The friendliest place on the web for anyone that follows U2.
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.


Forum Moderator, The Goal Is Soul
Nov 14, 2000
Miami, New Orleans, London, Belfast, and Berlin
Streets: The greatest live U2 song ever?
Angela Pancella

A few notes on an organ, one layering atop another in a slow crescendo. Then
a guitar pattern, not a particularly complex one to learn, and a martial
drumbeat. The lyrics include an opening couplet derided by the author as
"high school poetry." Recording the song proved so problematic and
time-consuming, one of the producers tried to stage an accident to erase the
track. As a single it barely cracked the U.S. top 20.

But when U2 kickstart "Where the Streets Have No Name" in concert, the crowd
goes into hysterics. They go into hysterics for Streets every night in every
city. It is unique in the U2 canon -- a song performed at every concert
since 1987 (excepting promotional gigs just before the Elevation tour) which
no one seems to have grown tired of -- least of all the band members

Surely if a band plays the same song every night at every concert in
fourteen years of touring, someone gets sick of it. The band does, or the
diehard fans do -- as some fans who've gone to many, many shows are sick of
hearing "Pride," and some can do without "With or Without You." It's not the
least bit normal for a song to remain vital and exciting for that long. At
the very least, it will suffer an occasional off-night. I'm not saying there
has never been an off-night for Streets, but if there has been, I have yet
to hear of it. And I say this having contact with some of the most fanatical
U2 fans out there, the ones who paradoxically can find the most to

Is Streets U2's greatest song live? The question was posed on some online
mailing lists, and the response was an overwhelming "It could be..." --
especially if reliability is the main criteria.

"I've been saying all along that 'Bad' is the best," one fan reported. "I go
to another place every time I hear it live, but occasionally it is off. But
'Streets' is unfailingly dynamite every time." And it certainly gets the
best crowd reaction. Chrissy from Vienna saw the Elevation Tour in Vienna
and London: "EVERYONE, really EVERYONE woke up and jumped, danced, sang
along...." Susan also saw Elevation in London: "My friend said 'look
around!' and I did and every single person in the house was [standing] arms
raised clapping over their heads in perfect unison. I could almost swear I
could see the words word perfect on everybody's lips, too." Chris noted that
in Anaheim in 1992, the last night of ZooTV in the US, "we looked back when
the lights came on after the orange glow; the loge level above us was
moving. Not just moving, it ebbed at least 4 feet in rhythm with Larry!"

For many fans whose first contact with U2 was The Joshua Tree and the tour
that accompanied it, Streets may invoke nostalgia akin to a first date. It
is, after all, the first song on the album that introduced many to U2, and
on that tour it was the song to which the band hit the stage. Beth summed it
up this way: "The first U2 song I ever heard live, 5/87, after waiting what
seemed SOOOO long to see U2, out of the darkness - that music, that sound,
hope & life & joy. I'm told my friend on my left was shaking me 'cuz he
thought I'd drifted into a coma (open mouth, tears running down my
face)...14 years later, I can still close my eyes and feel the same way."
She went on to say other songs mean more to her but there is no other song
"that quite hits that same note, that awe."

Another factor to Streets' appeal frequently mentioned was the "message" of
the song, as it is communicated both in the lyrics and in the staging. Bono
introduced the song this way in Los Angeles in 1987: "This is the story of
four guys who were going nowhere so we decided to go there together." But
the lyrics don't stop with just the four guys. "Streets to me is not about
U2," Chris said. "It's about us and U2 and the emotion that we can pour into
the song. Even Bono has said, 'I go there with you!'" And the point is
emphasized with effects -- a brilliant flash of light that illuminates every
face in the audience, for instance. During the Popmart tour, the huge screen
showed superimposed images of the band and the crowd, effectively making the
audience the star attraction.

