NEW YORK — Parades through the heart of Manhattan are generally reserved for the New York Yankees, victorious troops and, well, giant Garfield balloons. But there they were: U2, on the back of a flatbed truck, led by a blaring police escort, cutting a path right down the middle of Broadway.
On Monday (November 22) the band took over the streets of New York to shoot a video for "All Because of You," the second single off their new How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. They performed the song over and over again as they made their way through the city's streets, cameras running, throngs of bewildered New Yorkers running alongside the truck, helicopters buzzing overhead.
The fact that traffic ground to a near standstill didn't seem to matter. When one of the biggest bands in the world wants to make a video, they make a video. And it was all NYC could do to get out of their way.
This makeshift parade's final destination was the borough of Brooklyn, in an abandoned field beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, where, lo and behold, a stage had been assembled. Over the weekend, U2 fan sites had been abuzz with rumors of a secret show, but until the announcement was made Monday afternoon on U2.com (and then picked up by just about every radio station in the city), no one knew if it would really happen.
Fans showed up by the thousands, standing on the broken Brooklyn streets, waiting for something, anything, to happen. As their numbers swelled, the excitement rose, until people were literally jumping up and down to music only they could hear. And when the security team finally allowed the masses inside, and a mad dash to the front of the stage began, it was all most fans could do to avoid being mashed against the metal barricades.
And then they waited. Fifteen minutes. Thirty minutes. Forty-five minutes passed. Seagulls swirled in the darkening skies and an army of news choppers whirred noisily overhead. Clearly, something was happening. But what? And when?
Then cheers erupted from the crowd. Most turned from the stage to see a helicopter filming something coming across the Manhattan Bridge. The flatbed truck slowly came into view, crossing over the East River into Brooklyn, and atop it were U2, just specks at the moment, still performing "All Because of You."
The band disappeared from view for several minutes, taking the winding roads that lead off the bridge and down into Brooklyn (not even U2 are powerful enough to defeat NYC's rush-hour traffic), but no amount of waiting could stifle the energy of the crowd. And when U2 did finally take the stage, they were greeted by a thunderous round of cheers and pumping fists. Bono said a few pleasantries, and then his bandmates launched into "Vertigo." The place went nuts.
They quickly followed with "All Because of You" (which you would think the band would be tired of playing by now). The Edge worked a serpentine guitar line around bassist Adam Clayton's thudding backbeat as Bono did what he does best: strike Christ-like poses, straddle the mic, and wear wraparound shades. When the song finished, he surveyed the scene, glanced over at the Edge, and joked, "Why does this feel like a hometown gig?"
Their 45-minute set featured mostly songs from How to Dismantle — the somber "Miracle Drug," the strutting "Original of the Species," "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" (which Bono dedicated to his late father) — all of which the crowd greeted with unbridled enthusiasm. And when the band broke out older material, the reaction would've torn the roof off the place ... had there been one.
"Beautiful Day" had kids pogoing out of their shoes, "I Will Follow" had them singing along lustily, and "Out of Control" — U2's first single, released in 1979 — nearly gave an entire crowd of 20-somethings a massive coronary.
But it was another new song, "City of Blinding Lights," that probably summed it up best. As night overtook the Manhattan skyline in the distance and the skyscrapers were bathed in neon and florescent light, Bono turned and studied the scene. He explained that he had written the song based on his memories of U2's first trip to New York, when they were just a young band that could've never dreamed how high they would reach.
Bono paused, his back to the crowd, and he gave the skyline a round of applause. And you could tell he was sincerely thankful. He knew the city deserved it. After all, she's always been a gracious host.
You can catch U2's surprise performance on the next episode of "mtvJAMMED" airing December 10 at 9 p.m. ET.