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Axver's Tour Predictions: Pop

So far, I have made tour predictions for: Songs of Innocence, Boy, October, War, The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, Rattle and Hum, Achtung Baby, and Zooropa and Passengers. Now it's time for one of U2's most divisive albums, a collection of songs the band moved quickly to disown but which many fans cherish as a great record - perhaps even U2's last great record.


Poor Pop has been hung out to dry by U2 and many critics. Its material fell out of favour quickly on the Elevation Tour, and ever since that tour ended in December 2001, there have only been three full performances of a song from Pop: “Discotheque” on 17 and 20 September 2005, and “Staring at the Sun” on 15 October 2011. It’s hard to believe U2 completely skipped the album on 360, a tour with the sort of over-the-top presentation perfectly suited to the album’s songs. Yet they did. Not even “Gone” got a run, despite Bono having a literal suit of lights (OK, that could have ended up being as awkward as the “Discotheque” video). If Pop couldn’t break into the 360 Tour’s setlist, what chance does it have this time around?

Something, anything from Pop
Likelihood: 95%
Yep, I’m starting this somewhat differently to the other entries. I am confident that after fourteen years of near-total neglect, 2015 will be the year a song from Pop makes it back into the set. The album is starting to enjoy a small critical reassessment; just see this article from the AV Club for an example. When “Discotheque” was played on Vertigo, the band were considering an encore, a “Popcore” if you will, to complement the “Zoocore” they were already doing. “Mofo” was rehearsed, as was “If You Wear That Velvet Dress”; earlier in the tour, “Please” was also under consideration. Before 360, there were reports that “If God Will Send His Angels” was soundchecked, and some Pop songs got the snippet treatment. However, if Pop is represented on the next tour, I doubt it will be through more than one or two songs. Which?

Likelihood: 40%
“Discotheque” is the best known song from Pop, though not always for the best reasons. Its brief run on Vertigo and its appearance on 360 as a snippet during the “Crazy Tonight” remix both show that it remains in contention. If U2 are going to consciously choose to represent Pop (rather than picking a song for another setlist purpose, and that song just so happens to be on Pop, if you get my distinction), this one will be at the forefront of consideration.

Likelihood: 30%
This song obviously means a lot to Bono, and U2 rehearsed it extensively throughout the entire third leg of Vertigo. It’s a shame it never made the stage. However, it has perhaps an even better chance on the next tour: like “Iris”, it’s about his mother. Imagine if the band could somehow juxtapose those two. In studio the two do not necessarily sit together comfortably, but a reinvention or reinterpretation of either could be effective.

Staring at the Sun
Likelihood: 30%
U2 are keen on acoustic versions of songs right now, as indicated by the Songs of Innocence bonus disc content and their promo tour acoustic appearances. If they are going to do any song from “Pop” acoustically, then “Staring at the Sun” is the one. After all, it showed up in that form in 2011.

Likelihood: 50%
This is the most-played song from Pop live. It’s a fan favourite, has good exposure from appearing on the Best of 1990-2000, and it’s a real attention-getter. It would work really well almost anywhere in the setlist. After missing two full tours, it is long overdue for a return to its live glory.

Likelihood: 40%
It’s hard for “Please” to not be topical. If the next tour is going to have a political segment in the setlist, then you’d have to fancy “Please’s” chances for a resurrection. It also provides a great segue into other segments – on Popmart it facilitated a transition from the political segment to the euphoria of “Streets”, and it can be repurposed for a similar role again. “Streets” isn’t the only song into which “Please” could segue effectively.

North and South of the River
Likelihood: 5%
Here’s my real out-of-the-box prediction for this era. This song, b-side to “Staring at the Sun”, has only been played live once before. Yet it could work well mid-set, be it in acoustic form or in a full arrangement. It would fit with the themes of some new material, “Raised By Wolves” in particular. It could be the unexpected rarity on the next tour that “Your Blue Room” was on 360, which would only be fitting as “Your Blue Room” also appeared as a b-side on the “Staring at the Sun” single.

(You know, I’d also love to hear “I’m Not Your Baby” make its live debut, especially if U2 ever had Lykke Li as a guest for “The Troubles” and did a second song with her, but I’m not bold enough to predict it.)

Will not be played: Do You Feel Loved, If God Will Send His Angels, Last Night on Earth, Miami, Playboy Mansion, If You Wear That Velvet Dress, Wake Up Dead Man.
I’m not sure I should completely write off “Velvet Dress”, especially not for an acoustic performance, but I think that other songs from Pop are well ahead of it in the queue. I also hate to write off “Do You Feel Loved” and “Last Night on Earth”, neither of which would be difficult to resurrect, but they lack the popularity of other tracks (and Edge made a baffling comment in U2 By U2 that rubbished “Last Night on Earth’s” chances of a live resurrection because it’s not “New Year’s Day” or “Sunday Bloody Sunday”). “Miami” will probably never be played live again and “Playboy Mansion” is too dated to make its debut now unless Bono revises the lyrics. “Wake Up Dead Man” seems more a chance for a snippet than a full performance, and I admit my surprise that IGWSHA was even rehearsed before 360. It never quite found its feet as a live tune on Popmart and I’m sceptical it has much unrealised potential.

Ax’s wishes: Do You Feel Loved, Mofo, Last Night on Earth, Gone, Please, I’m Not Your Baby.
This era has some truly great material that is powerful, explosive, and effective live. “Gone” is a top ten U2 song for me and I would be thrilled if it made a blistering return to the stage. I can only hope Edge has re-thought his opinion on “Last Night on Earth”. And I was one of the many people who was very excited when U2 began rehearsing “Mofo” in 2005, only to be disappointed when it did not make the stage. Performances on the next tour would be a good reward for ten years of anticipation!

Up next: Will U2’s concerts continue to be beautiful days for songs from All That You Can’t Leave Behind? Will the song choices elevate you? Will you find yourself stuck in a moment or will you walk on to New York? Do you have the good grace to excuse these bad puns or are you cursing the ground beneath my feet?

Posted on by Axver

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