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Analyzing U2's 2019 subscription package

So with the news that the (as-yet unnamed) 2019 subscription gift will be a double CD covering the 2015 and 2018 tours, discussion invariably leads to speculation on the track listing. Let's take a look at what was played on tour and at U2's past subscription releases to see if we can guess what will be coming!

Where will the songs come from?

As the release covers two tours at least two concerts will be used. A look at U2's commercial release history (primarily B-sides) and older fanclub releases would suggest that at least the 2015 songs may be taken from the recorded concerts in Paris. Hasta la Vista Baby!, U2 Go Home, and Zoo TV Live all took their audio directly from previously released video recordings, quite naturally. The first CD release in the post-Propaganda days, U2.COMmunication, included five tracks taken from the Vertigo tour recordings in Chicago, and three songs (plus one video) from the filmed but unreleased Milan shows from the second leg. All three Milan audio recordings would be released the following year.

However the last time we received a release like this, both U22 and Edge's Picks, no song was taken from that tour's recording in Pasadena. With those two being among the highest-rated of the annual gifts we can hope that this release will follow a similar pattern. That leaves us to wonder if all the tracks will come from one concert, or be selected individually from across the tour.

How will the tracks be arranged?

The first question is how each CD breaks down (and I don't mean by destroying them). There are three ways that the package can be arranged:

  1. Disc 1 will contain tracks from 2015 and Disc 2 will have the more recent 2018 recordings;
  2. The tracks will be arranged in a rough concert order, like U22, with 2015 and 2018 songs intermixed;
  3. The songs will be in a random order according to what U2.com thinks sounds best

History would suggest that the third option can be written off entirely. The closest U2 have come to a jumbled release was Medium, Rare & Remastered, and even in that case the tracks were largely grouped by album era (the one exception being Smile in the middle of the ATYCLB tracks). Option two is a possibility when looking again at the 360 tour releases; as that tour evolved we essentially ended up with two very different setlists from beginning to end. A factor working against this includes two openers having already been revealed for inclusion, though this could be fixed by making one the post-Intermission song.

Personally though, I feel like the first option is the most likely. The tours were largely a completely different set, and so the track order that makes the most sense may simply be to have each disc cover one tour. This will of course mean each disc may feel somewhat truncated, a perception avoided by option two due to it feeling more like one big concert. Perhaps that is just me, though.

How long will each disc be?

4.7 inches.

Okay, moving past the awful joke to actual technical specifications. A typical CD will have up to 74 minutes of audio on it, though a blank CD-R can go a bit longer at 80 minutes. If the CD-R is high capacity it can go to almost a full 100 minutes. But what you're really asking is how many songs will be on each disc, right? To see how many songs will be on each disc we again need to look at prior releases:

  • Hasta La Vista Baby had 14 tracks, of which two were pre-recorded and not live;
  • Zoo TV live had 13 tracks on disc one and 12 on disc two;
  • U2 Go Home had 11 tracks on disc one and 9 on disc two;
  • U22 had 11 tracks on each disc;
  • Edge's Picks had 15 tracks.

Of course, how many songs you can squeeze on a CD depends on how long those songs are; a two-minute October can be four times shorter than some versions of Bad! But as a rough guess we can say that it will probably be between 11 and 15 tracks depending on what is chosen. A middle-range of 12 or 13 tracks on each CD is probably the most likely, so between 24 and 26 different songs (with a maximum upper range of 30).

What will be included?

The 2015 tour had 54 different songs while the 2018 tour had 41. 20 songs were played on both tours so discounting duplicates, there is a combined 75 songs to choose from. If we remove covers and one-offs (it is highly unlikely that The Unforgettable Fire or Happy Birthday will be included, for example) then we reach approximately 65 different songs across the two tours.

U2.com states that the track list will be revealed at the beginning of 2019, but six tracks are already known from the announcement: The Miracle, Every Breaking Wave, Song for Someone (presumably but not necessarily from the 2015 tour), The Blackout, Get Out of Your Own Way, and 13. Presumably most of the songs new to each tour will be included, but I think it is unlikely that The Troubles, California, The Crystal Ballroom, Lucifer's Hands, or Landlady will be included due to how infrequently they were performed; possibly Volcano as well. The count goes back up if you include the Intermission songs, and it is quite possible that both The Fly and HMTMKMKM will be included; Hasta la Vista Baby did include the Lemon remix after all.

There is also the remote possibility that songs performed on both tours, such as Even Better Than the Real Thing and One, will be included on both discs. I think they would be aware of fan disappointment if that was the case, however.

Beyond what is released on CD there is also the chance that some songs which are not included may still be available digitally. In the lead-up to U22 fans were given 46 different songs they could vote for. 15 of the 24 songs that were not included were released as Edge's Picks, and a further six became available as downloads through U2.com. Ultimately 43 of those initial 46 songs were released to fans, so there is the chance that even if your favourite song is not on the disc it will still be available at some point in the future.

Posted on by Matkin

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