With The Airborne Toxic Event having taken a well earned breather over the summer, the Such Hot Blood Tour is set to resume this week with 14 US dates, followed by the band’s long awaited return to Europe. So this seems a good time to look back on the first leg of the tour, to see what fans can expect at the shows to come.
We’ve run an analysis on the tour to date, uncovering some interesting trends in the process. Of course, the elephant in the room is the surprising dearth of Such Hot Blood tunes on the Such Hot Blood tour. But we’ll get to that soon enough. First, a few words on methodology.
The stats used in this analysis are drawn from the setlists included in This is Nowhere’s show database. If we don’t have a setlist there, it’s not included in this breakdown. In addition, we’ve limited the analysis to “typical” shows on the SHB tour – meaning, we’ve eliminated festival stops (Coachella, Big Ass Show, etc.), one-off symphony shows (Central Park, Visalia, Costa Mesa) and other special gigs (acoustic performances, etc.). These types of shows tend to have unique setlists that depart significantly from a regularly scheduled tour stop. For the purposes of this exercise, we want to see what the band’s been playing at a typical tour show. Based on this criteria, we had 25 shows with which to work – a more than sufficient sample size to draw some firm conclusions.
It should also be noted that, to the best of our knowledge, we’ve only counted songs that have actually been played. If a song was setlisted but skipped, we have not counted it as a performance. Of course there are likely some instances when this happened and we don’t know about it, so there may be a small degree of error.
The Big Picture
In all, the band has played 30 different songs from their catalog over the course of the tour. The graph below sorts those tracks by the percentage of shows in which each one has been played. (Click on the image to expand.)
What immediately jumps out is that there’s not much middle ground: either a song is played at virtually every show (over 70%), or it’s a relative rarity (under 30%). 18 songs have been played at 72% or more of the shows, including 9 songs that have been performed at every date, and another 6 that have been played 84-96% of the time.
The average set length on this tour has been 18.6 songs. This means that these 18 “warhorse” songs essentially comprise the standard set, with perhaps one or two more rare tracks thrown in. If one of the warhorses is skipped, it’s usually one of The Storm, The Book of Love, or The Graveyard Near the House.
Breakdown by Album
The pie chart below details the percentage of the setlist dedicated to each album. We’ve lumped This Losing and The Girls in Their Summer Dresses together as B-Sides. All I Ever Wanted includes those songs that have only ever been officially released on the live album – The Book of Love, A Letter to Georgia and Goodbye Horses.
As you can see, most shows are heavily weighted towards the first two albums, with approximately 13 of the 18.6 tracks being drawn from the debut album and All At Once. Add in a tune from All I Ever Wanted and the occasional b-side, and we end up with only about 4 Such Hot Blood songs making an appearance on any given night.
Such Hot Blood, Where Art Thou?
This is definitely the most unexpected development of the tour to date. One would’ve thought that after 700+ shows of playing the same 20-25 songs, the band would jump at the chance to work some stellar new material into the playlist. Certainly, many fans had hoped to see more Such Hot Blood. We’ll come back to our theories as to why this has happened a little later, but first let’s delve a little deeper into the numbers.
Only 4 Such Hot Blood tracks crack the “warhorse” list. Safe has been played at every show, and Timeless has been skipped just once. True Love and The Storm have also been played at the vast majority of the shows, but are occasionally skipped.
Shifting our focus to the lesser played tunes, we have Elizabeth at 28% of the shows, Bride and Groom at 24%, The Secret at 16%, and The Fifth Day has been played just one time at a regular tour stop.
There is some hope that Elizabeth and Bride and Groom will appear more regularly in the future than past numbers might suggest. Both songs debuted on the same night: May 6 in Carrboro, NC. That was the 12th show on our list, taking place a week after the album release. If you just consider shows from that day forward, Elizabeth has been played at 50% of those gigs, while Bride and Groom comes in at 43%. Seeing as though those songs were completely unknown to the public until the album release, it is likely that the band held back on putting unfamiliar songs into the set before the album dropped. Once it came out, Elizabeth and Bride and Groom became semi-regulars. Indeed, Such Hot Blood’s overall rating of just 4.28 songs per show is somewhat deceiving. Using the Carrboro show as a dividing line, we see that SHB averaged 3.7 songs (21% of the set) prior to that date, and 5.5 songs (25% of the set) afterwards. So the emphasis did shift slightly after album release.
The biggest head-scratchers have got to be The Secret (16%) and What’s in a Name (0%). Both songs were regulars at the handful of pre- Such Hot Blood shows that TATE played through last fall and winter. There were 7 full-length shows in that stretch, with The Secret being played at 5 of them, and What’s in a Name receiving 4 airings. It seemed both tunes were well on their way to becoming tour staples, but it hasn’t happened. It’s particularly surprising that The Secret – the album opener and title track of the EP – seems to have fallen out of favor so quickly. As for What’s in a Name, the band did struggle with it a bit at times during the pre-tour, though that seemed to be due to technical difficulties as opposed to them having any trouble playing the song. But perhaps this provides some explanation for the fact that it has yet to appear on the tour.
