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Axver's Tour Predictions: Achtung Baby

So far, I have made tour predictions for: Songs of Innocence, Boy, October, War, The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, and Rattle and Hum. Today I turn my attention to U2's second best selling album, one that typically emerges on top in fan polls for favourite U2 album.


The remaster of Achtung Baby for its twentieth anniversary in 2011 put it front and centre on the 360 Tour’s final leg, enjoying more setlist space than songs from No Line on the Horizon. Achtung Baby's setlist prominence is unlikely to change much, as the band’s affection for this album is no secret and so much of its material works live very effectively. But what are we likely to hear? U2 might face some tough decisions.

Even Better Than the Real Thing
Likelihood: 75%
I am surprised this song has not been performed live more often since 2000. For such a popular hit single to garner only 42 performances in the period 2000-11 is remarkable. Its revitalisation on the final two legs of 360 was thrilling; it became an engaging opener, and I would not be surprised if U2 want to show off the song to the rest of the world. After all, it has only been played twice outside the Americas since 1998, and one of those was at a tiny promo show on 19 October 2000 in Paris (the other was Glastonbury 2011). It could be a strong candidate to either open an encore or appear early in the main set.

Likelihood: 1... 100%
“One” is the only U2 song released pre-2000 to have been performed at every single full tour concert since its debut. It will remain a setlist fixture, and in all likelihood it won’t miss a single night. It has sounded a bit tired at some shows, but only a brave fan would predict a rest for “One”, even just for a night.

Until the End of the World
Likelihood: 90%
This song is one of U2’s most popular live rockers. However, on the last two tours, the band have initially shied away from playing it nightly. It missed most of the first two legs of the Vertigo Tour, only becoming a regular fixture about halfway through the third leg. On 360, it also was not in the setlist on opening night, and enjoyed only sporadic appearances until it settled into an almost permanent role halfway through the second leg. I have also noticed an increase in murmurings among fans that it doesn’t have the vitality it used to. Hence I think there is a chance – a small chance – that it could follow the example of “Bullet the Blue Sky” on 360 and become the heavy-hitting warhorse to take an extended break. The much greater likelihood, as reflected by the percentage above, is that it will remain in a prominent (if not necessarily permanent) capacity.

Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
Likelihood: 30%
U2 have never been entirely happy with the studio version of “Wild Horses” and they wish they could get the song right. They seemed to warm somewhat to an acoustic version on Vertigo’s third leg, so if their recent talk of acoustic performances translates into an acoustic section on the next tour, “Wild Horses” could be in with another chance.

The Fly
Likelihood: 50%
“The Fly” has had a good run since 2000. A reinvented version was a fixture for most of the Elevation Tour, then the band returned to the classic form as part of a Zoo TV-esque encore on Vertigo. However, it disappeared for much of 360, only returning late in the picture for Achtung Baby’s twentieth anniversary. My gut feeling is that its chances of sticking around on the next tour are not quite as good as other songs from this album. The anniversary has passed and the song’s had plenty of time in the limelight; U2 might now turn attention to other tracks.

Mysterious Ways
Likelihood: 90%
Initially I thought “well duh, this might be worth 100%”. However, maybe it’s just me, but the passion seemed to go out of “Mysterious Ways” on 360; before the tour, the band tried to reinvent it but didn’t feel confident enough to play the new acoustic version in front of an audience, and then when they brought the song back in conventional form they cut the solo. So that’s put a sneaky little doubt in my mind. Only a little though, as the prediction should indicate. A song as successful live as “Mysterious Ways” is much more likely to stick around than disappear.

Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World
Likelihood: 10%
U2 rehearsed “Tryin’ to Throw” before the 2010 European leg of 360. It did not make the stage then, but it could remain under consideration – if the next tour features arenas, it could fit very well mid-set indeed. I think it is unlikely, and the band have probably moved on from the failed rehearsals, but the foundations are there for the band to consider the song’s revival.

Likelihood: 1%
Oh ye of little faith! No, this long-standing fan fantasy probably will not happen. However, who a year before Vertigo could have imagined attending a concert with “Miss Sarajevo” and “The First Time” in the same setlist? Who a year before 360 could have predicted performances of “Your Blue Room” or “Scarlet” without being laughed at? U2 have dug deep lately and debuted old songs never before performed. We have long since discarded the supposed “rule” that a song would never be performed if it was not played (or was dropped before the end of) the first tour after its release. “Acrobat” would be an incredibly popular choice for a belated debut, and it would give the setlist some real bite. Achtung Baby has been so well represented on recent tours that U2 might look to showcase it with different songs next time – and if so, perhaps they will turn to “Acrobat”.

Love Is Blindness
Likelihood: 40%
U2 have expressed fondness for this song and I’m actually surprised it did not get thrown into the mix on the final leg of 360. I suspect the main problem is finding an appropriate setlist spot, as “Love Is Blindness” is so renowned as a closer, but that is not an insurmountable problem – especially not if it is under consideration from the start of the tour. As I just said in my “Acrobat” comments, Achtung has already enjoyed extensive representation, so if U2 are looking to do something different from the album, a revival of “Love Is Blindness” should be high on the pecking order.

Will not be played: Zoo Station, So Cruel, Ultra Violet.
The resurrection of “Zoo Station” was very much a Vertigo Tour thing, and I suspect “Ultra Violet” after 360 will follow in its footsteps. They were both played to serve a very specific, prominent encore role within the theme of their respective tour. Really the question is what neglected Achtung song will U2 revisit next to fill a niche on the next tour (“Love Is Blindness” is my leading bet). As for “So Cruel”, it never worked back in the day and there are more immediate, popular, arresting choices ahead of it in the queue.

Ax’s wishes: Acrobat, Love Is Blindness, Where Did It All Go Wrong?, Lady With the Spinning Head.
I’ve avoided mentioning the big hits I’ve heard many times before – though you’ll receive no complaints from me if U2 play “The Fly” at any show I attend – in order to focus on the gems that I wish would appear in the setlist. I can imagine “Love Is Blindness” sitting very effectively alongside “The Troubles”, and “Acrobat” anywhere in the setlist would be the culmination of a very long wait. This album also produced some great b-sides. My friend Liam M. tried to persuade me to predict “Where Did It All Go Wrong?”; he couldn’t quite twist my arm, but it would be a very fun burst of energy. And then there is “Lady With the Spinning Head”, possibly U2’s most popular b-side among fans. It would be so cool live. I just wish U2 had realised that on 360, because its Extended Dance Remix would have been the perfect pairing with the remixed “Crazy Tonight”.

Up next: Neither Zooropa nor Passengers have enjoyed strong live representation. However, I do not think they will be totally neglected next tour. Stay tuned for my predictions!

Posted on by Axver

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