U2101 – People Have the Power

When U2 returned to Paris on Sunday to play the first of the two shows that were postponed in the wake of last month’s horrible terrorist attacks, emotion and sentiment ran high. It was no surprise, therefore, that the band had something special up their sleeves – an appearance by New York singer / songwriter Patti Smith to close out the show by joining with the band for her 1988 song “People Have the Power“, which has been used as the intro music at past shows on the band’s current Innocence + Experience Tour. Smith last appeared with U2 at the end of October in London to perform the same song with our guys, but the band has been bringing the song to fans for an even longer period of time. U2 first showed an awareness of “People Have the Power” in New York on the Vertigo Tour, when Bono snippeted the song first in “Beautiful Day” then, beginning two days later, in nine straight particularly rousing performances of “Bad“. Since that time, Bono has snippeted the song thirteen times as part of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” on the Innocence + Experience Tour.


U2 have been displaying their Patti Smith fandom for an even longer time, starting in 1989 when the band covered Smith’s song “Dancing Barefoot” for a B-side to their When Love Comes to Town single. In 2005, Smith joined the band onstage (again in New York City) at a couple of shows to sing John Lennon’s “Instant Karma”. The last instance of this collaboration ended in confusion when Bono and Smith left the stage in mid song and did not return to finish the performance, despite the fact that there was another song on U2’s printed set-list.


Perhaps the most famous example of Patti Smith and U2 working together came in 2009 when she joined them and Bruce Springsteen on stage to sing “Because the Night”, a song she shares writing credit with Springsteen for. (Bono had joined Bruce in 2002 at a concert to perform the same song, but that night, Springsteen’s original lyrics were used.)  This performance was, like all of her prior appearances with U2, in New York, and was part of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s 25th anniversary concert. Oddly, “Because the Night” had to be performed twice in full and a partial third time because Patti seemed to be having trouble finding the rhythm of the song’s verses. The final performance, however, was a great success and was warmly received by the watching audience.


It’s clear that U2 have a real affection for the 1970’s New York punk rock icon and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to find them working with her again in the future, whether on stage or perhaps even in the studio, with a cover tune. (I’d love to hear U2 covering “People Have the Power” on record, especially with Patti singing along) Only time will tell what part Smith might play at future dates of the Innocence + Experience Tour, if more dates are indeed announced as rumors suggest.

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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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