But "Where The Streets Have No Name" would not provoke the reaction it gets
if the band wasn't into it as well. Mauricio, who belongs to a U2 cover band
(and, incidentally, does not consider Streets U2's best song live, giving
his vote instead to "Mysterious Ways") provided some insight into the song
from a musician's perspective: "I can tell you that PLAYING WTSHNN gives us
goose-bumps...Feeling the song climaxing over every verse is REALLY intense,
playing it live makes us wonder how U2 must feel on a good night." Adam has
made interesting comments about how the song started and what it has become.
In the "Making of the Joshua Tree" special, he explained how Edge had
written its intro in 6/8 and then formulated a guitar part that would allow
the song to switch to 4/4 when the drums and bass kicked in. "I have to say
at the time I didn't appreciate probably the hours of thought that had gone
into such an idea; it just seemed like a way of f-ing the band up...We would
spend interminable hours figuring out chord changes to get the two bits to
join up -- which is why it drove Brian [Eno] mad."

Since the song had such inauspicious beginnings, it's interesting that in a
Time Out interview this year, Streets was one of the songs Adam particularly
mentioned when asked if he could imagine still being in the band 20 years
from now: "...if the question is whether we could still be playing 'Where
the Streets Have No Name' or 'I Will Follow' when we're 60, then yes, if
we're still committed as a band, which we probably would be."

Mike, a British fan, saw firsthand how the crowd's love for the song feeds
into the band's performance. Writing about the second Manchester show, he
said, "There is one moment I will never forget which made this song, and the
night, for me. I had my eyes glued on Edge for the duration of the song and
towards the end he was really getting into it as he looked over the heart
and the rest of the crowd. I swear I could see the tears forming in his eyes
as he felt the unbridled and unalloyed love and joy hitting him in waves
from the crowd. He closed his eyes, body swaying lightly, and his mouth
slightly agape. His statement was one of pure elation and witnessing this
made me cry."

Not everyone who wrote in is so moved by Streets -- Greg, for instance,
responded by saying the dramatic buildup didn't do much for him, and when
the lights blaze he thinks, "Why are they going nuts just cuz someone
flipped a light switch?" But he also said "I look around the arena when they
turn the lights on and decide it needs to be in the setlist." On the other
side of the scale was Dave, who wrote to say "I have seen 400 shows by
various artists and Streets rises above every other song I have ever heard

Thanks for posting that, it's a great article, and I totally agree. Bad gives Streets the closest competition. When I finally saw U2 live in April I had this sense of unreality as I heard and saw them perform Bad first, then Streets. I kept thinking "I can't believe I'm here and they're there and they are performing those songs before my eyes." Bad was incredibly moving. But Streets is the kind of song that puts tears in your eyes and is also the biggest kind of adrenaline rush. It is a song that gives me chills even when I just think about it. All I have to do is hear those notes in my head and I get chills. It's happening now! The album version is splendid and beautiful but live it just goes to another level. You look around and everyone, even the people who are like "no big deal" for half the show, is swept away. It's like flying. I swear, I would pay the price of my overly expensive ticket again just to see Streets live. Had they not played it, even though the entire show was great, I would have to have felt a sense of general disappointment with the evening.

Love is the heartbeat of the universe
Wow, that was a great post.

Of the two shows I've seen, the one song that I just couldn't wait to hear live was Streets. Of the two shows I've been to (Indy on May 10 and Notre Dame October 10th) that's the song that definately sucks the audience right in. There's nothing like seeing the crowd's reaction as soon as they start playing that intro.

I can't put my finger on what it is, but there's just something about that song that reaches the innermost part of my soul.
Is it a religious statement of sorts? I don't know that either. Does it leave me with a feeling of exhilaration? Completely. It's the song that I can be feeling a little down, but instantly brings me out of it.
It's a song that I can listen to on repeat for literally an hour at a time and not get tired of it. It's a song that never fails to put a smile on my face.

As I was sitting here thinking, is a song about personal yearning for freedom? Listening to the words now, that's a definate yes. Is it a song about there being something more "out there" than what we normally experience in our day to day lives? Thinking about it now, yes. Maybe that's why it has stuck a chord with so many people, including myself.

My favorite U2 song of all time?
Absolutely and without a doubt.

"Yeah, we'll shine like stars in the summer night, we'll shine like stars in the winter night. One heart, one hope, one love."
Originally posted by SIK:

As I was sitting here thinking, is a song about personal yearning for freedom? Listening to the words now, that's a definate yes. Is it a song about there being something more "out there" than what we normally experience in our day to day lives? Thinking about it now, yes. Maybe that's why it has stuck a chord with so many people, including myself.

