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Setlist Of The Week #6 - The History Of Boy Live

I know what some of you are thinking: "geez, it's been a long time since Axver's written a Setlist Of The Week. Is that feature ever returning?" I'm happy to say: yes! However, the Setlist Of The Week name may now be a misnomer for two reasons: 1). I cannot guarantee that it will be weekly, and 2). I won't focus solely on specific setlists. To elaborate, the reason I can't guarantee weekly articles is the same reason why I haven't written anything since the unexpected postponement of tour dates - I'm busy at university and unfortunately, I'm not majoring in setlistology (though happily commencing winter holidays at the moment). And I've decided to expand upon the concept of Setlist Of The Week to cover not only notable concert setlists, but to cover any aspect of setlists that merits an article.

In this article, the focus will be the history of Boy live. The Boy album is notable not just because it was U2's debut, but because it is the only U2 album to have every single song played in full live. As a matter of fact, the Boy era can claim the distinction of being the only U2 era to have every single officially released song, such as b-sides, played live.

Important note: All information in this article relies on data current as of 25 June 2006, and as setlists from U2's earliest stages are rather scarce, this data may not be definite and is subject to change as new information sometimes comes to light. Statements referring to The Joshua Tree Tour onwards can be taken as almost definitive as setlists exist for every full tour concert from the start of that tour through to today; any inaccuracies are the result of human error rather than gaps in the historical record.

The History Of Boy Live

I Will Follow: Until the third leg of the Vertigo Tour, I Will Follow could claim the honour of being the most-performed U2 song ever; Pride has subsequently overtaken it. I Will Follow does still hold one other record, however: it is the only U2 song to be played on every tour since the release of U2's debut album. There are some vague references to live performances of a song called Walk Away in the late seventies that may have been an early I Will Follow, but its earliest known performance came a couple of months before the release of the Boy album, at a London concert on the 11 O'clock Tick Tock Tour on 13 July 1980. Over the course of the Boy and October Tours, I Will Follow was sometimes performed twice when enthusiastic crowds called for more encores; this practice even lasted as late as the first two dates of the War Tour in December 1982. For the rest of the 1980s, I Will Follow was a regular song on all tours, barely missing a concert from its debut until the end of the Lovetown Tour. However, at the start of ZooTV in 1992, it was nowhere in sight. It didn't appear on the tour until the final date of the third leg on 25 November 1992, and was played sparingly during the fourth leg. ZooTV is easily the tour to feature I Will Follow the least; nonetheless, it was the only Boy song to be played on the tour, and this trend continued during Popmart. I Will Follow returned to its regular status and was played second at every Popmart gig, seguing out of the opener, Mofo. It continued as a regular on the Elevation Tour, typically rotating with Out Of Control, but after being performed at a few promotional gigs for How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb in 2004, it was notably absent from the Vertigo Tour's first leg. It didn't debut on tour until early in the second leg, and though it became a regular throughout Europe, it was performed more sparingly on the third leg and rotated with other early songs such as Gloria and The Electric Co. Its most recent live appearance was also its only appearance on the fourth leg, on 12 February 2006.

Twilight: Although it hasn't been played live in over twenty years, Twilight was a setlist regular in U2's early years. Its first known live performances took place in February 1980, around the time of its first official release as a very raw demo acting as a b-side on the Another Day single. For the next three tours, its setlist use was relatively unremarkable, appearing with regularity until the end of the War Tour. Twilight then suffered a very sudden and swift demise; after being played a few times on the initial leg of The Unforgettable Fire Tour in Australia and New Zealand (known as "Under Australian Skies"), it was cut entirely from the setlist for the rest of the tour and hasn't been played live since. Its last live performance was on 24 September 1984, and although a few setlists from later stages of The Unforgettable Fire Tour are missing, it is highly unlikely that Twilight appeared at any of those shows. Throughout its history, it was not unusual for it to be paired with Out Of Control; sometimes, it would precede Out Of Control to close a main set, while at some War Tour dates and its four known Unforgettable Fire Tour appearances, it followed Out Of Control in opening the set. It also once opened a Boy Tour concert, at the second of two shows on 6 March 1981.

An Cat Dubh and Into The Heart: These two songs were always played together, and nearly suffered the same fate as Twilight. They debuted at the same show as I Will Follow and were featured as setlist regulars until the first leg of The Unforgettable Fire Tour. They were played often in Australia and New Zealand, but failed to make the second leg and after a twenty year live absence, they appeared to have been permanently retired. However, in March 2005, An Cat Dubh and Into The Heart made a very surprising return to the setlist, and were played at just over half of the Vertigo Tour's first leg dates. Sadly, after being played just one time on the second leg, on 27 June 2005 in Dublin, they vanished from the live setting again and have not been played since.

