"This image of 'the unforgettable fire' applied not only to the nuclear winterscape of 'A Sort of Homecoming,' but also the unforgettable fire of a man like Martin Luther King, or the consuming fire which is heroin."
U2 Lists: Top 5 Post-9/11 U2 Appearances for America
September 11, 2012
[Ed. note: This is the 42nd in a "U2 Lists" series, where @U2 staffers pick a topic and share their personal rankings on something U2-related.]
I've heard that many non-U2 fans, who learn of Bono first as a humanitarian, mistake him for an American. In some ways, I think this is funny (after all, this is the man who so passionately sings the ever-Irish "Sunday Bloody Sunday"); in another sense, it's perfectly logical.
U2 have been such a part of our culture for the past three decades, it's sometimes hard to remember they came from across the pond. At some point in the past, all four have lived in America for extended periods of time, some of their children have been educated here, and The Edge married a California native. What's more, their patriotism for our country far surpasses that of many homegrown artists.
My criteria for choosing appearances to create this list were simple: They had to be performances outside of their regular tours; they had to be appearances that had American significance; and they had to have taken place after 9/11, because it seems as if in the wake of the terrorist attacks the band's love of our country only intensified, as did our love for them.
5. We are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial – January 18, 2009 (Washington, D.C.)
It somehow felt right to hear "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" echoing from the same set of stairs where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech 46 years earlier. In warm winter coats, the band delivered a smiling, energized tribute to our first African-American president-elect. They began with "Pride" and followed that with "City Of Blinding Lights," which President Obama still uses on the campaign trail today.
The concert was free to the public and available for viewing on HBO, which allowed the broadcast to be shown to all with cable and satellite services, though the network is traditionally subscription-only.
4. Super Bowl XXXVI Halftime Show – February 3, 2002 (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Many may have questioned the choice to have non-Americans play the Superbowl Halftime Show just a few months after 9/11, but bringing U2 on board couldn't have been a smarter decision.
Their set of "Beautiful Day," "MLK" and "Where The Streets Have No Name," accompanied by a screen showing the names of the lives lost in our national tragedy, sent shivers down the spines of millions.
3. Live From Under the Brooklyn Bridge - November 22, 2004 (Brooklyn, New York)
To promote the release of their album How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, U2 hit the streets of New York. In one day, they taped a video for their song "All Because Of You," then performed a "surprise" free concert for fans under the Brooklyn Bridge.
Though in essence the concert was a publicity stunt, it seemed more like a love letter to a healing city. Quite frankly, U2 could've chosen any city in any country (with less logistical hassles) to promote the album, but they chose New York. A place that just a few years prior was still cleaning up debris from a vicious terrorist attack.
The fact that U2 felt "safe" enough to ride around the city on a flatbed truck, and the fans were strong enough to stand in a crowd several layers deep, sent a very clear message to anyone who may have doubted New Yorkers' ability to bounce back.
The time of living in fear was finally past and this concert (televised for all the world to see) helped showcase that.
2. Re-opening of the Superdome - September 25, 2006 (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Organized by The Edge to benefit Music Rising, a charity he co-founded to "rescue the musical culture of the Central Gulf region of the United States from the destruction caused by the catastrophic hurricanes of the summer of 2005 by replacing the musical instruments lost or destroyed in the deluge," U2 and Green Day teamed up to help re-open the Superdome.
The structure had been used as a public shelter during Hurricane Katrina the previous summer and suffered extensive damage as a result. Instead of demolishing the stadium, officials decided to repair it. The first game in the renovated structure was a match between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons.
Green Day and U2 offered an emotional performance of the fitting tune "The Saints Are Coming," which was part of a four-song set. The reception was thunderous and the single became an instant hit, raising funds for Music Rising and earning both bands a Grammy nomination.
1. America's Tribute to Heroes – September 21, 2001 (London, England)
Just 10 days after 9/11, the entertainment industry came together for a benefit concert to raise money for the victims and their families, including the fire and police personnel who were lost or injured in the attack.
On a candle-laced stage, notable artists from every genre performed on behalf of America. U2's set, after a quiet "Peace On Earth" intro, began with a simple sentence from Bono, "Hello from London."
From there, the audience was treated to arguably the most heartfelt version of "Walk On" in existence, which was followed by a finale of "Hallelujah." They were accompanied by Dave Stewart, Natalie Imbruglia and Morleigh Steinberg.
It was the middle of the night for the band members, who were in between the second and third leg of their Elevation tour, and their resolve could not have been more raw or sincere. As a stand-alone performance it's impressive; in the context of the tragedy it was nothing short of profound.
© @U2/Kokkoris, 2012.