"The Saints Are Coming" - U2
- "The Saints are Coming" (Studio Version) - U2 and Green Day (03:22)
- "The Saints are Coming" (Live from New Orleans, Sep. 25, 2006) - U2 and Green Day (03:27)
“The Saints are Coming,” a duet with American rock band Green Day, was one of two new songs included on the compilation album U218 Singles, and was also the first single issued to promote that release. The physical single hit shops on November 6, 2006, but a digital version had been released the week previous. The U218 compilation was notable because it signaled the end of U2’s longstanding contract with Island Records in the UK. “The Saints are Coming” was the first U2 release to carry the Mercury Records logo in that country.
The song itself was written and originally recorded by a Scottish punk band, the Skids. It had featured on their debut album Scared to Dance, released in 1979, as well as on an earlier EP, “Wide Open.” Stuart Adamson, founder of the Skids, would go on to greater fame with his next band, Big Country. When Adamson died in 2001, the Edge delivered a eulogy at his funeral and told mourners that Big Country had written the songs he wished U2 could write. “The Saints are Coming,” with its lyrics about storms and drowning, seemed fitting for a single in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and in September 2006 it was announced that U2 and Green Day had recorded a cover of the song. Proceeds would benefit Music Rising, a charity that the Edge had helped create to bring instruments and music programs back to New Orleans.
Released on CD (and on 7-inch vinyl in the UK), the B-side to the single was a live version of “The Saints Are Coming” recorded in New Orleans on September 25, 2006 at the opening game of the New Orleans Saints and broadcast during the half time show on Monday Night Football. This was the first game to be held in the Louisiana Superdome since it had been heavily damaged during Huricane Katrina the previous year. Both U2 and Green Day took part in the live performance, which was also made available for purchase immediately by Real Rhapsody as a digital single. During this same half time show, the Edge would join Green Day on stage for “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” and U2 and Green Day would also perform “Beautiful Day.”
A music video for “The Saints Are Coming” debuted on YouTube on October 27, 2006. Directed by Chris Milk, the clip depicts U2 and Green Day performing the song at both Abbey Road Studios and at the Lousiana Superdome. Early in the video, news footage of the Hurricane Katrina disaster is interspersed with shots of the two bands performing. The latter part of the video offers a fictional account of what could have happened in the Katrina aftermath, including shots of troops being redeployed from Iraq to help those in New Orleans, military helicopters conducting rescue operations above the Superdome, and bomber jets dropping supplies.
Other than the performance at the Superdome, U2 would perform “The Saints are Coming” a total of 12 times during the final leg of The Vertigo Tour. Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong would appear on stage with U2 to perform the song on the last night of the tour, December 9, 2006, in Hawaii. As of this writing, U2 has not performed the song live since that time. Green Day has not performed the song in its entirety on tour, but Armstrong did sing snippets of it during performances of “Holiday” on Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown Tour in 2010.
A “Studio Edit” of the song, running 2:33, was issued on some promotional singles. In addition to the live Superdome version of “The Saints are Coming” that was made available on the Rhapsody music service following the New Orleans performance, the site also offered a version taped live at U2 and Green Day’s rehearsal earlier in the day. That version would be replaced by the live half time performance once it became available.
The Saints are Coming:
U2 and Green Day. Produced by Rick Rubin. Recorded by Greg Fidelman. Mixed by Chris Lord-Alge.
The Saints are Coming (Live from New Orelans):
U2 and Green Day. Recorded using the Westwood 1 Mobile. Mixed by Bob Ezrin. Engineered by Biff Dawes and Chris Dugan. Horns arranged by Bob Ezrin and Rupert Christie. Trumpets: Derrick “Kabuky” Shezbie, Glen Andrews, Gregory Davis, Shannon Haynes. Trombones: Troy “Shorty” Andrews, Stafford Agee, “Big” Sam Williams, Reginald Stuart. Sousaphones: Phillip Frasier. Robert Expino. Executive Producer: Bob Ezrin. Performance courtesy of the NFL.
Audio Post Production: Cheryl Engles at Partial Productions Inc. Mastering: Arnie Acosta at Bernie Grundman Mastering, Hollywood. Green Day appear courtesy of Reprise Records. Both tracks written by Richard Jobson and Stuart Adamson and published by EMI Virgin Music Ltd.
Photography by Anton Corbijn. Design by Four5One Creative.
Recognition and Awards
#86 Best Single of Year, Readers Picks (Rolling Stone, 2006)
Nomination, Best Rock Performance by Duo or Group (Grammy Awards, 2007) #6 Best Irish Single, 2006 Awards (Hot Press, January 2007)
Related Promotional Videos
- “The Saints are Coming” and the Power of Selective Listening
- ‘A Beautiful Day’: When U2, Green Day reopened the Superdome
- U2 Hit the No. 1 Spot in Ireland
- Catch a Sneak Peek of U2/ Green Day ‘Saints’ Video