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Axver's Tour Predictions: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and No Line on the Hor

Alright, this is mildly embarrassing. Many of you will recall that last year, I ran a series of predictions of what songs U2 would play on the forthcoming tour. I thought I had posted the complete series, but recently a number of readers pestered me to finish it. I looked back through the archives, and lo and behold the series came to a standstill after ATYCLB. Oops. I had even drafted my predictions for the final two albums!

So for those of you who wanted the series completed, here are the final two albums. My predictions are totally unedited, with the exception of a bit of grammar and bringing one sentence unrelated to my predictions up to date - in keeping with the spirit of what I meant to post a few months ago, there are no changes in light of the recent rehearsals. That should be evident by a couple of already inaccurate predictions.

Anyway. Last year I posted predictions for Songs of Innocence, Boy, October, War, The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, Rattle and Hum, Achtung Baby, Zooropa and Passengers, Pop, and All That You Can't Leave Behind. Now I ask if there is any setlist representation on the horizon for How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and No Line on the Horizon.


This album had a poor run on 360. Only two HTDAAB tracks were played even though it was the most recent previous album – to give some context, U2 also played two songs from Passengers, two non-album singles, and two b-sides. Normally, U2 albums do fairly well on their second tour. Pop, that whipping boy of U2 albums, managed to get five tracks on the Elevation Tour before it plummeted into setlist obscurity. The previous worst performance of an album on its second tour was - surprisingly - Achtung Baby and Zooropa on Popmart, represented respectively by four songs and none. Will HTDAAB bounce back from its poor showing on 360, or is that a sign of things to come?

Likelihood: 100%
Much of the rest of the album’s live prospects may be uncertain, but “Vertigo” is a very, very safe bet. It is U2’s last truly massive, enduring hit and it will be a nightly staple. Lock it in.

Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own
Likelihood: 15%
SYCMIOYO very nearly made 360, being rehearsed in Barcelona in 2009 before the tour began. It would be better suited to arenas, and it was a successful track, charting highly in Europe. Hence I think it is an outside chance of a comeback.

City of Blinding Lights
Likelihood: 80%
There is some doubt in my mind here. COBL has been a staple of two tours and it may be time for a rest now. On the other hand, it is a popular song that lends itself to dramatic, eye-catching forms of live presentation. Hence I think it is more likely than not to remain a setlist fixture.

A Man and a Woman
Likelihood: 50%
This song has been done live only once before – and it was quite a surprise, coming seven years after release. “A Man and a Woman” in 2004 was the subject of much derision among fans, yet it has enjoyed a considerable turnaround in fortunes. The Song Survivor tournaments on Interference are a perfect illustration. As recently as a 2009 edition, it was the first song fans kicked off the album; in 2013, it made the finals. I think it would be welcomed by many into the set now, and Bono and Edge’s performance of it in 2011 is indicative that it could be a fair chance of appearing in an acoustic set.

Will not be played: Everything else.
This album has not become a black sheep of U2 albums, but its live representation is not dissimilar to that of less popular or successful albums. I think this is partly because it has a couple of very popular tracks that overshadow a bunch of much deeper cuts that have limited popularity and little claim to a setlist spot at the expense of hits, fan favourites, and other much older gems that are resurrected. I would not put it past U2 to dig up “Miracle Drug” or “Original of the Species”, but I’m not quite prepared to predict them.

Ax’s wishes: A Man and a Woman, Crumbs From Your Table, Fast Cars, Smile, Native Son.
For a while there on 360, it seemed “Fast Cars” had replaced “Party Girl” as the silly, fun song to play at shows with a really good vibe. Then it vanished before I got the chance to see it live. “Crumbs From Your Table” likewise showed up only briefly and vanished before it had a fair chance. I’ve been a champion of “A Man and a Woman” since long before it had a wider reappraisal, and “Smile” is a fantastic little track from the Unreleased & Rare iTunes collection that I think would work very well in an intimate setting. And yes, I’m one of those people who thinks “Native Son” is much better than “Vertigo”. I’ll keep dreaming, I know. But if I were U2, I’m the kind of joker who’d do “Native Son” at random shows to keep people on their toes.


Even though its only tour to date was the tour promoting it, NLOTH is already one of the worst-represented U2 albums live. Only seven tracks have been played; the title track, “Unknown Caller”, and “Breathe” all plummeted out after two legs (with the exception of one performance of “No Line”); some shows by the end of the tour featured just three tracks. In the period since the end of the tour, not a single song from the album has been played live; none showed up on the promo tour. So where to for NLOTH?

Likelihood: 90%
This song is the most quintessentially “U2” from NLOTH, has sustained its popularity as well as anything from the album, and has a good build-up suited to the stage. It may have missed some concerts in 2011 but I expect that with time it to go on to become NLOTH’s most enduring live representative.

Moment of Surrender
Likelihood: 50%
This song has captured the imagination of many fans, and Bono feels quite passionately about it. Given its length it may not be a shoo-in to the next tour, but it could be paired with another song (“Streets”? “Bad”?) to create an effective mid to late set segue.

Crazy Tonight
Likelihood: 10%
The remix of “Crazy Tonight” was a centrepiece of 360 and is unlikely to be done again; instead, U2 may go completely in the opposite direction and attempt an acoustic version at some stage in the tour. Alternatively, they might play it in a fashion true to the album version.

Get on Your Boots
Likelihood: will not be played.
I’m breaking my usual format to single out “Boots”. U2 almost always play an album’s lead single on the second tour on which it could be played. Even “Fire” stumbled its way into War’s Pre-Tour and the first show of the main War Tour. The only time a lead single was omitted was on Popmart, when there were no performances of Achtung Baby’sThe Fly” or anything from Zooropa (depending on your criteria, any of that album’s three singles could be classified the “lead”). I think the next tour will add “Boots” to that list. The single did poorly, and by the end of 360 its performances often felt like the band were going through the motions. If it did not make the setlist, little would be made of it - especially not by casual fans. If the song is played (pencil in this as my “hedging my bets” statement), it will not be permanent. It will be rotational or fall out of the set mid-tour, much in the style of “Discotheque” on Elevation.

White As Snow
Likelihood: 5%
If U2 are going to dig up something a bit unusual from NLOTH, this may be the song. It was under some consideration on the first leg of 360 – Willie Williams urged the band to do a run of “October”, “White As Snow”, and “New Year’s Day” – and it would fit nicely with U2’s recent emphasis on acoustic performances. I think “Crazy Tonight” is most likely if U2 decide to include an NLOTH song in an acoustic set, but “White As Snow” would probably also factor into considerations.

Will not be played: Everything else.
Setlist space is at a premium now, with thirteen albums in contention. During recent interviews, the band have been talking down NLOTH, which might be weakening its live chances further. Some songs may be resurrected on future tours as they age and are reappreciated, but on this tour I think the album will fare poorly.

Ax's wishes: No Line on the Horizon, Fez-Being Born, and White As Snow.
I think the title track of NLOTH was hard done by on 360. It should have been given an opportunity to open a show; it cannot have done worse than "Breathe". It would be a welcome addition to the next tour's setlist alongside Songs of Innocence's heavier and more uptempo tracks. "White As Snow" would be a breath of fresh air if U2 persist with acoustic treatments. And I would dearly love to hear U2 attempt "Fez-Being Born" live, but if they weren't willing to give it a go on 360 then I suspect that wish may go ungranted. Prove me wrong U2, prove me wrong.

(And oh how they already have, at least with regards to my HTDAAB predictions!)

Posted on by Axver

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