"[T]he lyrics aren't literature; they are only part of the story."
U2 Lists: Top 10 Places U2 Fans Must Visit In The USA
July 28, 2011
[Ed. note: This is the 28th in a "U2 Lists" series, where @U2 staffers pick a topic and share their personal rankings on something U2-related.]
Top 10 Places U2 Fans Must Visit In The USA
In the 30-plus years U2 have traveled across the United States, they have played shows, taken photographs, filmed music videos and even movies. Their time here has been decidedly well spent, as they have taken great advantage of the different natural and urban landscapes of this country to complement and enhance their music.
As fans, we've watched them walk through the streets of Las Vegas, play a concert high up in the mountains and capture a moment in the desert in a photograph. If you're like me, you've sometimes probably wondered, "Where exactly was that video shot?" or "Where was this photo taken?" From the third "One" video to the location of the real Joshua tree, this is a list of 10 places in the United States where U2 have left their mark.
When possible, addresses and Google maps of these locations have been provided. However, if you plan to actually visit these locations, I strongly urge you to do your own research before heading out to visit.
1.) The First Show in the USA – New York City
On Dec. 6, 1980, U2 played their very first show in the United States at The Ritz in New York City. Joining a bill with other bands that night, U2 played in front of a crowd that had no idea who they were and didn't know any of their songs. A far cry from where they are today! Yet, that night, a disinterested crowd quickly found itself wrapped up in the sound and energy of their music and called for two more encores. This actually sounds a lot like a show they would give today! While many of us would love to have been at that very first show, only a lucky few were and one was kind enough to share his experience.
125 E. 11th St. – The Ritz (Webster Hall) is located in the East Village in New York City. Built in 1886, this city landmark is still in used today as a nightclub, a concert hall and even as a space to record TV shows.
2.) One (Third Video) – New York City
U2 fans may argue back and forth over which of the three "One" videos is the best. For those who prefer Phil Joanou's version, you can head over to Manhattan and visit the actual nightclub in which the video was filmed. Filming of the video took place upstairs at Nell's Night Club and predominantly featured Bono sitting alone smoking a cigar and drinking. Meanwhile, downstairs the band and a group of extras, including transvestites and models, anxiously awaited their turn in front of the camera by dancing the night away. As it turns out, they were never needed as the video was really going to star only one guy: Bono.
246 W. 14th St. - Nell's Night Club was designed to be like a 19th-century English men's club where the rich and famous could sit, dine and listen to live music. Opened in 1986, it became quite popular through the late '80s. In late 2004, however, Nell's closed its doors. It reopened as the Plumm in 2006, but this too closed its doors in late 2009.
3.) PopMart World Tour Launch – New York City
When U2 were ready to hold a press conference to announce the launch of the PopMart tour, they could have done anything they wanted. They could have held it at a swanky hotel, announced it during a radio or MTV interview, literally held it any place on Earth. So on Feb. 12, 1997, they headed down to the lingerie department of the local Kmart store in Manhattan. Amid the blue light specials and discount underwear, the band laid out their plans for their latest world tour, took questions from reporters and even played some songs.
Choosing to launch PopMart in Kmart played right into the tour's overall themes of the excesses of consumerism and pop culture. More simply though, when The Edge was asked by a correspondent from The Daily Show why they chose Kmart over Wal-Mart, he said only, "We don't like Wal-Mart as much; they're not as cool."
770 Broadway St. – This Kmart department store is still open in New York City's Greenwich Village. It is unclear if the interior layout of the store has changed, but you can always grab a shopping cart and roam the aisles singing "Holy Joe" to get the general idea of how it must have been.
4.) Last Night On Earth Video - Kansas City
The video for this 1997 single from Pop caused quite a stir when U2 rolled into Kansas City and shut down a portion of an interstate that commuters relied on daily to get to their destinations. As you can imagine, shutting down both the east- and westbound lanes of an interstate just for a music video seemed pretty unbelievable. Yet working with city officials, U2 and company closed down portions of Interstate 670 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20, 1997. In addition to filming on the interstate, scenes for the video were taken within the city itself and certain streets were shut down.
To depict the abandoned post-nuclear city they needed for the video, the interstate had to be free of daily traffic to create the true effect. However, they couldn't be free of the groups of fans gathering on the footbridge at 16th and Summit streets. Also, according to reports, not everyone was exactly thrilled with U2’s video shoot, despite the city's best efforts to notify and prepare commuters ahead of time.
Interstate 670 - Filming appeared to take place primarily on the eastbound lane.
Exit 2R, the exit to Central Street, Downtown Kansas City. This is an eastbound exit and westbound entrance.
Exit 1A, takes you to Central Avenue coming westbound and is an exit eastbound.
Interstate 35 - Coming from Interstate 670, filming was reported on the southwest corner of the loop.
Intersection of Grand Boulevard and Ninth Street - In the city, head north on Grand Boulevard to the Ninth Street intersection. Filming took place just before the intersection heading northbound.
5.) U2 Live At Red Rocks: Under A Blood Red Sky – Morrison
U2's June 5, 1983, show at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colo., is highly regarded not only among U2 fans, but also among music fans and enthusiasts. Rolling Stone magazine cited the band's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" performance as one of the "50 Moments that Changed the History of Rock and Roll." There was talk of getting U2 to perform there once again on the 25th anniversary of the show. They quickly said no to any chances of that happening. It seems we can all agree there is no way of recapturing the same moment and feel that made the Red Rocks show so good.
