The Crystal Ball: Looking to the Future

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2018-03-24)

Original Story: March 19, 2018:

It’s been a little while since we looked forward. Now seems like a good time to start with only 44 days to go until the tour opens in Tulsa. (Just over six weeks!)

U2 are currently rehearsing in Monaco, on the Mediterranean, not far from Eze-Sur-Mer where the band have their summer homes. They are working in a small rehearsal area, and should continue to work there over the next few weeks. A video, posted by the band on Friday, show them working in a large open room with a spiral staircase, a chandelier, and all of the bands gear in a small space. All four members of the band are in attendance at these rehearsals.

Last fall, we were told by a source close to the band, that rehearsals will move to the Videotron Centre in Quebec City prior to the start of the tour in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We haven’t heard much since that time in regards to these plans, but the Videotron Centre schedule shows an event on April 7, and then is hosting no events until May 4, which is after the tour has started in Tulsa. If the rumour of Quebec City that was shared with us is true, the venue is certainly available during that time, and expect the band to spend about three weeks in Quebec. These rehearsals should see a full stage setup so the band can practice the full show.

Full rehearsals for past tours have varied in timing. Rehearsals on stage in Vancouver for The Joshua Tree 2017 tour started in May, just weeks before the concert. Like now, the period before the move to the full stage saw the band rehearsing and working on the set list in a smaller rehearsal room. In 2015, the band did full stage rehearsals at the Pacific Coliseum starting in the middle of April, a month before the tour would start at the nearby Rogers Arena.

These rehearsals can be fascinating, as some songs appear, get worked on for days, but never make it to the final stage. In 2015 for instance, the band worked on “Magnificent”, “No Line on the Horizon”, “Moment of Surrender”, “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” and “One Step Closer”. “Magnificent” was the only song to appear, but only once and late in the tour. In 2009 the band worked on “If God Will Send His Angels”, “Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own” and “Drowning Man”, none of which ever made it into the final tour. And the band sent out music for “Ordinary Love” titled the “Virtual Chorus Backing Version” and asked fans to contribute their own vocals in advance of The Joshua Tree 2017 tour, which ended up not used throughout the tour. The actual stage rehearsals for The Joshua Tree 2017 tour had few surprises, as it appears most of the set list was settled in earlier rehearsals, but you can see what was rehearsed in our tour rehearsal article.

What will the band rehearse? The video on Friday suggested “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” is in the mix, as the band was performing that song. And perhaps that isn’t a surprise. Bono has spoken about The Joshua Tree marking the end of innocence for the band, and everything that came next was experience. The Innocence and Experience tour featured a lot of earlier songs, and The Joshua Tree 2017 tour was set up with early songs to start the shows, then The Joshua Tree, and then more recent material after. If the focus of this tour is more on the Experience era, that would be the material that came after The Joshua Tree. In Rolling Stone, The Edge mentioned that he would like to play songs from Songs of Innocence again, and that they may take a break from the material from The Joshua Tree.

Also with all the remixes the band has been issuing of late, the tour may be the perfect time to reinvent one of the newer songs for the stage like they did with “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” on the U2360 tour. Kygo has remixed “You’re The Best Thing About Me“ which gave us all a sneak peek at the album in 2016. Jacknife Lee contributed a remix of “The Blackout“ for the release of that single last fall. Switch and Afrojack have remixed “Get Out of Your Own Way“ and Beck is remixing “Lights of Home“ for the upcoming Record Store Day release. What do we know about the tour to date? The press release does confirm that the tour is “a development of the unique and innovative staging of the 2015 tour” and also that the screen for the upcoming tour will be a “super high-res LED screen nine-times the resolution of the 2015 screen.”

During The Joshua Tree 2017 tour, the band did have Anton Corbijn join them in the third leg of the tour in North America, and he directed the filming of a number of shows on the fourth leg tour of South America and Mexico. It is expected that the Mexico City concerts will be used for the basis for the home video release, and additional material from shows throughout South America will be used for additional footage, as well as bonus content.

