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Axver's Tour Predictions: War and The Unforgettable Fire

We've had a lot of interviews to report the last couple of days, but today has been quiet, so it is time for more tour predictions. I began with predictions for Songs of Innocence and then went all the way back to Boy and October. Today I move onto U2's breakthrough album War and my personal favourite The Unforgettable Fire.


War enjoys good setlist representation, but since the end of the Unforgettable Fire Tour that has been almost exclusively through three songs: “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “New Year’s Day”, and “40”. (The solitary exception is “Two Hearts Beat As One” appearing on 27 December 1989.) However, U2 spent a lot of time rehearsing “Drowning Man” in 2009. Could some of War’s deeper cuts appear on the next tour?

Sunday Bloody Sunday
Likelihood: 100%
U2 can run from this song but they can’t hide. The only tour it has ever missed in full is Lovetown. Will it miss the next one? Not likely, with global politics unstable and Bono sure to want a political message in the set. Even if SBS is not a regular initially, it will show up somewhere, somehow. It crept back on ZooTV and Popmart despite the band’s best intentions.

New Year’s Day
Likelihood: 100%
“New Year’s Day” has not missed a tour since its debut in December 1982 and it’s not going to start now. This massive crowd-pleaser will show up in some capacity. Again, it may not get a run every night, but if U2 want to squeeze as many of their classics into their repertoire as possible, it’s a prime candidate to rotate with the likes of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “Pride”, or “I Will Follow”. This has often been the approach on recent tours and it should continue.

Drowning Man
Likelihood: 10%
This song has been snippeted but never played in full. U2 rehearsed it extensively on the first leg of 360 but never quite found an appropriate place in the set. Everybody agreed it sounded great. Will “Drowning Man” find a home on the next tour? Doubt it. But maybe, just maybe, it will get a second chance – especially if the tour is in arenas.

Likelihood: 40%
That likelihood percentage isn’t entirely a pun. Every tour since 1983, “40” has managed an appearance either in full or as a snippet (including a solitary snippet on ZooTV). It should show up in some capacity. Will it be done in full? Definitely not out of the question. Will it be done in full frequently? Probably not. This is a special occasion closer.

Will not be played: Seconds, Like a Song, The Refugee, Two Hearts Beat As One, Red Light, Surrender.
Sure, “Seconds” would be cool in an acoustic set but it is much too dated lyrically. “Two Hearts Beat As One” had its best chance – and plenty of pun potential – to return on Elevation and didn’t. The rest have either rarely been played, never been played, or not got a look in since the eighties.

Ax’s wishes: Like a Song, Drowning Man, Surrender.
It’s about time some of the deeper cuts on War got some time on stage. “Like a Song” is a great missed opportunity, played just once – it could have been a live beast. I can see it fitting nicely alongside “Cedarwood Road”; I’m just not game enough to claim even a 1% likelihood.


UF’s live representation has come primarily through two songs, “Pride” and “Bad”. This is pretty surprising for an album often considered to sit alongside The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby as one of U2’s masterpieces. A handful of other songs have appeared over the course of the last few tours, but those two songs loom largest. Will they continue to overshadow the other material, or will U2 put a spotlight on UF’s other gems this time around?

A Sort of Homecoming
Likelihood: 25%
OK, I’m biased: if I were U2, I’d play this song every night and evict from the venue any fool who fails to enjoy it. But to be serious, they began mining The Unforgettable Fire in 2009 and never completed the job. This is a fan favourite, it fits with themes of nostalgia, homecoming (no shit), and reminiscence, and it would be brilliant mid-set. Imagine if a classic like “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” were partnered with it. Even oblivious casual fans who think U2’s first single was “Beautiful Day” would lap it up.

Likelihood: 100%
Gee really? U2 have proven they don’t need to play it every night, but it will maintain a presence – it’s a good candidate to rotate with other popular-but-not-essential classics. Personally I think it’s one of the few U2 songs that’s almost never been better live than in studio, but evidently the band disagree. (If you concur with me, track down the performance in my beautiful hometown on 31 August 1984, which actually does the song justice.)

The Unforgettable Fire
Likelihood: 15%
It’s a hit single, and it was on a Best Of, but it had its chance on 360 and got dropped on the third leg. Unlikely to return next tour – but not totally out of the question.

Likelihood: 5%
This is not a joke. On the last two tours, U2 have dug up an old song never played live in its era and given it a chance to shine on stage. The reason given for “Promenade” never being played is that it was too personal for Bono – it describes the house he lived in with his wife when they were first married. (Plus it just wouldn’t have fit the vibe of UF Tour shows!) Now? He is well removed from the time period, more accustomed to performing deeply personal songs live, and a lot of his recent lyrics revisit and narrate past events. This song would fit well, it’s fairly brief and won’t take up so much time that casual fans will become lost, and it can effectively act as an intro or interlude before a bigger song. Just imagine “Promenade” leading into “Where the Streets Have No Name”. Are you drooling? You should be drooling.

Likelihood: 100%
Some people say “Where the Streets Have No Name” is the quintessential live U2 song. Perhaps. But if you ask me, it’s “Bad”. This song raises the roof every time it’s done. It’s so simple, yet the band can do so much with it. Every appearance is special and unique. It may not be a permanent fixture, but U2 are not going to waste the magic of its occasional appearances. Third nights in much-loved cities? A treat in far-flung and rarely visited locations? Surprise appearances when the band are in the right mood? You know it’ll show up from time to time. Hopefully more frequently rather than less.

Likelihood: 20%
Few songs are easier to fit into the set than this lullaby. I’m not going to hold my breath, especially after its lengthy run on 360, but it’s not out of the question.

Will not be played: Wire, 4th Of July, Indian Summer Sky, Elvis Presley and America.
“Wire” was considered in 2009 before the 360 Tour and never made it. That was its best chance, coupled with the 25th anniversary of The Unforgettable Fire. “Indian Summer Sky” barely got a run even on its debut tour. The other two have never been played in full live and are not candidates to start now, being blatantly unsuited to the stage.

Ax’s wishes: A Sort of Homecoming, Wire, The Unforgettable Fire, Promenade, Indian Summer Sky.
I adore this album. Anybody who has followed our live coverage of setlists knows that. Can we have b-sides “The Three Sunrises”, “Boomerang II”, and “Love Comes Tumbling” too? Thanks U2, I’ll sing extra loudly if you do them in Melbourne.

Posted on by Axver

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