That just leaves This is London and The Fifth Day – two of my favorites from the album. As much as I would love to hear This is London, it’s the one song I figured may get short shrift on the tour, mostly for topical reasons. It’s a must-play in the UK, though, so hopefully it will get some love soon. The Fifth Day is a song that I expected would be a centerpiece of the tour, especially after witnessing the powerful Red Rocks performance. Having not heard the only performance to date without an orchestra (May 10 in Boston), I can only speculate that maybe they don’t feel they can do it justice without a symphony behind them. That being said, it was also only played at one of this summer’s three orchestra shows, so perhaps there is more to it than that.
Whenever a new album is released, some of the standards from previous tours have to be dropped to make way for the new. As much as we’d all love to see epic 26-song sets like last September at The Troubador, where they played virtually every song in their catalog, we knew that wasn’t going to happen; something had to go. Those SHB tunes that have made it into the set have generally done so at the expense of four songs that were staples of previous tours: Papillon, The Kids Are Ready to Die, Welcome to Your Wedding Day and Innocence – the latter being a particularly crushing loss. I saw this one coming, as eliminating Innocence creates setlist space for two songs of a more standard length, but still… I need that song.
Missing in Action
Album cuts that have yet to be heard on the tour include This is Nowhere (ahem), Duet, All For a Woman, Strange Girl and the aforementioned What’s in a Name and This is London (though it should be noted that All For a Woman has been a regular at orchestra shows, and Strange Girl is rumored to have been played at the Red Bull Sound Select gig in Nashville). B-sides The Winning Side, Parson Redheads, Tokyo Radio and Haille have also not been played, nor have special releases like Neda, I Don’t Want to Be on TV, The Wishing Song or Boots of Spanish Leather.
Upcoming releases Dublin and The Way Home haven’t seen action on a regular tour stop; however, Dublin has been performed at three symphony shows, and The Way Home was soundchecked prior to a recent concert, so there is hope that both will enter the rotation as the tour resumes.
Openers and Closers
It’s always interesting to see which song the band will choose for the tone-setting opening and closing slots. As you can see below, three songs have opened the show, with Gasoline getting the nod the vast majority of the time. The main set typically closes with All At Once, the only exceptions being the four shows at which they opened with it instead. And as expected, Missy (complete with classic rock medley, bass and drum solos and other tomfoolery) sends the crowd home happy at virtually every show.
Another intriguing development on this tour has been the mellow encore. The All At Once tour encore never let up for a second, with most nights featuring the killer trifecta of Moving On/Papillon/Missy. This time around they’ve slowed things down considerably, often opening the curtain call with two, three or even four straight ballads (some combination of Timeless, The Book of Love, Graveyard and Elizabeth) before cranking up the rock quotient again for the Missy finale.
And Now Back to Such Hot Blood…
We close with some final thoughts on the general absence of Such Hot Blood on the Such Hot Blood tour. First, it’s important to note again that the issue has partially corrected itself as the tour has progressed. It was most noticeable prior to album release, when there were often just three new songs sprinkled throughout a set that could otherwise have been lifted straight from the All At Once tour. But now that TATE is regularly playing 5-6 SHB tunes, they’re only one or two off what we might have been expecting.
Any attempt at explanation is mere speculation. Early on, I think much of it was due to the delayed release of the album. When the first tour dates were booked, the album was supposed to drop closer to the start of the tour, if not before the first date. When they pushed the album back, it likely contributed to a decision to stick with the tried and true at the start of the tour. Too many unfamiliar songs can lead to an undesirable drop in energy amongst the crowd.
Now, we are seeing more SHB, but it’s still lagging behind the other albums. My pet theory has been that the band prefers a pedal-to-the-metal, high energy rock show. SHB is their most chill album overall, so perhaps it just doesn’t fit the vibe they’re aiming for with the live show as well as the first two albums do. This theory makes a lot of sense until you return to the curious cases of The Secret and What’s in a Name. Tempo-wise, these are the two songs on the new album that fit most closely with the first two albums, so they would be right at home in a rock-your-face-off TATE gig.
Furthermore, the band has embraced a slower-paced encore, so if tempo was the issue, the laid back SHB tunes could find a welcome home in that part of the set. It’s already happened to some extent, but it could happen more. Graveyard is a personal favorite of mine, as is The Book of Love for many fans, but it has been somewhat surprising to see them played at almost every show. Perhaps those two could be rotated on a show-by-show basis, with the extra slot going to an underplayed number from SHB.
At the end of the day, you can crunch all the numbers you want. You can come to the show with a wishlist, and perhaps leave disappointed that your favorite song didn’t make the cut that night. Or, you can let the band take you on the journey that they’ve laid out for you, and remember afresh that The Airborne Toxic Event could go on stage and play The Yellow Pages, and it would still go down as one of the most exhilarating experiences of your life. So here’s to another couple months of mind-numbing TATE shows. Enjoy!
Glen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.