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The significance of U2 performing 3 unreleased songs in Turin

At their concert in Turin on 6 August 2010, U2 performed three unreleased songs (listen here). For some bands, this is not particularly unusual, but for U2, it is almost unprecedented. In previous updates, both here and on the U2gigs Twitter accounts, I have indicated the rarity of this, but I have not gone significantly into detail. This article shall.

Before I begin, one important distinction must be made. When promoting new albums, U2 have sometimes performed album tracks prior to the album's release. While these tracks are technically unreleased at the time of their performance, they are not the subject of this article. This article is concerned with what you could describe as a more pure form of unreleased song - those that are not set for imminent release, and have not completed the process of recording, mixing, and mastering. Many U2 songs are born in earlier recording sessions and some unreleased tracks may have existed in the studio prior to their live performance, but when they debuted live, the form they would take on an official release had not been finalised, and their release date was unknown; the best anybody could say is that they were candidates for a nebulous "next album". Hopefully we're all now on the same page regarding what I mean by "unreleased song".

Between the end of the Lovetown Tour in January 1990 and now, U2 have debuted just one unreleased song live. It was titled We Love You (or I Love You), and it was performed just once - funnily enough, exactly nine years before the historic Turin gig, on 6 August 2001 in Antwerp. The song was played in honour of Edge's looming 40th birthday, though the band had been working on it at soundchecks earlier on the Elevation Tour. It has never been officially released.

So, one unreleased song is quite something, but when was the last time U2 did two at one gig? Amusingly enough, it was at the band's ramshackle and drunken appearance on TV Gaga on 30 January 1986. They performed Womanfish, a song U2 have never released in any form, and an early version of Trip Through Your Wires, which went through some considerable evolution and lyrical development before it was released on The Joshua Tree in March 1987. I have written two articles in honour of this Inthistowntastic gig, in January 2009 and January 2010.

Still, that's not as many new songs as U2 played in Turin. How far back do you have to go to find the last instance of U2 performing three unreleased live songs? You have to go all the way back to the last show of the Boy Tour, 9 June 1981 in London. On this occasion, U2 performed two songs that would be released on October later that year, I Fall Down and Fire, as well as a song that has never been officially released, Carry Me Home. The gap between the London and Turin gigs is a staggering 29 years, 1 month, and 28 days.

When did U2 last actually outdo Turin and perform four or more unreleased songs? Over thirty years ago. It is a bit hard to say for sure, due to the paucity of setlists prior to Boy's release (and the paucity of known concert dates, let alone setlists!). However, it happened at some point on the 11 O'clock Tick Tock Tour. The only full setlist from that tour is towards the end, 13 July 1980 in London.

So if you thought the Turin setlist was something special, you were right. As far as performing unreleased songs goes, it had been a very long time between drinks indeed.

Posted on by Axver

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