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Axver's Joshua Tree Tour Predictions, Part 2

Yesterday, I predicted what songs U2 might play from their eighties releases on the forthcoming Joshua Tree Tour. Now let's cast an eye to the nineties, 2000s, and—though it has only given us one U2 album so far—the 2010s. Many fans wonder if the band will give a nod to Pop for its twentieth anniversary. And how much new or relatively recent material will there be in the setlist? Here are my thoughts.


For the first time ever, One missed some shows on the IE Tour, but you know it’ll remain a regular in the band’s live repertoire. Space constraints make Achtung a bit hard to predict, like Rattle and Hum was yesterday. It’s very unlikely there will be enough room for all of Achtung's four most-played songs: One, MW, EBTTRT, and UTEOTW. Perhaps they will rotate. Perhaps a couple of them won’t make it at all—EBTTRT is historically the least performed of the four but the band seem to have enjoyed it since its revival on 360. I think a great encore would be to begin with Zoo Station and The Fly to capture the whole “four men chopping down the Joshua Tree” thing, but as my percentages indicate I consider The Fly far more likely than Zoo Station, and neither as likely as the long-term live staples.


  • Stay: 30% likelihood

This is one of Bono’s favourite U2 songs and it hasn’t been played for almost six years, since 30 July 2011, so it may find a way back into the set. But with the show emphasising the Joshua Tree and its context, Zooropa will likely receive short shrift this tour. I want to believe the title track will stick around as part of a political commentary, and I had it predicted as an outside chance in my first draft of this article, but that was wishful thinking on my behalf. I don’t see there being room to accommodate it, or anything else from this album.


There just isn’t room for anything. For a normal tour I’d suggest maybe Miss Sarajevo might return, but when the focus is on eighties U2 and half the set is occupied by one album, an obscure nineties side project is unlikely to gain representation.


  1. Staring at the Sun: 25% likelihood
  2. Discotheque: 20%
  3. Please: 15%

As well as the thirtieth anniversary of JT, this year is also the twentieth anniversary of the black sheep of the U2 album family, Pop. If there’s an acoustic set, it would be easy to drop Staring at the Sun into it and thereby give the album a nod; it's the only song from Pop played live during the last ten years (and once, at that). If there’s no acoustic set, discard my SATS prediction, as the band always struggled to play it electric; Discotheque is most likely to get a run in that case. Please would be very, very topical right now. And can you guess which song got me into U2 and which I badly want them to play live? But as my percentages indicate, my faith that the band will recognise this other anniversary is not strong.


No shit, they’re going to play Beautiful Day; no explanation is necessary for that one. I expect at least one other ATYCLB track will creep into the setlist, maybe not every night, but it’s hard to say which. Elevation gets a stadium crowd jumping; Stuck in a Moment suits more poignant moments of the show; Walk On provides a message of hope in uncertain times. I figure at least one will get a go but I am not sure which. Elevation fits rather easily into an encore or end-the-main-set-on-a-high sequence though, and it has a habit of sneaking into the setlist after being omitted at the start of a tour, so I give it the highest chance.


I don’t need to justify this pick, do I? Space constraints will, I think, force out the other usual live regular from HTDAAB, City of Blinding Lights. It’s been played at almost every show since 2005—quite specifically, the two it missed are the two at which Miracle Drug was played in 2015—and could use a breather anyway. And nothing else from HTDAAB would be particularly likely even on a normal tour, let alone one such as this.


NLOTH’s representation on the IE Tour was extremely low: one performance of Magnificent, and some snippets of Moment of Surrender. On this coming tour, I expect nothing more than a Moment of Surrender snippet in Bad or Beautiful Day.


My feeling is that SOI will be treated on this tour much like NLOTH was on the IE Tour. But Bono feels passionately about Every Breaking Wave and I think it will be in the set. If they want to give a further nod to the album that is still in some sense “current”, then lead single The Miracle might stick around. Its narrative about the band’s youthful revelation about the power of music might be an appropriate way to begin the show, much like on IE. But in that sense it would suit a Boy Tour instead. (Dear U2, I would sell my soul, and a lot of other people's souls, for a 40th anniversary Boy Tour in 2020. Thanks, Ax.)


  • A new song: 50% likelihood

I expect something new will be showcased, probably in the encore. It would, in effect, say "we've just celebrated one of our greatest albums; there is more quality music to come, and here’s a taster". Turn from the past towards the future. Frankly I think it’s a no-brainer. But whether they’d go through with it is hard to say; apart from the smattering of new songs on the 360 Tour, U2 have had little proclivity to play unreleased material live in recent decades.


Allow me to conclude my predictions with the outline of how I would structure a set this tour, since I've been giving this some thought while preparing my predictions. I would place the Joshua Tree in the second half of the main set. The first seven or so songs should be pre-Joshua Tree material to give context to the album and get the audience energised, progressing from the uptempo material of the first three albums to the shift in direction with The Unforgettable Fire. These would by and large be the predictable hits, but also include The Electric Co. and 11 O’clock Tick Tock on a rotational basis. JT itself should be preceded directly with a rotational slot of A Sort of Homecoming (to extend the UF theme), or Heartland (to contextualise JT).

I am quite fond of the idea discussed on fan forums of playing JT in reverse order. Songs like Mothers of the Disappeared, One Tree Hill, and In God’s Country would work well in the middle of the set, while also generating hype for the big songs to come. Running to Stand Still would transition into Bullet in a similar way to how Every Breaking Wave did last tour. And then you get a main-set finale with the best-known songs, whipping the crowd into a frenzy by the time Streets finishes.

I recognise, however, that the “reverse JT” idea is highly unlikely. If they play the album straight through from Streets to Mothers, as they probably will, the end of the main set needs a couple of big hits to really bring the house down. I’d suggest a couple from Rattle and Hum for obvious contextual reasons, or maybe One. (I'm being realistic here, of course. In my perfect world the band would crank out some JT b-sides.)

Now the encores. Start the first one with a couple of rockers from Achtung—let’s say The Fly and Mysterious Ways—before playing Please as a political statement and a nod to Pop. Come back for a second encore with some more recent stuff: Beautiful Day, Vertigo, and a new song. In cities with two shows, sub out Please or the new song with a non-album cut from the JT era (Sweetest Thing or Luminous Times, and Spanish Eyes in Barcelona). Finally, close the night the only way it ought to, with 40. That’s about 25 songs and diehards and casuals alike would go home very happy.

We will hopefully have rehearsal news soon, and I look forward to seeing how (in)accurate my predictions are once the tour gets under way. All the songs I gave 100% likelihood to last time were played—though the late appearance of New Year's Day made that a close-run thing. Stay with us as rehearsals and the tour progress!

Posted on by Axver

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