February 29, 2024

The first date of U2‘s 25-night run at Las Vegas’ Sphere is on the books, and for anyone who doesn’t mind spoilers, the makeup of the setlist can be revealed — although there is a mid-section that, judging from what Bono said, may be different each night during the run.

The setlist for “U2: UV Live at Sphere Las Vegas” includes all of the classic 1991 “Achtung Baby,” as promised, but split into two sections. After the first eight numbers, the vaunted graphics got severely toned down, “Achtung” went into remission and the band settled into semi-acoustic mode for four non-“Baby” songs before resuming that album for its remaining four tracks. An encore segment consisted of five more fan favorites from other albums, plus “Atomic City,” a new track just released Friday.

At first, the design for the mid-section songs wasn’t immediately clear, but Bono finally acknowledged what became evident to fans a little sooner — that those numbers were all from a single album, “Rattle and Hum.” Bono added after the completion of that mini-set that each night during this segment, the band plans to focus on a different album (or possibly other people’s albums, he added, teasingly). This may be, in effect, U2’s version of Taylor Swift’s two-song “secret songs” segment on her Eras Tour, but here, with the bonus tracks grouped together by a vintage LP on given nights.

The reason for selecting “Rattle and Hum” songs on opening night might have been down to that albm’s producer, Jimmy Iovine, being in the audience, Bono noted, alongside Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.

But the set was influenced by a bigger superstar than Iovine. Bono praised “Macca,” then gave the guests full name, Paul McCartney, for those not in the know about Beatles lingo. Snippets of three McCartney-penned Beatles songs made their way into the set as passing nods: “Love Me Do,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” and “Blackbird.”

Those weren’t the only homages, as U2 also excerpted the Elvis Presley classic “Love Me Tender,” the Frank Sinatra signature song “My Way,” Prince’s “Purple Rain,” Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” and Thin Lizzy’s “Dancing in the Moonlight.”

The most emotional moment of the evening came when Bono dedicated a song to the family, friends and doctor of the late Jimmy Buffett, who were on hand, singled out by name by the choked-up singer.

A mere setlist doesn’t begin to get at what unfolded visually, of course. A full review of the 125-minute show (which began at 8:35 p.m. and ended at 10:40) will follow Saturday.

“Achtung Baby” part 1
1 – Zoo Station
2 – The Fly
3 – Even Better Than the Real Thing
4 – Mysterious Ways
5 – One/Purple Rain/Love Me Tender
6 – Until the End of the World
7 – Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
8 – Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World

“Rattle and Hum” interlude
9 – All I Want Is You
10 – Desire/Love Me Do
11 – Angel of Harlem/Into the Mystic/Dancing in the Moonlight
12 – Love Rescue Me

“Achtung Baby” part 2
13 – So Cruel
14 – Acrobat
15 – Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
16 – Love Is Blindness 

Encore
17 – Elevation/My Way
18 – Atomic City 
19 – Vertigo
20 – Where the Streets Have No Name
21 – With or Without You
22 – Beautiful Day/Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)/Blackbird

Read Variety‘s full account of the creation of Sphere and the making of U2’s show here: U2 Goes Sphere-ical: Behind the Band’s Part in a Bet on a $2 Billion Dome That Could Change Live Music.

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