Does U2’s full sphere setlist focus primarily on ‘Achtung Baby’ ?

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.

If it indeed pans out that they are planning on spotlighting a different album from their catalog in that slot every night, that will give fans an extra reason to wish they could attend more than once… although, given the spectacular nature of the beginning and end of the show, most attendees would be wishing for that even with a setlist that was set in stone.

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

A surprise for fans — and apparently, for Iovine — came when Bono introduced “All I Want Is You.”

But the set was also influenced by a superstar who was in the audience. Bono touted the attendance in the audience of “Macca,” then, for anyone too young to be in the know about Beatle nicknames, formally announced the attendee by his full name, Paul McCartney. In his honor, snippets of three McCartney-penned Beatles songs made their way into the set as passing nods, tagged onto the end of U2 tunes: “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.” (It’s possible Bono meant for that last snippet to be Morrison’s “Moondance,” coming out of another Morrison song. When he spontaneously instructed Clayton to start playing a song he called out, the bassist launched into the Thin Lizzy oldie — and Bono then quipped that that wasn’t the “moon” song he meant, but it was still a good one.)

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.

Full Setlist:

“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

  1. All I Want Is You
  2. Desire/Love Me Do
  3. Angel of Harlem/Into the Mystic/Dancing in the Moonlight
  4. Love Rescue Me

“Achtung Baby” part 2

  1. So Cruel
  2. Acrobat
  3. Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
  4. Love Is Blindness


  1. Elevation/My Way
  2. Atomic City
  3. Vertigo
  4. Where the Streets Have No Name
  5. With or Without You
  6. Beautiful Day/Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)/Blackbird


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