We’ve asked about The Joshua Tree 2017 home video release, and have been told that the band will not be releasing this performance until later in the year at the earliest, and perhaps even later. The focus for now will remain on the new tour and the new album. But a home video release is still expected for this tour, and the band extensively filmed two shows in Mexico City to form the basis of this video. The Edge told Mexican newspaper Reforma, “We decided to film the DVD (Joshua Tree Tour 2017) here and also the video of our new single because it is important to let the world know that the energy of this country is inexhaustible and fabulous.” The video he mentions appears to have been shelved at this point as a stop motion film by Broken Fingaz was released instead. Don’t expect to see this one soon, but when plans are announced we will let you know.

Not only is the 2017 fan club gift from U2.Com late, the 2018 gift is now late in being announced and delivered as well. That gift should have been announced last fall, and should have started delivery by this time. We are told they are waiting for all of the 2017 gifts to be delivered before making a formal announcement about this next one. As each day goes by more fans are receiving their 2017 gift, and we expect by early April most fans will have their gifts for 2017. Look for an announcement about this next 2018 gift soon.

On the release front a new single should be pushed to North American radio stations in the next few weeks. We are told the most likely song will be “Summer of Love”, and that song has been pushed to club DJs in the UK at the end of February, and pushed to radio stations in The Netherlands in early February to test reactions to the song. A few releases from the back catalog are due for release with All That You Can’t Leave Behind, Pop and Wide Awake in America being released on 180g vinyl on April 13, 2018, and The Best of 1980 – 1990 rumored to follow on July 27, 2018. If sales are good, we are told the next reissues on vinyl could happen this fall. These are being released worldwide. As mentioned earlier, April 21, 2018 will see the release of “The Lights of Home“ on 12-inch picture vinyl for Record Store Day. This release will be limited to 5000 copies, the same number released for “Wide Awake in Europe” and the black vinyl release of “Songs of Innocence”. The compilation album The Joshua Tree – New Roots featuring Irish artists singing songs from The Joshua Tree, as well as U2’s performance of “Red Hill Mining Town” from Amsterdam was more widely released on Friday. If you haven’t been able to stream it / purchase it, now would be the time to check again for these songs.

Update: March 24, 2018:

More information is starting to become available about the tour rehearsals including this information about tour staff in New Jersey from our friends at U2 en España – El libro. Currently a number of staff from the tour are in or starting to arrive in New Jersey. This includes creatives who work on tour designs, as well as other support for the tour. We aren’t sure if the band will move to New Jersey or not from their current rehearsal location in Monaco but a portion of the crew is appearing in New Jersey with more to arrive soon. U2 en España suggests the band will take a rest. It appears that the time in New Jersey will be short and most of these staff will relocate the first week of April to their final rehearsal destination.

That destination, as we shared last week above, was rumoured to be the Videotron Centre in Quebec City last fall, but we haven’t heard any clarification of those rumours of late. That arena is empty for this time frame, and the last event in the Videotron Centre is on April 7. There are no further bookings in this arena until May 4, which is after U2 have started the tour. Mid-week press in Quebec confirmed that the band will not be rehearsing at the Colisée Pepsi in Quebec, but that is a different arena, and was not the original rumour shared with us. The Colisée is an older arena built in 1949, and may not be suitable for rehearsal of this production. The building has sat unused since 2015 with minimal maintenance, although it has yet to be scheduled for demolition.

Crew arrival and final stage setup in Tulsa will be the final full week of April, with the band taking possession of the facility the weekend prior to their show there. This is likely where the final dress rehearsal for the tour will take place.

We can also confirm that the show in Uncasville CT, on July 3 is looking more and more likely to be the final show on the first leg of the tour and that there will not be further dates announced for July. This should be taken as rumour for now, but we are not expecting more dates to be announced at the end of the leg at this time. The band will then take most of July and August off, before resuming the tour August 31 in Berlin. As with the start of any tour leg, expect a few days of rehearsals before the tour begins again in Berlin.

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