U2’s only definitive plans at the moment involve overseeing their SiriusXM channel U2 X-Radio, which launched just last week. But when we spoke to the Edge and Adam Clayton about the channel, they informed us that a tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of their 1991 LP Achtung Baby and the landmark Zoo TV tour that followed wasn’t out of the question.
“[Achtung Baby] is one of those very important records in our career,” the Edge said. “We do want to celebrate it, but we’ll see…At some point, I’d love to do something again with the Zoo TV idea. It’s weird how it’s come around. It was very prescient.”
Adam Clayton felt the same way. “The ability to revisit work that still is relevant, that still stands up, and revisit it in a different way is exciting,” he said. “It is a relatively form if you like. We don’t revisit it in a spirit of nostalgia. We revisit it in a spirit to refresh and expand on. I think if it is your catalog, if it is your history, there’s nothing wrong with you going back into it and reinterpreting it in a different way for a different time.”
The original Zoo TV tour was inspired by the rise of cable news in the aftermath of the Gulf War. People were suddenly getting bombarded with information 24/7 and the band created a stage packed with screens that reflected the cacophony. “Now look where we are,” the Edge said. “It’s like times a thousand. It’s like Moore’s Law as applied to data. But not the quality, unfortunately — that’s the thing that is really shocking. There’s really little quality information out there. So much of it is corrupted.”
Zoo TV started in Lakeland, Florida, on February 29th, 1992, and wrapped up December 10th, 1993, in Tokyo. The setlist was largely built around the new songs on Achtung Baby, but they recorded Zooropa midway through and began sprinkling those tunes into the show as well. The night always ended with the Achtung Baby closer “Love Is Blindness,” which Bono sang as his devilish alter-ego MacPhisto, followed by Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
When U2 did a Joshua Tree 30th anniversary tour in 2017, they performed the album in sequence every night. If they do the same thing on a possible Zoo TV 30 tour, it’s a chance to revive rarities like “So Cruel” (played a mere three times in 1992 and not touched since) and “Love Is Blindness” (unplayed since 1993 with the sole exception of a partial, impromptu take on it at a 2006 gig in Buenos Aires).
If they want to turbocharge the show with Ninetiesness, they could also play Zooropa straight though. It wouldn’t really leave time to play anything else, but many of those songs haven’t been done since Zoo TV and several were only played a handful of times, while “Some Days Are Better Than Others” was never done at all.
The thought of Zoo TV 30 is very exciting for hardcore U2 fans, but plotting out any sort of tour is impossible at this point due to the pandemic. “I think it’s fair to say that for the immediate future, stadium touring on that scale is somewhat in jeopardy,” Clayton said. “How that all reforms itself and reboots itself, I don’t really know yet.”
Stadium rock concerts may not be feasible in 2021, but 2022 is a different story and that’s the 30th anniversary of the tour. What better way to celebrate the return of live music than by bringing back Zoo TV? And then when 2027 rolls around, they can do PopMart 30. That one probably won’t happen for several reasons, but in some alternate universe where Pop was a massive success, it would be incredible.