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Statistically Speaking: The opening night's set in statistical perspective

The dust is starting to settle on the opening night of the 360° Tour, so let's have a look at some of the more interesting statistical aspects of the setlist. From some surprising omissions to the use of four new songs to open (including two non-singles), this set has plenty to keep the statistically minded occupied.

Let's go from the start.

Opening with two non-singles

It is rather uncommon for both of the first two songs of a U2 setlist to be non-singles. Breathe and No Line On The Horizon are at present not singles. It seems likely Breathe may become the fourth single from the album, but at the moment, the third single, Crazy Tonight, has not even been released commercially. On the Vertigo Tour, the first two songs always contained at least one single - Vertigo or Beautiful Day - and even when the tour began, City Of Blinding Lights was already slated to become a single; its music video was filmed a month into the tour in Vancouver on 27 April 2005. It is worth noting, however, that the public dress rehearsal on 26 March 2005 was before City Of Blinding Lights was formalised as a single and its first two songs were COBL and the Boy non-single The Electric Co.

Going back further, all 93 Popmart shows opened with Mofo and I Will Follow; the former became a single late in the tour while the latter is Boy's most well-known single. All but one Zoo TV show opened with non-single Zoo Station followed by lead Achtung single The Fly. The 7 March 1992 show had Even Better Than The Real Thing rather than The Fly second; it was not a single until June 1992.

Finally, on Lovetown, there is a show opened with two non-singles that requires no qualification or semantics. 30 December 1989 was opened by Bullet The Blue Sky and Running To Stand Still, neither of which were ever singles; in fact, the third song of the night, God Part II, was not a single either and it took until the fourth track, Desire, for a single to show up. At all the other Lovetown shows, at least one of the first two songs was a single, though in the cases of 23 September 1989 and 9 October 1989, In God's Country had never actually been released as a single in Australia; it was North America only. A few other shows could be qualified like this too, but this part of the analysis is bogged down in semantics enough already.

Opening with four consecutive new songs

On the last three tours, it has been the norm for U2 to begin their setlist with one or two new songs before playing an older song. Every single show on Popmart, Elevation, and Vertigo had an old song no later than third in the setlist. This time around, the band have begun with four new tracks before playing an old song fifth. The last time the band played so many new songs to open a show was, famously, on Zoo TV; early shows began with as many as eight new songs and the barest minimum was six.

The separation of MLK and The Unforgettable Fire

MLK has often been played without The Unforgettable Fire, but almost never in the same concert. Only once before have they appeared in the same setlist but not been paired together - 22 April 1987.

The dress rehearsal set was the same

"Well, duh," you might be thinking, "what did you expect? After all, it is meant to be a practise run of what the band intend to do on opening night." Actually, based on past precedent, the likely outcome was that the setlist would change; U2 have never before played a public dress rehearsal with the same set as the subsequent first proper concert. A great comparison is Vertigo's dress rehearsal and first show; just have a look at the peculiar setlist order between Love And Peace Or Else and Bullet The Blue Sky at the rehearsal.

Missing in action

A number of U2's standard setlist members have gone missing in action, as is to be expected at the start of any new tour. The most notable disappearance by far is Bullet The Blue Sky - since its debut on 2 April 1987, it had only missed six full tour gigs; five in 1989 and one in 2001. Elevation and Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own have now lost their records of being played at every show since their debuts, a title now held only by One, Beautiful Day, Vertigo, City Of Blinding Lights and the new material.

Returned to action

Well, I already went through these stats for the dress rehearsal, but for those of you who missed it, the following songs have returned after extended absences:

The Unforgettable Fire: Last performed on 6 January 1990.
Ultra Violet: Last performed on 28 August 1993.
In A Little While: Dropped at the end of the Elevation Tour's second leg after 59 performances, it managed just two appearances on the Vertigo Tour - 12 September 2005 and with Brandon Flowers on 5 November 2005.
MLK: This song has struggled to hold a permanent setlist spot since the end of Lovetown. It made just five Vertigo Tour appearances between 3 October 2005 and 22 November 2005.
Walk On: After being played at all but one Elevation Tour shows, it made just eleven appearances on the Vertigo Tour. Furthermore, nine of these performances were acoustic, while this tour, it has been restored to its electric form. The two electric performances on Vertigo were at consecutive shows - 7 November 2006 and 10 November 2006.

And as those of you who have followed our rehearsal reports would know, there are a few other rehearsed songs that will make for some interesting statistics if they appear in future setlists. That, however, is all for now. Stay tuned for the setlist and visual content from Barcelona II, 02/07.


Posted on by Axver


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