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A first leg summary

The dust is now starting to settle on the first leg. It has been a historic leg in many ways. It is the first time U2 have begun a tour outside the USA since Lovetown began in Australia in 1989 - and of tours that actually visited the USA, it is the first not to begin there since the Unforgettable Fire Tour kicked off in New Zealand in 1984. The last tour to begin in Europe was the War Tour in 1983, or December 1982 if you count the Pre-War leg. For Croatia, the tour holds special significance as the first to ever visit the country. Meanwhile, U2 played in Sheffield after a 17 year absence, performing outdoors in the city for the first time.

Although U2 are known for their stadium shows, this was only the second time the first leg of a U2 tour has been exclusively stadiums, after Popmart in 1997. It was also a short first leg - the last time an opening leg of a tour had less shows was when U2 began touring in 1984 with 19 shows in New Zealand and Australia. However, this was still enough time for the setlist to go through some noticeable evolution. In the following, I will take a look at some of what the band played - with a couple of our videos at the end for good measure.

Over the course of 25 concerts (24 full shows and a dress rehearsal concert), U2 played a total of 35 different songs. One of these was Happy Birthday, and two were one-off covers - Stand By Me and The Auld Triangle - so the count of original U2 songs is 32. I will deal exclusively with this figure, and when comparing to other tours, I will similarly only deal with original U2 songs.

Every single U2 song played on this leg was done at least twice; 17 out of 32 were played at every show. As each show contained 22-23 songs (and on a couple of rare occasions, 24), this meant the remaining 15 songs vyed for five or six setlist positions. Furthermore, out of these 15, The Unforgettable Fire and Unknown Caller missed only two shows and I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For missed four; hence the remaining 12 songs competed for just 2-3 spots. This would explain why none of them were played at over half the shows - in fact, only two broke double figures: Stuck In A Moment was played 12 times and Mysterious Ways was played 10 times.

In addition to these 32 songs, at least six more were rehearsed but not performed. At the Barcelona rehearsals, U2 did four songs that have not yet appeared on tour: Even Better Than The Real Thing (20/06), If God Will Send His Angels (23/06), Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own (also 23/06), and Drowning Man (most sessions, and the Dublin III soundcheck). Subsequently, the band have soundchecked I Will Follow (Dublin III and Gelsenkirchen) and, to considerable surprise, Your Blue Room (Zagreb II and London I). In Barcelona, the band also rehearsed acoustic versions of Sunday Bloody Sunday (19/06) and Mysterious Ways (25/06 and 27/06) that have not been played at any concerts, though both songs appeared in electric form. Other songs may have been rehearsed; do not assume that this is a complete list. We were not even aware that the band had rehearsed Desire or Party Girl until they were played at Barcelona II.

Speaking of Desire, a few fixtures of the first month of the tour completely vanished in August. The band had been rotating Desire, Angel Of Harlem, and In A Little While, with the former two featuring snippets in memory of Michael Jackson. However, it seems Stuck In A Moment and Stay hijacked their setlist spots, and they were ultimately squeezed out by the addition of another high-energy song after Beautiful Day - usually Elevation or Mysterious Ways but occasionally New Year's Day. Also seemingly squeezed out of the setlist - despite the excitement its performance created amongst the online fan community - was Electrical Storm. The first four shows of the tour indicated it was part of the second night set, but then it languished in soundchecks in Paris, Amsterdam, and Dublin before making just one more appearance at Gothenburg II.

So how does this first leg compare to others for variety? It's pretty much a tie with Vertigo's first leg. Vertigo appears to have the advantage, but once you combine An Cat Dubh/Into The Heart and The Cry/The Electric Co., it is leading by just 33 to 32, and Stuck In A Moment was done solely at the dress rehearsal. However, Vertigo was slightly less static - 14 songs were played at every show (or 15 if you exclude the dress rehearsal, the only show Sunday Bloody Sunday missed). The comparison with Elevation's first leg is perhaps less favourable, as 34 original U2 songs were played and only 10 were done at every show, but it had 50 shows, double that of the 360° Tour's first leg.

In any case, the above two examples both come from arena legs; U2 over the last couple of decades have had a bit more setlist variety when playing arenas rather than stadiums. So how does the 360° Tour's first leg compare to Popmart's first leg? Favourably. 18 songs were done at every first leg Popmart show, a leg on which some shows were only 21 songs long. Furthermore, out of the 17 other songs that were played, just seven of them were actually U2 songs - the remainder were predominantly Edge's karaoke or glorified outro covers played by Bono and Edge after One to end the show.

The final statistic I will look at is album representation. Unsurprisingly, No Line On The Horizon was the most well-represented album, but for a new album on its debut tour leg, it has the lowest representation of any in U2 history (excluding those first legs that took place prior to an album's release, namely Pre-War and the first leg of the Unforgettable Fire Tour). 7 songs were performed - yet to appear in any form are Stand Up Comedy, Fez-Being Born, White As Snow, and Cedars Of Lebanon. The Vertigo Tour had the previous low of 8, though it must be said that only 7 of them were true regulars as Original Of The Species was played at only just over a quarter of shows.

Similarly, although the Elevation Tour's first leg featured ten songs that could be considered new, two were not from All That You Can't Leave Behind (namely Sweetest Thing and The Ground Beneath Her Feet), and of the eight from ATYCLB, Wild Honey was played just once and only five songs were done at every single show. So although NLOTH may initially look like the weakest represented, its representation is roughly equal with or perhaps stronger than ATYCLB, and it lags only just behind How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. Comparisons with Popmart are less flattering. 11 new songs were played - ten from Pop and Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me. Eight from Pop were played at every gig, as was HMTMKMKM; of the other two, If You Wear That Velvet Dress missed just three shows and If God Will Send His Angels missed six.

Of course, you probably came here for some actual music too. Well, let's conclude this article with a couple of fitting tracks that we filmed. Firstly, a new song played at every show of the first leg. Secondly, a special performance of an older track done sparingly on the first leg.

No Line On The Horizon (8 July 2009, Milan)

New Year's Day (6 August 2009, Chorzow)

Posted on by Axver

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