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Axver's Joshua Tree Tour Predictions, Part 1

Before the Innocence + Experience Tour, I wrote a series of articles making song predictions for the tour (the last one links back to all the rest). Some predictions weren’t too shabby; others were awfully inaccurate. But we’ve had enough requests for my predictions on the forthcoming Joshua Tree Tour that I’ll step back into the fray and offer you even more reasons to doubt my prophetic abilities.

Predicting this tour is a little bit more straightforward than the last, in no small reason because eleven spots on the setlist (which, if recent tours are any guide, is likely to clock in at around 22 to 26 songs total) are, almost certainly, known in advance. The Joshua Tree is also likely to account for most or all the rarities in the setlist through the revival of Side B, with the rest of the show filled with hits and other well-known tracks. I consider it unlikely there will be more than one or two other deep cuts or rarities. But let’s give each album due consideration.


I Will Follow has never missed a tour, and on one framed around nostalgia it is safe to assume that the band's first single Out of Control will find its way into the setlist too. The other two tracks from this era that I think have a chance are The Electric Co., which is a live favourite and did well on the IE Tour, and—if they really play up the nostalgia theme—11 O’clock Tick Tock. It was a fixture of their first major tours, the Bad or Streets of their early eighties sets. But this is a stadium tour, and it has only been played once before in a stadium. On the rare post-1985 occasions that U2 have dug up this great song, they have done so in arenas or even smaller settings.


It’s always questionable whether October will be represented. The title track is a good little intro piece and can fit easily into a set, as proven by it becoming a regular on the European leg of the IE Tour. But I am sceptical whether the band will repeat the dose this time. The other song I consider a chance is Gloria, but since the end of Lovetown in 1990 it has been performed just once in a stadium (funnily enough almost 20 years to the day after 11 O'clock Tick Tock's solitary stadium jaunt, and in the same venue). If the band consciously frame a segment of the show around the idea of “here is the context of what we did leading up to the Joshua Tree”, then it’s a possibility. Otherwise, on a stadium tour? Probably not.


I cannot envisage any concert closer for this tour other than 40. It will be played at some point, and in my view it ought to hold the position nightly. It’s interesting how U2 have come to favour Sunday Bloody Sunday over New Year’s Day on recent tours, and that’s why I’ve given myself 1% wriggle room on the NYD prediction. But they are both powerful stadium numbers and I expect them to be regulars, possibly even rotating with each other from night to night. If only one of the big War hits is chosen, I very much hope it's NYD.


Do you really think U2 will undertake a stadium tour without Pride? No, and nor do I. Bono wasn’t keen on playing it for Popmart and was talked into it. I also cannot imagine a tour of this scope without Bad; if they begin The Joshua Tree in the middle of the main set, we all know that Bad into Streets would be the most majestic way to do it. A Sort of Homecoming would fit well with the tour's tone and it's a fan favourite that has become an increasingly popular request for live resurrection. Speaking for myself there is no song I want U2 to perform more. But it is obviously very much the outsider.


Some fans are nervous that the band will get cold feed and back out of some of the JT songs, especially the live rarities from the second half. But the tour is promoted so explicitly as featuring the whole album that it would leave audiences feeling misled and provoke many poor reviews if they don’t play all eleven. I’m as cynical as the next jaded long-term fan, but I expect all eleven tracks every night in the original album sequence. My main concern is that they will play watered-down acoustic versions of songs like In God’s Country. Full electric or go home, lads.

As for the non-album material, Sweetest Thing is a popular single and, if the band really want to celebrate the era by going beyond the album, it’s the safe bet. Spanish Eyes ought to show up in Spain, but that’s not certain—it has been skipped on some visits to Spain, and only appeared at one of the four Barcelona shows of the IE Tour. If they really, really go hard with the JT theme and dig out some really deep cut from the era, my bet is Luminous Times but I would not go so far as to predict it.

(Oh yeah, and we’re probably going to get stiffed on Shine Like Stars at the end of With or Without You as per usual. Bono, mate, it's the only proper way to end the song!)


Some readers may be surprised I’m not picking any of these at 100%, since they’ve often shown up in recent years. It’s partly that with setlist space at more of a premium than usual, it’s hard to pick which song will represent Rattle and Hum if only one can fit. Any of these three would do the job well. Desire is the easiest, hence the highest likelihood, and the version played at Dreamforce last September was pretty cool. Also, if you’re attending London or Berlin, I promise you AIWIY will not be played, for it is never played during a concert at which I am in attendance. But that’s good news for people going to later European shows: it always comes back into the setlist right after I’ve seen the band!

Some fans very much want to believe that the band will extend the JT theme to digging up some Rattle and Hum deep cuts. Heartland, never played live (only snippeted, twice), would be a rather appropriate choice. It was originally recorded for JT and captures so much of what inspired that record. It would lead into Streets quite well indeed. But with JT already giving us a selection of rare live tracks, including one (Red Hill Mining Town) never played live before, I do not think Heartland is a chance.

Join us tomorrow for part 2, in which I consider U2's more recent albums!

Posted on by Axver

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