Author Topic: Switching up set-lists at multiple shows in same city  (Read 1670 times)

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Offline EdgeFest [Zenmaster360]

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Switching up set-lists at multiple shows in same city
« on: March 27, 2009, 10:21:03 AM »
We plan to go to most if not all the dates in both Chicago and Toronto, and since it is our first time seeing U2 (and we are definitely getting our fill!) I'm wondering if they traditionally switch up the set-list a bit when they play a few dates in a row in the same city?

What are your memories of the past few multi-date tours?


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Re: Switching up set-lists at multiple shows in same city
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2009, 11:50:14 AM »
I was at both Vertigo shows in Vancouver in 2005. The 'main' setlist remained the same, by that, I meant the likes of Vertigo, Beautiful Day, SBS, Bullet The Blue Sky, Zoo Station etc etc were performed on both nights. U2 has the tendency to switch up the 'fillers' - for instance Gloria was played on the first night, on the next night it was An Cat Dubh. Ditto for Original Of The Species one night and YahWeh the next.

During the Elevation tours in Calgary back in '01, The Sweetest Thing was substituted by Even Better Than The Real Thing on the second night.

So not much major changes in the setlist in back to back shows as far I can remember. The best part of going to both shows was knowing that you are going back for more.

Offline m2

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Re: Switching up set-lists at multiple shows in same city
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2009, 05:09:51 PM »
There was a good interview just a week or so ago about this, where Bono talked about trying to keep the shows somewhat spontaneous, but also acknowledging that U2 shows have a structure and a theme/story, and the songs are chosen to get that theme across.

Generally speaking, they'll have an "A" setlist for the 1st night and a "B" setlist for the 2nd. There might be anywhere from 3-10 songs that are either different or moved to a different part of the show. There are some parts of the show that will never change because they're part of the story. U2 shows tend to have a beginning, middle, and end.

They did a much better job of mixing things up on the Vertigo tour than on the couple previous tours. You might want to read my take on the Vertigo Tour setlist/theme/show:

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I interviewed Willie Williams back in 2002 and asked him about the complaints that U2 doesn't mix it up enough. Here's his reply:

It's quite touching that in the 21st century there's still a belief that a rock show is (or should be) an entirely spontaneous event even on its 100th show. For me, a flexible set list is a mixed blessing. Much as it brings variety and keeps up interest for those of us who see the show more than once, lack of familiar structure places a limit on how technologically complex a show can be. The ideal for me is a situation where parts of a show -- say beginning, middle & end -- are set in stone, then, in between times, it's an improvisational free for all. Even this, though, is easier said than done and you'd be amazed how much any show pulls and pulls towards settling down and wants to get into a routine.

The other downside to a more improvised show is, of course, that -- visually at least -- the quality of the result varies dramatically from night to night. R.E.M. is a good example - on their 1995 tour I was using nine cinema-sized film projectors overlaying film sequences chosen from a group of about 50 clips we had with us on tour. The set list was a real movable feast and due to the mechanical limitations of using film, this necessitated my using different films for different songs on different nights. On a good night this would throw up new ideas, new combinations & wonderful surprises which showed R.E.M. at their random, glorious, untethered, experimental best but it wasn't something you could expect to work 100% night after night.

When you add to this the advent of the Internet you have to accept that as soon as you've done one show everyone in the world knows what you're up to. To seriously try to maintain a level of surprise on a nightly basis would drive you insane and probably result in some highly unsatisfactory experiments. I've come to accept that a known structure which includes some room for nightly manoeuvre allows U2 to create a show which is not only at the very top of its league but also ensures an unparalleled level of consistency from night to night. Given that most people will only see one show, it's important to guarantee that every single one is absolutely as good as it can possibly be.

Doing multiple nights helps U2 shake it up a bit. There was generally an "A" and a "B" set on Elevation. In towns where we did three shows, the third night got pretty loose and in the few places where we did a fourth night all bets were off. I think it was Boston show 4 where we opened with "Elevation" followed by the first seven songs from the Zoo TV show!

You can read that interview here:

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The quote is from part two.

Offline EdgeFest [Zenmaster360]

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Re: Switching up set-lists at multiple shows in same city
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2009, 06:50:50 PM »
Thank you very much Matt... I will dig in to what you've posted for me shortly.  It may only be a couple songs they change out, but if it's "your song", it's worth it. 

I am seeing them for the first time (finally) on this tour and we will be going to multiple Torontos/Chicagos providing tickets come through... even if they are the $30 ones... secured GA's for both locations already so am pretty happy I will be seeing them at least twice so far!  Got a long way to travel to get to both too so it's worth it if I'm already there.

I'll look forward to the changes they make, and even if it was the same set-list I'd still be happy :)

Offline aarond

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Re: Switching up set-lists at multiple shows in same city
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2009, 07:07:38 PM »
Yeah thanks m2. I remember seeing philly 2 on the elevation tour and being disappointed that ISHFWILF wasn't played. I didn't track the setlists or for me (as most fans I am guessing) not at all worried about variety. Just want to see my favorite band.

Offline dangerous and honest

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Re: Switching up set-lists at multiple shows in same city
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2009, 03:36:30 AM »
Thanks for the great Vertigo 2005 article m2.

I loved the 'naive' opening to that tour, especially the 'Stories' snippet. I think I actually preferred those moments to the 'heart of darkness' segment although it's interesting to read how Running and Bullet became sung from the same voice - all the years that these two songs have been played together and I never saw that connection!

One question I would have is what about the set that came full circle? At a number of concerts, Vertigo opened and closed the show. We ended as we began, albeit without the 'Stories' snippet. Hmmm...

So far this year I'm attending 2 'stand alone' shows and 1 second night show, so hopefully I'll be seeing some variety.

I hate to bring up the 'R' word here, but does this mean that Radiohead need no discernable structure to their shows? No beginning, middle or end? A few bands do seem to successfully mix things up without any real detriment to the live show. Sure, Radiohead have a number of 'likely' songs, particularly if they are promoting a new album as the new stuff is more often included than not. But none appear to be a 'given' - this is especially true of older tracks. Yet the audience seem to accept this (or actually even relish this), even though they too will probably have firm favourites and Radiohead themselves have had a number of hit singles to fall back on. It becomes an exciting game of 'what are they gonna play now?'. The band appear to thrive on it and the quality of the show is always high (at least in my experience).

Offline mstevensmcs

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Re: Switching up set-lists at multiple shows in same city
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2009, 07:45:33 PM »
I asked Willie that same question after the first of two nights in Oakland during Popmart in 1997, his response is here:

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The band has made a leap forward on this issue since then, and Matt is quite right that they really made the most headway with it on vertigo tour. I was stunned to hear "An Cat Dubh" again on that was a 22 year wait!!! Having seen mostly two-night stands over the last 26 years, I think you can reasonably expect some changes this time 'round (unless they're filming of course). Just for the sake of comparison, if you like Dylan's music, he changes the list every night, i.e. when he did a three-night stop in Oakland at the paramount theater in 2005, he played a total of 45 songs, only 15 of which were! I'm happy with U2's decision to rotate things a bit, it really helps when you've seen them 17 times to have a surprise here and there.