U2's very first show in Canada took place in Toronto on the 9th of December in 1980, as part of the second leg of the Boy Tour. While there is no record of a setlist for this show it was special for other reasons than being the first Canadian show. John Lennon got murdered the night before the show, an event which turned the show into an "angry and emotional performance". It was probably one of the factors which contributed to "ecstatic reviews" in Canadian newspapers the day after the show.
On the 10th of March, 1981, U2 played their first show in Ottawa, Ontario in a place called Barrymore's. In 2007, The Ottawa Citizen, ran an article on the 25th anniversary of the show, giving us some account of what happened around and during this show in 1981. A show where a band "from England" was about to perform, tickets were $5, and a floppy-haired 20-year-old opened the show with a song called The Ocean. Many more fans turned up for the show than expected (400 fans), partly due to an article in the Rolling Stone two weeks before the show, where U2 were heralded as "the next Beatles". The promoter recalled an impressive crowd's response and the "awesome voice" of the lead singer, although he didn't see much of the showmanship and charisma that now sells out stadiums in seconds. "Everyone has a Barrymore's story", and so does U2.
In U2's long history with Canada, one thing that stands out is that only one song ever made its live debut during a Canadian show: Fast Cars, on 12 September, 2005. The only other connection between a debut and Canada is the song Slow Dancing, a b-side to the Stay single. It was played live only 13 times, and two of those performances were in Canada, they both meant a tour debut of the song. Slow Dancing debuted for Zoo TV on 23 March, 1992 in Montreal and made its POPmart debut on 15 May, 1997 in Edmonton. Will Slow Dancing make a surprise appearance again in one of the upcoming Canadian shows? Will Canada be the place where most Songs of Innocence make their live debut? It looks more than likely.
On 23 April, 1992 U2 closed the first leg of the Zoo TV tour with an amazing show in Vancouver. There are only highlights from this show, as marked also by our users who rate this show 5 out of 5 stars. There is an excellent 4-star bootleg available which brings these highlights to you. Although Bono was feeling a bit sick on the day of the show U2 still gave an amazing performance, including one of the best live versions of With Or Without You ever played. It included a snippet for God Part II, which gave birth to the name of one of the bootlegs for this show.
U2 and Daniel Lanois have a long history together, they worked together on several albums and have a close relationship. Lanois, being a Canadian, also tends to show up every now and then to perform with U2 when they play in Canada. Over the years, this has happened in 1992 in Montreal, in 2005 in Toronto (3 times) and in 2005 in Montreal. He has joined the band for several different songs by playing guitar, of which Bad is the most featured song in these appearances. Will Daniel Lanois make another appearance in any of the upcoming Canadian shows?
Daniel Lanois was not the only special guest in the show in Toronto on 17 September 2005. When One was played, Eddie Vedder joined U2 and Daniel Lanois for Ol' Man River (Bono returned the favor singing Rockin' In The Free World with Pearl Jam 2 days later). The band then retreated for the usual encore break, but then something special happened. Fans heard a familiar sound as Pop Muzik started playing on the PA. Following, the band kicked in and started playing Discotheque for the first time during the Vertigo tour. And not just Discotheque: this version is a new version, with a snippet of Relax and an amazing light show supporting this brand new encore. Despite the work that U2 obviously put into this new encore as for stage, songs and set-up, U2 didn't think it worked and for that reason Discotheque got only played twice that tour.
Besides touring, U2 has done a few special appearances for charity and other causes in Canada. In Toronto on 9 September, 2005, U2 performs One with Mary J. Blige for "Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast". The following day, they performed Love And Peace Or Else for MTV's React Now, a Hurricane Katrina relief special. In September 15, 2009, Bono and Edge appeared on Spectacle hosted by Elvis Costello at the Concert Hall in Toronto. Among the songs performed was "Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad", by Bono and Costello's rhythm section. Before Bono and Edge performed, Costello and his band covered Please, Dirty Day, and Mysterious Ways.
In 2001, U2 played a show in Calgary on 10 April that was interesting for many reasons. Setlist-wise, the show featured the tour debuts of All I Want Is You, Even Better Than The Real Thing and Pride (In The Name Of Love). But the most interesting part of the setlist was maybe in the encore, where Love Is Blindness made its one and only appearance as a snippet in a U2 setlist, as part of One. Reviews on U2start review this show as being "a magical night to listen to" and "fresh and near-perfect". One of the many outstanding performances of U2 in Canada.
Over the past decade, U2 have also brought their filming equipment to Vancouver a couple of times. First thing that comes to mind here is the City of Blinding Lights video that was shot in Vancouver. For the Vertigo tour, on 28 April, 2005, U2 also filmed their entire Vancouver show as a rehearsal for the tour's official DVD shoot, some time later in Chicago.
The opening show in Vancouver will be U2's second official tour concert in Canada in a row, since U2 ended its previous 360 tour also in Canada, in Moncton on 30 July, 2011 to be exact. It was U2's first ever concert in New Brunswick, or anywhere in Atlantic Canada. The show is also the show with the most songs in a U2 setlist (26), a setlist in which U2 snippeted Springhill Mining Disaster, referring to the Canadian mining disasters in the 80s. It was also the first time an original U2 song has made a tour debut the last show of a tour, let alone as the very last song of the tour. Of course you know which song we are referring to here: 40. The show ended in a traditional manner: the band members left stage individually, with Larry as the last one to go. Will he be the first one to come up in the next U2 show in Canada?
At the end of this year, 2015, U2 will have played 70 dates in Canada over a period of 35 years. One thing that we observed during our research was that U2 usually plays "good" shows in Canada, they are rated very well by media and fans. Very few songs have made their debut during Canadian shows and very few things can be taken as "givens" for Canadian shows. Will Daniel Lanois make an appearance again? Will there finally be more song debuts in Canada? Will all future Canadian shows be as good as all the previous ones? Time will tell as U2 once again sets course to Canada to bring their tour and amazing songs.