Even though it was never released as a single, U2’s song “Kite” has become a fan-favorite track. It’s not surprising that the song struck a chord with listeners. As Bono said “This song’s about letting go of somebody you don’t want to let go of”, and that’s a feeling that most of us can easily relate to. The lyrics to “Kite” find Bono reminiscing about an incident that occurred when he attempted, with his daughters, to fly a kite from a hill overlooking Dublin Bay. The kite crashed, and one of Bono’s daughters then asked if she could go home to play a video game. In the song, this moment is referenced in Bono’s lyrics “Somewhere, I can taste the salt of the sea, there’s a kite blowing out of control on the breeze”. This event led Bono to feel that he was losing his daughters, as they were growing from little girls into women. Bono attempts to let go gracefully, with the lyrics “I want you to know that you don’t need me anymore. I want you to know you don’t need anyone or anything at all”. After the death of Bono’s father, Bono often spoke about his recent loss before performing this song live on the Elevation Tour. In the time following the song’s being written and recorded, Bono became aware of his position as both a son and a father, and noted the similarities in his position of having to let go of both his father and his own children. The song functions as All That You Can’t Leave Behind‘s centerpiece in many ways. It expresses many of that album’s themes of aging and family.
The music to “Kite” is slower than most of the other songs from All That You Can’t Leave Behind, but it still contains the build to climax that is present in many of U2’s greatest songs. The song starts out with a string loop, before being joined by Larry’s drums and an inventive sliding guitar part from Edge. The emotional rise and fall of the song is really provided by Edge’s guitar playing throughout the song, including a great, emotive guitar solo about midway through. Bono’s plaintive vocals also add to the song’s feeling of emotion at just the right spot.
The members of U2 are apparently aware of the song’s popularity, because they revived the song for their live shows toward the end of the Vertigo Tour in late 2006. During the fifth and final leg of that tour, U2 played “Kite” at eight shows, mainly in Australia. This was very surprising at the time because, during the Vertigo Tour, U2 had played very few songs from All That You Can’t Leave Behind that weren’t released as singles. In fact, the only other non-single from All That You Can’t Leave Behind that was played during the Vertigo Tour was “In A Little While”, and it was only played twice during that tour. The performances of “Kite” that took place during the Vertigo Tour often featured a didgeridoo, an instrument native to Australia. Although the song hasn’t been played live by the band since 2006, one of the Australian performances was officially released as a B-side to “Window In The Skies”.
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