ultra Violet instead... and as much as I love Ultra Violet, I had never heard Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me and, well, if you haven't noticed I kinda love that song. So it was cool as shit to finally hear it live and be able to belt out the lyric where my online U2 persona came from.

There were rumblings that Springsteen was going to hop out on stage at some point - and he WAS there - but he never showed up on stage. I always seem to miss him on his U2 appearances (other than the Rock Hall of Fame show). But Bono did recite the refrain from Jungleland at the end of Moment of Surrender.

And while that would normally be the end of a 360 show - the band clearly felt the same as I did, that this show was something special, and brought out one more song - Out of Control! And it was. What a great night.

And, shorter, the honorable mentions...

Honorable Mention #1 - Tonight Show w/ Jimmy Fallon

Can't really include this because, well, they played two songs, and it was the same song twice. But I got to see the band play Invisible twice on the top of 30 Rock. The actual debut of Fallon's Tonight Show was the next night - but they recorded it twice - once the night before, and once the day of - just in case something went wrong - considering as they were performing on top of a skyscraper in the middle of Manhattan and all.

There were only about 50 of us up there - and ho-lee fuck it was cold as balls up there. There was a strict "don't take your cell phone out to take a photo or we'll throw you over the edge of the building" edict - which was actually kinda nice. Band played Invisible - twice - backed by the percussion section from the Rutgers Marching Band. By far the smallest space where I've seen the band play - even if it was just playing one song twice.

Honorable Mention #2 - Unforgettable Fire f/ The Edge and Adam Clayton

Don't need to go into all the details on this one as I've done it a few times here - i can find the original thread from the next day if needs be - but, uh, yea. What an amazing experience - to be on the side of the stage as Edge and Adam Clayton make a surprise appearance and play Streets and Out of Control with my friends in UF. Will never have another moment like that, that's for damn sure.[/quote]
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