That's exactly what I think the song is about.. to me it doesn't really relate much to streets that don't have no names. It's about coming out of a dull period of your life and DOING something, and coming to a new place in life and understanding of the world and optimistic outlook. The best summation is probably when Bono changes the lyrics to "I wanna break through into a new frame.. where the streets have no name". You could maybe say that the Streets with names is a representation of a materialistic viewpoint.. of wanting more, but when you can come to terms with yourself and just BE without all sorts of unnecessary paraphernalia (like this forum! lol). But that interpretation doesn't really carry over to a lot of the other lyrics.

Whatever it means, it's a brilliant, magnificent song. And I really cannot fathom how someone could dislike it. I really can't... the deep, rising, soaring intro, the flickering guitar, and then all of it just this huge exhilarating sweep of music washing over you and knocking you down and bringing you with it in a tumult of beauty and emotion.

Yeah. I gotta say I like the song a fair bit!
Originally posted by SkeeK:
You could maybe say that the Streets with names is a representation of a materialistic viewpoint.. of wanting more, but when you can come to terms with yourself and just BE without all sorts of unnecessary paraphernalia (like this forum! lol).

Exactly...I've never felt personally that it's about heaven or BOno's experiences in Africa, and it's definitely not about sex. To me anyway. I've always felt it's about breaking free of constraints, stepping into a place of new freedom, and that could definitely include letting go of material trappings...but he wants to "go there with you," so I don't think love is one of the constraints he wants to break free from.

Love is the heartbeat of the universe
YES! By far...the experience is indescribable.

(indescribable--why does that word look so funny?)
The article is really good. Streets is beyond words for me, I could walk forever listening to that pearl...It?s perfect. Adam is right, they can?t drop Streets. Never. The song can take people to a higher level. I felt that way, just once, but I did.
I think Skeeks analysis of those lyrics fit with most of the song actually. Especially the line: "I want to reach out and touch the flame." That sounds to me like a referance to Prometheus bringing fire to man in Greek mythology. It does fit with doing something DIFFERENT than normal.

That bit about taking shelter from the poison rain has me stumped though. Maybe I need to sleep on it...

After seconds of careful consideration, I realized that I misread Skeeks quote! It might not fit so well after all... I'm not sure it is talking about getting rid of materialistic desires though.

[This message has been edited by Guy With The Stuff (edited 10-20-2001).]
HELL YEAH!!!!!!!
I tell ya, Streets at Slane1 and Slane2................FUCKIN INSANE! UNBELIEVABLE!! SUPERLATIVE! SPINE CHILLING!

Any time I am down or low on energy, stick on Streets live, works every time.

It's like a rollercoaster, the U2 gigs, and you reach the peak as those mesmerising organ sounds kick in, then the beat of the drums, then...BANG!!!!!!!!

Goosebumps everytime! Its great everywhere, but the slane one was just mindblowing! And everytime it starts up, you can hear everybody building in anticipation......."Strreeeeeeeeeeets!!!!" or women screaming(men too
...ahem) or just a total and utter buzz!!!!!

I was at Slane2 with 3 mates, and us and about 80,000 others just starting going insane when it kicked in, total and utter joy, jubilation!!!!!!
I remember seeing U2's first show in Los Angeles on the Joshua Tree tour, and they opened with Where The Streets Have No Name...the arena went pitch black, and the screams where deafening, as one by one each member of the band walked onstage, and the screens behind them turned them blood red, and it was as if the life soul of the band was being poured out on us. Suddenly the familiar, haunting organ began, and the Edge played over it with a yearning in his guitar that would introduce the yearning of the band's hearts when Bono sings..."I go there with you!". Then the Larry and Adam kicked in the rhythm and all passionate chaos broke out...and the power of that one opening song sustained energy and spirit for the rest of the show.

It is hard to imagine even now Streets not being played in the middle of a show...that expectation that comes from knowing that something so overwhelming to put into words about how the song makes one feel is coming...the song that is communal in it's ability to put everyone on standstill and feel the power, the intensity that comes from these chords, these beats, these rhythmic, seductive bass lines, these words spoken, prayed, sung in celebratory fashion that only Bono can produce from somewhere so very far and deep inside of himself. But back in the beginning, it was Streets that opened a show and kicked wide opened our hearts and it's power overtook us, and we rode the wave of this one song the rest of the show...amazinging perfection.

