In August of 1992, U2 set up at shop at Pennsylvania’s Hersheypark Stadium as they prepared for the Outside Broadcast leg of their Zoo TV tour. It was their first time bringing the show to stadiums, and they needed to test out the newly expanded stage and fiddle with the set list. They let the public in on August 6th for just $15, which they donated to local charities. Every previous show of the tour had kicked off with a burst of songs from Achtung Baby, but this night they opened with three of their biggest 1980s hits: “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “New Year’s Day” and “Pride (In the Name of Love.”)
It was a major change to the set list (and it didn’t last when the tour officially began at Giants Stadium four days later), but the hardcore fans camped out near the Hersheypark Stadium gates got an even bigger treat when they heard the group soundcheck prior to the dress rehearsal. The band played acoustic and electric renditions of “So Cruel” (ultimately played a mere three times on tour) as well as “Ultra Violet (Light My Way,)” “She’s a Mystery to Me,” “Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World” and many others. Most amazingly, they heard three acoustic renditions of “Acrobat” that all led directly into the “Zoo Station” intro, seemingly implying they were considering it as a show opener.
At least one fan was running a tape recorder, and you can hear one of the versions of “Acrobat” right here. To this day they’ve never done the song in concert, and for many hardcore U2 fans, getting them to somehow break out the Achtung Baby song remains the ultimate dream. Last month, the group brought a Canadian U2 tribute band named Acrobat onstage at a Toronto show — but they played “Desire.”
“The U2 fan kingdom would have gone ballistic if we’d played ‘Acrobat,'” the cover group’s lead singer, Gabriel Pate, told Rolling Stone. “But that’s more of a main stage song… We took a band vote. I was really adamant that we should do ‘Acrobat.’ I knew the U2 fans would say afterwards, ‘A U2 tribute band named Acrobat went up and they still didn’t do “Acrobat!”‘ Everyone in line today is giving me heat, but I was outvoted.”
U2’s Innocence + Experience tour resumes September 4th in Torino, Italy, and runs for 34 shows all across Europe. Additional dates in 2016 are a near certainty, giving them plenty of chances to play “Acrobat.” In the meantime, there’s the 1992 soundcheck rendition.