What we know + a little speculation + a look at each track’s live track record:
On the heels of an only slightly belated Achtung Baby 30th-anniversary vinyl-and-digital-only release, U2 is rolling with the Achtung theme for its 2022 fan club release. The CD/download gift for U2.com subscribers will compile live versions of AB songs. The U2.com announcement states that the band is curating the selections, with performances “recorded over 30 years.”
However, notice that “30 years” takes the recordings past the last U2 tour and essentially up to the present. Then consider Adam’s recent comments about the quartet spending some time reworking older songs in new ways, along with the official wording about “maybe the odd surprise.”
What are we left with, then? Well, here’s a quick rundown of each song and times/tours played according to U2gigs.com. One might wonder if a newly recorded version or two might beef up the lineup where choices are thin or where a fresh approach carries the day.
Zoo Station (248)
A stalwart on the ZooTV tour, of course, it took 12 years off before returning for the Vertigo tour. Then it took about another 12 off before another 20ish outings in 2018.
Even Better Than The Real Thing (419)
A warhorse on the ZooTV, Popmart, and both Innocence/Experience tours. A few more Elevation tour dates and a notable presence on the 360 tour. More of a reliable rocker than an opportunity for variation or interesting arrangement.
The reigning champ of live appearances among AB songs, of course. It has been the vehicle for social commentary and other discourse at times, perhaps lessening the impact for recordings after the fact. I’d hope for a tighter arrangement, or perhaps even a reworking to put a twist on (and restore) some of the intimate power of the studio version.
Until The End Of The World (607)
While its cousin stalwart, Even Better Than The Real Thing, took the Vertigo tour off, this song has been a constant since its release, outpacing even Mysterious Ways. Again not a lot of arrangement differences, but many options on the table.
Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses (113)
Unlike, say, Zoo Station, this song didn’t make it into 1993 setlists. But much like Zoo Station, it only returned in any numbers for the Vertigo and E&I tours.
So Cruel (4)
Now it gets interesting! A studio gem and key part of Achtung Baby that U2 could never get comfortable with onstage. After leaving it alone through the first U.S. and Euro legs of the ZooTV tour, the band decided to give So Cruel a go for the summer U.S. stadium leg. Three times across three weeks, then back on the shelf.
Foxborough, Pontiac, Chicago … who’s the lucky winner? Or perhaps prime for a modern reworking?
The Fly (349)
After doing yeoman’s duty on the ZooTV tour, it also did well on the Elevation and ZooTV tours to become more of a 21st-century staple. It went on to score at least a dozen appearances each on the 360 Tour and E&I Tour.
The band has alluded to it taking 15 years (i.e., the Vertigo tour) to get The Fly right live. However, the Elevation tour arrangement deployed a quieter intro to set up the noise. It’s not new, but it’s good.
Mysterious Ways (598)
With the exception of the 2018 tour, Mysterious Ways has found its way into just about every standard setlist since its release. Plenty to choose from.
Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around The World (137)
More than I expected, really. This one racked up its entire full-song count on the 1992-93 tour.
Ultraviolet (Light My Way) (248)
Here’s a gem that deserved better over the years. A long post-ZooTV drought was broken with several dozen appearances on the 360 tour.
That would be it for another good while until returning as a staple in the Joshua Tree 2017 and 2019 setlists.
In part because it’s already received a fan club release on the 360 tour fan club gift, I’d look for a JT tour entry here.
Man, the back of this album was great. Another gem that helped to define the Achtung vibe, but Acrobat was entirely absent from the ZooTV tour. And the tour after that. And the tour after that.
It finally made an unlikely live debut over a quarter century after its release, surprising fans in Tulsa, OK first and then chalking up all its appearances throughout the rest of the E&I tour.
An appearance here would start to make up for any grumblings over the U2.com new-songs-only approach to the I&E/E&I live releases.
Love Is Blindness (156)
On one hand, 155 of those came on the 1992-93 dates. On the other hand, it was a great show-closer, as previously documented by the live b-side.
On the other, other hand, U2 has played it exactly once in concert since 1993: In Buenos Aires on the Vertigo tour. U2gigs lists that as a truncated performance, though (with no solo), so an Achtung-era airing seems likely.
In the meantime, did you catch Edge’s solo performance in the From The Sky Down documentary?
Oh Boy: A Catch-Up Option
More details will eventually scrap the need for speculation. U2.com membership is $50 and includes this set along with other benefits. Fans can also choose a “premium” membership for $85. (Based on my limited experience, current members are offered a $10 discount on either.)
The premium membership is essentially a “catch-up” option as it includes the previous fan club set from the Apollo Theater in 2018. In addition to the small venue and guests, the Apollo set has the lure of both Electric Co. and Out Of Control, which were otherwise rotated in and out of an early slot from night to night.
(Related: Check out M8 reviews of the b-sides, remixes, and ‘Baby’ alternate versions from the AB 20th anniversary Super Deluxe box.)