Now I have a much less preliminary, but preliminary nonetheless sketch up.
(Hey! The author is a correspondent of mine! The story originally came from:

Chris, that was an awesome, thought-provoking post, thanks. Bad live has always been the pinnacle of U2-ness for me, I guess because it is the finest distillation of their deep compassion: "If I could, through myself, set your spirit free..." sums up all that they stand for.
And yet, all that's been said here highlights the qualitative differences between Bad and Streets: where the former is reflective, interior, WTSHNN is communal, defiant and celebratory. I had to laugh when I read Bono's comments about "high school poetry" -- as a poet, I can relate to his frustration, but it is a SONG, where words are transfigured by music! The blues is all about that, the Psalms (to reference Bono's own essay) were all about that. It is a Rise Up! kind of song...and that sets it apart from its closest competition, Bad. "I wanna tear down the walls that hold me inside" (actually that line isn't high school at all, since I always took it to mean the walls within me)... Craving personal freedom, yes; "to touch the flame" is about being unutterably ALIVE, about not being stultified by conformity. And just this year I had a new insight into those words (remember, the images that "occur" to a writer are typically not designed or assembled; they simply arrive, and fit...)-- "where the streets have no name" means something very liberating to a person whose city (and country) is deeply sectarian. And of course they wrote it as anthemic as they wrote anything in their lives, and what better to sing an anthem to, than this? "...beaten and blown by the wind, trampled in dust/ I'll show you a place high on a desert plain..." Transcendence.
And of course, that astonishing live intro, brought to the world in Rattle & Hum, vibrating sunrise orange, and that explosion of light. Anyone who's been there has a cellular memory of the adrenaline and joy. Many people here have mentioned the joy, and that above all is the subject and the power of the song. Not the warm-fuzzy kind, but the kind that is bigger than the pain and terror. Defiant against the grief. The raw, grateful realization that "I AM." "I go there with you: it's all I can do." Bad makes the grief real for me. But Streets makes the victory *over* grief real... and speaks better for this band's community than any other "anthem" they've written. Best U2 live song ever? Is there any other song even in the running?

***Grace makes beauty out of ugly things***

the greatest frontman in the world -- by truecoloursfly:

[This message has been edited by truecoloursfly (edited 01-13-2002).]
Streets is a helluva live song....but it's no Red Light. Nothing beats that trumpet solo.

Edited to add that this silly thing was my 400th post. Hooray.

"Good men die unhappily. Bad men die unluckily. THAT's tragedy." --Tom Stoppard

"I can't watch a man sing a song. He gets all emotional, he starts's embarrassing!" -- Jerry Seinfeld

[This message has been edited by PopFly (edited 10-22-2001).]
Hey Deb...thanks for your awesome critique on the Streets article. In addition, I loved your comparison between Bad and Streets. I, like you, love Bad, and would have a difficult time comparing the two, but I will say that both compliment each other quite well. Bad needs give our existence a hope and the ability to face whatever we are facing with strength and conviction. Just as well, Streets needs Bad. We don't know how celebratory at times life can be until we have hit rock bottom, or experience a circumstance, or go with someone through their pain or grief , and realize that we need each other to make it to the top again?that we can in Bono's words say?"I go there with you!"

Lastly, I loved your article in @U2 about Bono. If you ever have other articles that you would like to share with another fan who loves to write as well, email me at . Thanks again

Thanks for posting that article, Chris. Just thinking about Streets live gives me chills. Even people who aren't really into U2 think the song is amazing. My friend saw the Streets performance on TV during the NBA Finals, and she was blown away! Now she wishes she had gone to the concerts with me.
Excellent, excellent post Chris. I remember seeing WTSHNN live for the first time (Houston in April of this year... not so long ago) and just staring up in awe. It was simply incredible! I can describe it no other way.

Quotation is a servicable substitute for wit.

(W. Somerset Maugham)
Top Bottom