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Summary of U2's rehearsls in Auckland

U2 today commence the Joshua Tree Tour 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand. They have rehearsed in the city at Mount Smart Stadium since 2 November.

We have, unfortunately, been unable to report on this—all of us have been unavailable for various work or personal reasons. The folks at U2Songs.com have done a very good job collating information from multiple sources in their daily reports; their day six report here has links back to previous days. What I hope to do with this article is to provide a broad overview of rehearsals to complement what U2Songs have reported.

This article, naturally, contains spoilers for the tour. Keep reading at your own risk.

The following songs have been rehearsed. In brackets are the date(s) on which they were rehearsed. The number refers to the calendar day, i.e. 2 means 2 November. If you want to work out what day in the sequence of rehearsals it was, just subtract one, i.e. 2 = first day of rehearsals.

Note: rehearsals on 2 November were sans Bono. All the other three members of U2 were present.

  • Angel of Harlem: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
  • All I Want Is You: 5
  • Bad: 4, 6
  • Beautiful Day: 2, 3 (twice), 4 (twice), 6 (twice)
  • Bullet the Blue Sky: 4, 6 (twice, one of which was incomplete)
  • Elevation: 2, 3 (twice), 4, 6
  • Even Better Than the Real Thing: 2, 3, 4 (twice), 6 (twice)
  • Every Breaking Wave: 2, 3, 4 (twice), 6 (twice)
  • Exit: 4
  • I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For: 4, 6
  • In God's Country: 4, 6
  • Love Is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way: 3 (guitar only), 4, 6
  • The Miracle (of Joey Ramone): 3, 4
  • Mothers of the Disappeared: 2, 3, 4, 5 (rehearsed for about 20 minutes, emphasis on its conclusion), 6
  • New Year's Day: 4, 6
  • One Tree Hill: 4, 6
  • Pride: 4, 5 (with the conclusion practiced multiple times), 6 (once in full, once just of the ending with segue to Streets)
  • Red Hill Mining Town: 4 (twice), 6
  • Running to Stand Still: 4, 6 (twice)
  • Stuck in a Moment: 4
  • Sunday Bloody Sunday: 4, 6 (one full go, two goes at intro)
  • Trip Through Your Wires: 4, 6
  • Ultra Violet (Light My Way): 2 (riffs only), 4, 6
  • Vertigo: 2, 3 (twice), 4, 6
  • Where the Streets Have No Name: 4, 6 (twice, once in full and once just the intro after a segue from Pride)
  • With or Without You: 4, 6
  • You're the Best Thing About Me: 3, 4

The rehearsals on 4 and 6 November both featured run-throughs of a full setlist. The band came out to The Waterboys' Whole of the Moon, as they did in 2017.

On 7 November, Bono rehearsed a snippet of Crowded House's Don't Dream It's Over in Bad. He has also worked on speeches in Angel of Harlem and Even Better Than the Real Thing.

The lone rehearsal of Stuck in a Moment, on 4 November, featured Edge on vocals. Every Breaking Wave was rehearsed in its stripped-down form with just Bono and Edge, and Best Thing was rehearsed in the same style as it was performed live last year on the Experience + Innocence Tour.

So, what can we draw from this? The main set is unchanged from the most common set played in 2017: Sunday Bloody Sunday, New Year's Day, Bad, Pride, and then the Joshua Tree in full. It is unfortunate the band have stuck with the clumsy transition from Pride to Streets rather than swapping the order of it and Bad to use Bad's famed segue into Streets.

The content after the Joshua Tree is modified slightly. The standard sequence appears to be: Angel of Harlem, Elevation, Vertigo, Even Better Than the Real Thing, Every Breaking Wave, Beautiful Day, Ultra Violet, Love Is Bigger. This reprises aspects of recent tours that have not come to this part of the world by tweaking the post-album sequence used on the Joshua Tree Tour 2017. For example, the sequence Elevation/Vertigo/EBTTRT is a reprise of how the band began their second set at Experience + Innocence shows last year.

This sequence brings Angel of Harlem back to the live stage - it has not been used at regular concerts since 2015, only some off-tour appearances. This makes sense: U2's most successful album in Australia and New Zealand is Rattle and Hum. It is also no surprise to see that the band have included one song each from Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, as neither album has been toured here before. The inclusion of Ultra Violet is more surprising as it was played at most shows here in 2010, but it appears the band want to revisit the "herstory" theme of 2017.

Some songs were never rehearsed in the main setlist sequence, and appear to have been practiced for cities with multiple shows or for special occasions. These songs are: All I Want Is You, The Miracle, Stuck in a Moment, and Best Thing. AIWIY makes sense as another option from Rattle and Hum. Stuck in a Moment might be in readiness for the first show in Sydney, which is on the 22nd anniversary of Michael Hutchence's death (the inspiration for the song). The other two songs provide U2 with alternatives from their two most recent albums.

It's interesting to note which songs they rehearsed the most. They seem pretty confident with the Joshua Tree itself except for Mothers of the Disappeared, which they rehearsed every day. Likewise, they have put a lot of effort into Angel of Harlem—that's a bit surprising as U2 can perform it at the drop of a hat, but it appears to have something to do with its position in the set and visuals associated with it. The same reason might explain the frequent rehearsal of EBTTRT and Every Breaking Wave.

Note the absence of a live stalwart: One. Last year was the year U2 dropped Streets and did not play it at a single show of the EI Tour. One has been dropped before, but will this be the first tour since its live debut in 1992 on which it does not feature at all?

So, to summarise:

  • Total songs rehearsed: 28
  • Boy: 0
  • October: 0
  • War: 2 (New Year's Day, Sunday Bloody Sunday)
  • The Unforgettable Fire: 2 (Bad, Pride)
  • The Joshua Tree: all 11
  • Rattle and Hum: 2 (All I Want Is You, Angel of Harlem)
  • Achtung Baby: 2 (Even Better Than the Real Thing, Ultra Violet)
  • Zooropa: 0
  • Passengers: 0
  • All That You Can't Leave Behind: 3 (Beautiful Day, Elevation, Stuck in a Moment)
  • How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: 1 (Vertigo)
  • No Line on the Horizon: 0
  • Songs of Innocence: 2 (Every Breaking Wave, The Miracle)
  • Songs of Experience: 2 (Best Thing, Love Is Bigger)

Many, many thanks to the team at U2Songs for their daily reports, and to all the people whose information appears in those reports. You have all done U2 fans worldwide a great service.

Posted on by Axver

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