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Axver's Tour Predictions: Rattle and Hum

I have already made tour predictions for Songs of Innocence, Boy, October, War, The Unforgettable Fire, and The Joshua Tree. Today I turn my attention to the studio tracks from U2's somewhat muddled 1988 album.


I am not concerned with the pros and cons of mingling studio tracks with live performances, the album's somewhat lukewarm reception, or the disappointing failure to include either "Wild Irish Rose" (here's an edited version without the interview) or "She's a Mystery to Me". Rather, what concerns me today is how Rattle and Hum will fare on stage next tour.

Its studio material has not done too badly for live representation over the years. It has three big hits that have all rotated in and out of U2’s setlist over the years, and three more have appeared on at least one post-Lovetown tour. Rattle and Hum is U2’s best-selling album in Australia and the band have always made an effort to represent it in setlists there. The likelihood percentages should perhaps be considered a bit stronger for Australian audiences than for fans anywhere else.

Van Diemen’s Land
Likelihood: 5%
This is the “Bono’s getting older and wants a mid-set breather so he sends out Edge to do a song” prediction. It’s heaps more likely than “Seconds”, much easier to do than “Numb”, and rather surprisingly was played for television a few years ago. It remains very unlikely.

(If U2 ever perform a concert in Tasmania, it is safe to say the likelihood of "Van Diemen's Land" will approach 100%. However, given Tasmania's small population and general exclusion from touring cycles even by mainland Australian bands, it is unlikely U2 will ever grace a stage in Hobart or Launceston. At least "Van Diemen's Land" made its live debut in Melbourne, the closest city to Tasmania in which U2 have performed.)

Likelihood: 99%
“Desire” has not missed a tour since its debut, and U2 can play it at the drop of a hat – it appears frequently for impromptu off-tour performances. Yet on the last two tours its performances have become rather infrequent. Could this be the tour it is fully neglected? That niggling doubt has held me back from tipping a perfect 100%. However, even if it does not secure a nightly spot, it will probably keep cropping up now and then. It has already been played twice this year, in January and May, despite the lack of U2 concerts!

Angel of Harlem
Likelihood: 85%
See “Desire”. However, “Angel of Harlem” has missed a tour, Popmart, and after initially featuring in the 360 Tour setlist, it fell out of rotation very quickly. Surprisingly, when U2 came down under, it was played in New Zealand, foreshadowing performances in Australia – and then wasn’t done in Australia. Hence if a big Rattle and Hum hit is going to be overlooked, I think this one is most likely. In reality, I expect it to appear at some point on the next tour, but not to hold down a permanent position in the set.

When Love Comes to Town
Likelihood: 25%
In some parts of the world this was a pretty successful single. I recall it in frequent rotation on Australian radio right up until All You Can’t Leave Behind was released. It hasn’t been performed at a full tour concert since Zoo TV, so is it now time for a revival? After all, it is not challenging to play.

God Part II
Likelihood: 5%
This heavy, visceral song has surprisingly not been played since the end of Lovetown. Before the third leg of Zoo TV, the band considered performing it but that never came to pass. Maybe this is just a case of me wanting to believe, especially as I am unaware of it being revisited since 1992, but if U2 want to throw a curveball from Rattle and Hum, “God Part II” would be an arresting, compelling way to do so. Adam’s bass and Edge’s solo would be impossible for even the most greatest-hits-focused concertgoer to ignore.

All I Want Is You
Likelihood: 99%
No song from Rattle and Hum has been played live more than “All I Want Is You”, and it has not missed a tour since its debut. It is easy to play and all but certain to stick around in some capacity. It is the sort of song that can rotate well with “I Still Haven’t Found” or “With or Without You” without changing the pace or vibe of the show. (By the way, despite how many U2 concerts I have seen, I have never heard this song live. It always debuts on a tour leg a few shows after I see them. So if you want to hear “All I Want Is You”, just find out what gigs I’m attending and go to the fifth show after my last one. You are all but guaranteed that it will be in the setlist!)

She's a Mystery to Me
Likelihood: 5%
This song has an odd history. It was written during the Joshua Tree Tour, was overlooked for Rattle and Hum and given to Roy Orbison to record a studio version, debuted live on Lovetown on 30 December 1989, has been played or snippeted on every tour since, and a live version was the b-side to "All Because of You". I think it's a pretty good chance that there will be a "She's a Mystery to Me" snippet at some point, but will it be played in full? In interviews the band have been talking up an arena tour and acoustic performances. "She's a Mystery to Me" can slot easily into an acoustic set in an intimate indoor setting, so I have a sneaking suspicion it might show up once or twice.

Will not be played: Hawkmoon 269, Love Rescue Me, Heartland.
“Love Rescue Me” got a brief revival on 360 – however its reaction was fairly muted and I do not see it staying in the setlist. “Heartland” has never been performed in full and demands a lot from Bono’s voice; it is now probably out of the question. “Hawkmoon”, oh “Hawkmoon”... see below.

Ax’s wishes: Hawkmoon 269, Heartland, God Part II, She's a Mystery to Me.
“Hawkmoon” was played eight times on Lovetown with an ethereal slide guitar intro; every performance was proof that it should be considered among U2’s best concert openers (see video below). It has not appeared again. I cannot fathom why. U2, if this article somehow reaches you, do the right thing and restore "Hawkmoon" to its live glory. “God Part II” would also be a fantastic revival as outlined above, and I would die a happy man if I could hear “Heartland” live – it nestles cosily in my top three U2 songs with “A Sort of Homecoming” and “One Tree Hill”.

I would like to claim that video as Exhibit A for why Lovetown was U2's greatest tour. The good degree of setlist variation is Exhibit B, and the 26 December 1989 show gives us Exhibit C, possibly the greatest five minutes of live U2 you will ever hear: this mindblowing performance of "One Tree Hill".

Up next: Achtung Baby has always enjoyed strong live representation. Will that trend continue? (Hint: yes.)

Posted on by Axver

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