18300 W. Alameda Parkway – Even if there isn't any chance of catching a U2 show there, you can still enjoy a day at Red Rocks. Nestled in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies, this amazing outdoor venue hosts many bands and other types of entertainment. It is generally open to visitors throughout the day. Feel free to walk up and down the steps/seats, walk onto the stage area and enjoy the trails and amazing rock formations around the area.
6.) I Still Haven’t Found What I'm Looking For – Las Vegas
Did you know that U2 is credited for changing the perception of Las Vegas for the better among musicians? At least that is the opinion of Las Vegas' official event organization president! Who knew such a simple video showing Edge strumming on an acoustic guitar as Bono crawled all over someone's car, with Larry and Adam singing along, would mean so much!
Fremont Street – Since the date of filming for the "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" video (April 12, 1987), Fremont Street has changed a lot. A portion of it is not even a street anymore, but is instead a pedestrian mall. So you can still walk the same route as the band did in the video, but you more than likely will not be able to crawl all over any cars.
7.) The Joshua Tree – Mojave Desert
Call it iconic, simple, good, whatever -- as U2 fans we all know the cover art for The Joshua Tree very well. Over a period of three days (Dec. 14-16, 1986), U2 traveled around the Mojave Desert on a bus taking photos and video for their upcoming album with photographer Anton Corbijn. It was Anton who suggested the use of an actual Joshua tree for the album art. Its biblical significance only made it all the more perfect and easy for the band to say yes. Traveling along Route 190, through open deserts and American ghost towns, they searched and explored the area as they took these iconic photographs.
Zabriskie Point - The front cover art for The Joshua Tree was taken at Zabriskie Point. Part of the Amargosa Range in the eastern part of Death Valley National Park, it can be accessed via Route 190.
The Joshua Tree – The Joshua tree itself actually fell down sometime in 2000, unfortunately. But it still lies fully on the ground and hasn't stopped U2 fans from flocking there every year to pay homage (including some @U2 staffers).
Many fans have decided not to post the exact location of the tree online for different reasons. Instead, they've solved the mystery of its location on their own by matching the landscape with photographs and using bits of information from interviews.
When you do find it, you'll be greeted by a plaque, placed there by unknown fans, that reads, "Have You Found What You're Looking For?"
8.) Where The Streets Have No Name – Los Angeles
Many consider the video for this U2 classic to be one of the greatest videos ever made. This may be because it appears to capture a very real, unrehearsed and unplanned rock 'n' roll moment. The video shows the streets of Los Angeles filled with droves of fans who had caught wind of U2's 3:30 p.m. video shoot on top of a neighborhood liquor store via local radio stations. Crowds began to fill the streets, and tensions grew when over 30,000 fans were expected to arrive. Police officers at the scene began working quickly to shut the event down before chaos broke out. The band, totally ignoring their orders and bypassing the law, proceeded to play for their fans anyway. At least, that is what we saw.
Spoiler alert! In reality, a still-impressive 1,000 fans managed to show up. U2 were able to play eight songs (four of which were "Where The Streets Have No Name") before the nice police officer featured in the video asked the band to pack it up. Contrary to what the video shows, they immediately did. However, with some fantastic creativity in editing, a tenser situation was created and the legend and video for "Where The Streets Have No Name" were created.
103 E. Seventh St. – Previously the rooftop of the Republic Liquor Store, it has since become the rooftop of Margarita's Place, a Mexican restaurant!
9.) The Million Dollar Hotel – Los Angeles
If you happen to be at Margarita's Place (see above), then you might want to take a stroll over to The Million Dollar Hotel. This is the actual hotel that inspired Bono to co-write the movie of the same name. He first became acquainted with the hotel while filming the video for "Where The Streets Have No Name" and was intrigued and inspired by it. Thirteen years later, his script was made into a film directed by Wim Wenders and starring Mila Jovovich, Jeremy Davies and Mel Gibson.
105 W. Fifth St. – Located across from the Rosslyn Hotel, The Million Dollar Hotel closed its doors in 1995 and is now available for leasing.
10.) All Along The Watchtower / Rattle And Hum – San Francisco
It was a sunny Wednesday afternoon on Nov. 11, 1987, when U2 gave yet another impromptu outdoor concert, portions of which were used for the movie Rattle And Hum. It's hard to forget Bono's climactic scene during a rousing rendition of "All Along The Watchtower." His spontaneous act of climbing over to a park fountain and spray painting it with "ROCK 'N' ROLL STOPS THE TRAFFIC" energized an already enthusiastic crowd that cheered on his rebellious feat. Unfortunately for him this was terrible timing. The city of San Francisco had just embarked on an anti-graffiti campaign and therefore needed to make an example of him so as not to appear to be total hypocrites.
Luckily for Bono, Chinese water torture was voted down and he only had to pay a fine for his unlawful actions. While the film shows the spray-painting incident occurring during "All Along The Watchtower," it actually took place in a less exciting, more drawn-out scene during "Pride (In The Name of Love)." The crowd still loved it nonetheless and with some crafty editing it ended up being a part of a different amazing performance.
© @U2/Guadiana, 2011.