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Setlist Of The Week #7 - B-Sides Live

A common setlist question amongst U2 fans is "what b-sides have been performed live?" In this edition of Setlist Of The Week, I shall seek to provide a comprehensive answer to this question. To qualify for inclusion in this article, a song's primary release has to be as a b-side; it appears as an extra track on a single but does not appear on an album. Furthermore, I shall only be considering original U2 songs, not covers that appeared as b-sides. If you are unfamiliar with the term "b-side", to avoid my own potentially convoluted explanation, I would like to point you towards Wikipedia's article on a-sides and b-sides.

U2 have not played the majority of their b-sides live, but a variety of b-sides from different eras in the band's history have appeared live, some enduring for years - in fact, at the time of writing (3 July 2006), U2's arguably most famous b-side, Party Girl, has recorded three more performances than Vertigo: 176 to 173. In the early days of U2, the band performed its b-sides live simply due to a lack of other material to play, leading to every Boy-era b-side being performed live. However, since the start of the 1990s, it has become increasingly rare for b-sides to be performed live. The most recently recorded b-side to debut live is North And South Of The River.

So, just what b-sides have been performed live?

The following list of b-sides is in chronological order of their release.

Boy-Girl: U2's first b-side (along with future Boy album track Stories For Boys) was Boy-Girl on September 1979's release of U2:3, which featured Out Of Control as the a-side. This song's earliest known live performance was on 5 October 1979, though it is known to have existed around mid-1979 when U2:3 was recorded. There is the possibility that a song performed in August 1979 known as In Your Hand was actually Boy-Girl; please see the notes on In Your Hand's page for further details. Live, Boy-Girl was often played with its fellow tracks from U2:3, succeeding Stories For Boys and seguing into Out Of Control. The song became a regular fixture of the Boy Tour during its 1981 North American leg, but it did not last long past the end of the Boy era. It was played at three concerts in the October era, though all of them before the actual release of the October album. One of these appearances was as part of U2's set opening for Thin Lizzy at Slane Castle on 16 August 1981, and the song's final performance came just a few days before the October album's release, as part of a BBC radio session U2 played on 14 October 1981.

Touch: This was the b-side to U2's first single on Island Records, 11 O'clock Tick Tock, but it had existed beforehand in an earlier form known as Trevor, a song believed to exist as early as U2's first demo session sometime in April 1978. Touch found a semi-regular home on the Boy Tour, typically being performed early in the main set, but it did not survive past the Boy era: its last known performance took place on 29 May 1981.

Things To Make And Do: This was the b-side to the lead single from Boy, A Day Without Me, and it is the only instrumental U2 have ever played live. It is recorded as being played as early as 11 May 1980, and it was a regular fixture on the Boy Tour as the song played after The Electric Co. Its survival past the Boy era, however, was as brief as a single performance: it was last played live at a pre-October show on 31 August 1981.

Party Girl: The October era was not a good one for b-sides, as Boy's b-sides were swiftly phased out and October's lone studio b-side, J. Swallow, was not particularly suited to the live setting and thus never performed. The next live appearance by a b-side took place at the first date of the War Tour on 26 February 1983. After that performance, Bono remarked that not only was it Party Girl's first performance but also probably its last; in spite of that statement, Party Girl went on to become a War Tour regular and is U2's longest enduring live b-side. 176 performances are currently logged (and likely more exist, due the absence of sets for some War and a few Unforgettable Fire shows), and since its debut, the only tour it has missed is Popmart. After the War Tour, it remained frequently in the set on The Unforgettable Fire Tour, and although it missed the entire first leg of The Joshua Tree Tour, it reappeared as a setlist regular on the second leg and lasted through to the third, though it was largely absent for the last three months of the tour. Its appearances on the Lovetown Tour were scarce, though it did appear at the famous New Year's concert in Dublin at the end of the eighties. This set the tone for Party Girl's future: its subsequent appearances have often been associated with special occasions such as birthdays of band members. It made only four appearances each on the ZooTV and Elevation tours, but on the Vertigo Tour, it has made a slight resurgence, being performed ten times (more times than in the entire preceding fifteen years). Its most recent performance was on 22 October 2005.

Spanish Eyes: None of the b-sides from The Unforgettable Fire era have made live appearances, but a couple of b-sides from Joshua Tree singles made live appearances. The first to do so was Spanish Eyes, a b-side from the I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For single, with its debut appropriately enough taking place in Spain on 15 July 1987. It was played infrequently for the rest of the tour, registering a total of thirteen performances by the end. Probably its most notable performance took place on 8 November 1987: after an already notably lengthy rendition came to a close, Bono started to sing the song's catchy "wey hey hey" again, and the band launched back into the song and it was played again in full. After the end of The Joshua Tree Tour, the song has been largely retired, making only two appearances, both in Spain. One was during the indoor leg of ZooTV in May 1992, and its most recent performance was at the only Spanish concert on the Elevation Tour, on 8 August 2001. It should be noted that almost all of Spanish Eyes' live appearances have been in the encore: 12 out of 15 in total.

