U2101 – Where the Streets Have No Name

There are several songs in U2’s repertoire that some fans seem to think should be dropped from the live setlists. Pride (In the Name of Love) is one, as is New Year’s Day. Sunday Bloody Sunday is another one, and people being tired of the song is a major reason for its reinvention on this tour. One song, though, that I’ve never heard anyone say should be dropped, even though it’s been played just as much as those listed above, is “Where the Streets Have No Name”.

The prototypical live U2 song, all energy and passion and yearning, will likely surpass eight hundred performances early in the next leg of the Innocence + Experience Tour but I never hear anyone calling for its dismissal. I imagine that this is because the song represents everything that we love about U2. The intro to the song always reminds me of a sun rising, its bright rays streaming out over the horizon, full of hope for the coming new day. Then the bass and drums kick in and it turns into one of the best dance songs in U2’s entire catalog. It’s a primal thing, urging us to move and push and to break loose from whatever it is that’s holding us back. It’s high and ecstatic with a sound that echoes freedom, whether already won or still being fought for.


The lyrics perfectly echo the emotion of the music – “I want to run!” the singer exclaims “I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside!” The story goes that during one of his trips to Africa, Bono observed how much more freely the human spirit soared in that undeveloped country, and came to the realization that a place like that, without all the distractions that come with our daily modern lives in what  we think of as the civilized world, a place where the streets literally have no names, is the best environment for a spiritual life of growth and love. The city, always being built, is “a flood” where “love turns to rust”. The undeveloped savannahs are where every day is a matter of life and death that turns existence into a battle, yes, but one where freedom and unfettered joy are the result of that struggle.


“Streets”, as the song is affectionately known in U2 fan circles, made its live debut in March of 1987, at the famous video shoot concert where the song’s video was filmed. Since then, it’s been played at nearly every concert that U2 has put on. The band supposedly almost dropped the song on the Vertigo Tour, but fortunately wisdom prevailed and “Streets” was played at every show of that tour. It’s honestly hard for me to imagine a U2 show without it. I suppose that it’s possible that the time might come one day for the song to be retired, but I, and I think many others, hope that that day never comes. I think that we can look forward to “Where the Streets Have No Name” being a regular part of U2 concerts for a long time to come.

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Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.

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