I was thinking earlier this week about the old days, when record or CD shops would open up at midnight on release days. I would line up with other music fans to purchase the newest release by our favorite artist. Most times, I was the lone U2 fan in the queue, but that never bothered me much…it just meant that I was the first person at that store to get the new album or video or whatever it was that I was pursuing. After a few years of going to these midnight releases, I moved to a more rural area, and the record stores here didn’t do midnight releases. Nowadays, everything is digital, and I just pre-order the physical copies from Amazon.com or from U2’s own website, so I guess those days are gone for good now. I think that the last album that I bought at a midnight release was All That You Can’t Leave Behind, so I decided that I would continue my coverage of that album this week, with an article on one of that album’s underrated songs, “New York.”
I never really thought that “New York” was a bad song (in fact, I kind of like it) but I sure have heard some strong and harsh negativity about that track from people in various stations of fandom. I especially enjoy the semi-autobiographical third verse, wherein Bono compares his family life and mid-life crisis to the sinking of the Titanic. I don’t really believe that Bono did anything too stupid when his mid-life crisis hit, but I think that he is one of the most empathic people I’ve ever met. I think that he probably knows someone who made a real mess of their life, so he decided to write about it. The song has a strong melody, some insightful lyrics, a nod to one of Bono’s heroes in the form of the chorus, which takes a page from Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” and some loud, rockin’ guitar…not a bad tune at all, in my estimation.
Someone in U2’s camp must have felt as I do about the song in the early days of the promotional tour for All That You Can’t Leave Behind, because “New York” made frequent appearances in various small performances around the world, from Paris to London to the titular city itself. A couple of these promo tour appearances were released as B-sides to the singles from All That You Can’t Leave Behind. The song then went on to appear at more than ninety-seven percent of the shows on the Elevation Tour of 2001, but it hasn’t been performed since the last show of that tour in Miami. The song did enjoy a small resurgence in popularity after the 9/11 attacks, when Bono re-wrote some of the lyrics to reflect the strength and resilience of the city after that tragedy. I have a small suspicion that “New York” was at one time thought of as a potential single. That would explain the promo tour appearances as well as the remixes of the song that were later released on the “Electrical Storm” single in 2002. I recognize that this will be an unpopular opinion, but I think it would be great if U2 surprised audiences with a performance of “New York” one of these days in a rotating spot of the set-list, but I freely admit that it would work best in New York itself. Maybe we can start a campaign to bring back the songs “New York”, “Miami”, and “California” on the next tour dates in their respective locations. I bet that not many of you would sign that petition, but I think it would be kind of cool. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave comments below.