Out Of Control: Its first known live appearance was at the earliest proper concert for which a full setlist exists, 5 October 1979. It then followed the pattern of most Boy songs in being a regular through to the end of the first leg of The Unforgettable Fire Tour; during this period, it would occasionally close the main set, and from the start of the War Tour until the end of the first leg of The Unforgettable Fire Tour, it rotated with Gloria as U2's setlist opener. Like the three previous Boy songs, it then failed to make the second leg of The Unforgettable Fire Tour, but its history does not end there. It reappeared at one of the last dates of the tour, U2's homecoming gig in Dublin on 29 June 1985, and after appearing once more before the tour ended, it took an absence of two years. Its next appearance was at the last show of the second leg of The Joshua Tree Tour, at Edge's 26th birthday on 8 August 1987. Sporadic appearances on the third leg of the tour followed, and then it appeared three times on the Lovetown Tour before vanishing from the setlist for over a decade. Its re-appearance finally took place on 15 May 2001, and it appeared frequently for the rest of the Elevation Tour. Its debut on the Vertigo Tour came at the second-to-last show of the first leg on 26 May 2005 in a rather spontaneous form. Until The End Of The World was just concluding and Adam had begun playing the bass intro for With Or Without You when Bono shouted for Out Of Control. I was at this show and it is my personal opinion that although this may have been the worst performance of Out Of Control in a technical sense, it may just have been one of the very best performances for the sheer enjoyment and spontaneity factors, and the wave of excitement that it represented. After this performance, it made a few occasional appearances on the second and third legs of the Vertigo Tour, with the last taking place on 1 November 2005 with the band Exit.

Stories For Boys: It was one of the earliest songs cut from U2's live setlist. Its first known live performance, like Out Of Control, was at the 5 October 1979 concert in Cork, and following this, it was performed for Irish TV's Late Late Show in January 1980 and became a regular on the Boy Tour. It even acted as the concert opener at a few of the Boy Tour's first leg concerts. Its final tour, however, was to be the October Tour: the last known performance took place on 27 March 1982, near the end of the tour. However, Stories For Boys made a semi-comeback a day less than 23 years after its last known performance, interestingly at the very same venue as that final performance. On 26 March 2005, Stories For Boys was included as a snippet in Vertigo, a song sharing the distinctive "hello, hello" in its chorus, and this practice continued through to the second leg of the Vertigo Tour.

The Ocean: Some people have expressed surprise that The Ocean has been used to open a concert, but it is actually the 10th most common concert opener in U2 history. It is known to have opened 41 concerts, including the first concert it is known to have been performed at, on 16 September 1980 in Plymouth, England. It was usually used with 11 O'clock Tick Tock as an opening duo, and soon, the reverse of that combination was employed, with 11 O'clock Tick Tock seguing into The Ocean to close the show. The band would progressively leave during The Ocean, similar to what was to come with the more famous 40. For much of the length of the Boy Tour, The Ocean was employed to both open and close concerts, but on the October Tour, its opening duties were taken by Gloria. It continued to appear in the encore - usually but not always to end the concert entirely - right until the earliest stages of the War Tour, with its last known performance on 15 December 1982. This seemed to spell the end for The Ocean, but it was not so: it was surprisingly snippeted at the end of One on 9 April 2001, and it was fully resurrected on 6 April 2005. This performance meant that it could claim the title of "longest time between performances of any U2 song" of over 22 years and 3 months. As arguably the Vertigo Tour's most surprising inclusion, it was played at a third of the first leg's concerts before returning to appear at a third of the third leg's concerts, with its last performance on 9 December 2005.

A Day Without Me: This song is most famous for the fact that for most of its live history, it was paired together with I Threw A Brick Through A Window in an unlikely combination that proved popular. However, before the development of this combination on the second leg of the October Tour, A Day Without Me struggled to find a home in the setlist. Its first known live performance was on 26 February 1980, and out of the 10 Boy songs played on the Boy Tour, it was played the least: only a little over half as many times as the second-least played Boy song, and even the b-side Boy/Girl managed to register one more performance than A Day Without Me! It missed out entirely on being played on the October Tour's first leg, but its live fortunes significantly improved when the combo with I Threw A Brick debuted early on the second leg. This combination lasted the length of the tour, the entire War Tour, and even through to the first leg of The Unforgettable Fire Tour. However, this was nearly the end of the line, and after two performances on the fifth leg of The Unforgettable Fire Tour, it was retired. Its last performance came on 18 April 1985.

Another Time, Another Place: This was another song to perish early, and like a couple of preceding songs, its first known performance took place on 5 October 1979 in Cork. Its live history was unremarkable: it was a Boy Tour regular, normally preceding The Cry/The Electric Co. in the middle of the main set, and it retained its status as a regular on the October Tour but moved up to second, slotted between Gloria and I Threw A Brick Through A Window. Like Stories For Boys, its demise came late in the October Tour, with the date of its final performance being 14 May 1982.

The Electric Co.: One of Boy's most popular live tracks, The Electric Co. made its live debut on 11 May 1980. On 21 November 1980, it acquired an extended intro in the form of the mini-song The Cry (which formed the musical basis for October's Is That All?), and together, The Cry/The Electric Co. was a regular mid to late main set feature from the Boy Tour through to the end of The Unforgettable Fire Tour in mid-1985. The Electric Co. appeared on The Joshua Tree Tour sans The Cry and was played infrequently on the first and second legs before its final show on 3 August 1987. Its return came 17 and a half years later, when it appeared as a Vertigo Tour regular, initially with The Cry but for most of the second leg onwards, by itself. Although considered by some fans (including myself) to be the highlight of the Vertigo Tour, its performances became more infrequent as the third leg progressed, and its most recent performance was at the first date of the fourth leg.

Shadows And Tall Trees: One of the earliest U2 songs to be written and demoed, and also the first album track to be removed from the live setlist! Although it is known to have been played often at concerts during the late seventies, it did not even qualify for inclusion on the Boy Tour. In fact, its last known performance was on 27 July 1980, before the release of the Boy album!

Considering the return of a number of Boy songs on the Vertigo Tour, the question has to be asked: will any more return? The songs are high energy and were popular live in their day, so anything is possible. But this, for now, is their history.

Posted on by Axver

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