Silver And Gold: Although a live performance of this song appears on Rattle And Hum, it shall be included in this article anyway. Silver And Gold was a b-side for Where The Streets Have No Name, appearing live for the first time at one of the last Joshua Tree Tour shows in Europe on 3 August 1987. Its debut was not only its sole performance outside the USA, but also took place at the only show since the end of the Boy Tour to feature three b-sides. After this debut, it was played infrequently on the third leg of The Joshua Tree Tour, almost always slotting into the setlist between Exit and In God's Country. It was snippeted almost as much as it was played live; sometimes, instead of performing the full song, Bono chose to simply add a few lines of the song to the end of Exit. Its last full performance was on 26 November 1987.

Sweetest Thing will not be featured in this article as all of its performances came after it was re-released as an a-side. However, it is worth noting that it was snippeted once while still only a b-side.

Slow Dancing: This song was sung live over four years before its release as a b-side on late November 1993's Stay single (it reappeared as a b-side again during the Pop era, this time as a duet with Willie Nelson). Slow Dancing's first airing took place in the early hours of 21 October 1989, when Bono sung some of it on Australian radio, and its concert debut came on 1 December 1989. It was played one more time on Lovetown, and then made a few rare appearances on ZooTV before being performed two times each on Popmart and Elevation. Although it has normally been performed with just vocals and guitar, its performance on 31 October 2001 was notable for involving the entire band. Its last performance was on 16 November 2001.

To all of you with tickets to the remaining Vertigo Tour shows: when they are rescheduled, consider this U2gigs.com's call to you to encourage the band to perform Slow Dancing. If it is played just once on the Vertigo Tour, it will be able to retain the title of "only b-side to be performed on every single tour since its debut".

Holy Joe: Two different versions of Holy Joe appear on the Discotheque single, and at U2's press conference announcing the Popmart Tour on 12 February 1997, the band chose to perform the song live. It has not been played live since.

North And South Of The River: Some might consider this song a cover - it was written by Bono and Edge with Christy Moore, who released it before U2 released their version. However, as Bono and Edge participated in writing the song, we do not believe it qualifies as a cover, and so it appears on this list. It has only been played live once, as part of a televised tribute to the victims of the Omagh bombing on 20 November 1998.

Two Shots Of Happy, One Shot Of Sad: Should this even be included? You decide. Bono wrote Two Shots Of Happy for Frank Sinatra, and its sole live performance was for Sinatra's 80th birthday in 1995. This performance went on to become a b-side for the If God Will Send His Angels single. Its only subsequent live appearance was as a snippet both before and after Stay on 5 August 2001.

She's A Mystery To Me: Another song that may or may not belong on this list. She's A Mystery To Me is a song Bono wrote around 1987 with Roy Orbison in mind - U2 themselves soundchecked the song in 1987 and even recorded it during their time at Sun Studios (Angel Of Harlem from this session is on the Rattle And Hum video). Roy Orbison himself then recorded it. U2 debuted the song live on 30 December 1989, and since then, it has made very infrequent appearances over the years as a separate song, though has been a regular snippet after One. The most recent performance of the whole song by the full band took place on 22 November 2004, and this was released as a b-side on the All Because Of You single (October 2005 world version, not the February 2005 Canadian version).

No other b-sides have been performed live, though a few have registered a single snippet: Deep In The Heart, Walk To The Water, and then there is the curious case of Hallelujah Here She Comes. Its sole recorded snippet is from 15 June 1987, over a year before its release as Desire's b-side in September 1988. During Bullet The Blue Sky, Bono can be heard to clearly sing "hallelujah, here she comes!", and it is plausible that the song could have existed this early, given that many other Joshua Tree/Rattle And Hum songs have a known history before their release. For example, Trip Through Your Wires was performed live over a year before The Joshua Tree's release and When Love Comes To Town appeared live over a year before Rattle And Hum's release, Heartland was considered for The Joshua Tree before being held onto for Rattle And Hum, and there is the aforementioned instance of She's A Mystery To Me not appearing live until December 1989 even though it existed in 1987. So Hallelujah Here She Comes could have existed in 1987. Was Bono snippeting it, or was he snippeting something else, or nothing at all? In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, we believe that this is a valid snippet.

And that is our complete record of b-sides performed live at the present moment. No others have been performed live in full yet, and if there are any other snippets of b-sides, we haven't uncovered them yet (do you know of any we haven't listed? Let us know!). B-sides are not the only non-album original songs that U2 have performed live - they have also played a number of non-album singles and unreleased songs, but those are beyond the scope of this article and shall be covered at a later date.


Posted on by Axver


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