"City of Blinding Lights" - U2


Track Listing:

Digital Only Releases:

Included on DVD Single:

  • “City of Blinding Lights” (Live at Brooklyn Bridge – Video) (06:53)
  • “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” (Live Vocal Version Intro-Video) (04:40)

Background Information

“City of Blinding Lights” began development during the recording sessions for Pop, under the working title “Scott Walker.” Adam Clayton described it as an homage to the British musician. The song was extensively reworked before its eventual appearance on How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. The lyrics were inspired both by Bono’s first trip to London and by the band’s experience of being the first major act to play in New York City following the September 11 attacks. It was the third single from the album (the fourth in Canada), released on June 6, 2005 in Europe and the UK, and June 7 in Canada. It was issued a week later, on June 13, in Australia.

The main track on the commercial single is “City of Blinding Lights (Radio Edit),” which is an edit of the album version, eliminating the final verse and trimming the 5:46 original down to 4:11 in length. Two CD versions of the single were released in most regions. The first features “All Because of You (Killahurtz Fly Mix)” as the b-side. The second features two tracks, “The Fly” and “Even Better Than the Real Thing” performed live in Manchester, UK at the “Stop Sellafield” concert on June 19, 1992 at the GMEX Centre. While it might seem strange that these thirteen-year-old performances would be included on the new single, it appears that the band was prepping the Zoo TV: Live from Sydney video for its DVD debut in 2006, and these tracks were being used as bonus tracks on that DVD. One final b-side was found exclusively on the 3-inch CD single released in Europe: a live recording of “Out of Control” taken from U2’s performance under the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City on November 22, 2004.

The day after the “City of Blinding Lights” single was commercially released in the UK, an additional track was released as a digital single through iTunes in the UK. This was a live recording of “City of Blinding Lights” taken from U2’s performance in Brooklyn on November 22, 2004. The release was one only in iTunes stores in the UK, and was not available through other iTunes stores worldwide. The cover art with this digital single is the same as the commercial cover for the “City of Blinding Lights” featuring Bono on stage performing against a yellow tinted background. This release was 5:35 in length. Other digital stores in Europe did carry a copy of the digital single, such as Qobuz and Gaude. However the versions released there have an abrupt ending, and cut off at 5:27 without a fade out that was present in the iTunes version. The iTunes UK site initially had the following description available on the site regarding this track: “Only the biggest band in the world could ride around Manhattan on a flatbed trailer shooting a music video. U2 did just that on November 22 of last year, capping the day with a stunning live show across the East River at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. Check out this emotional version of “City of Blinding Lights” from that performance, exclusively on iTunes.” This digital version of the single was released on June 6, 2005.

A DVD single was also released. It featured a live video of U2’s performance of “City of Blinding Lights” from that same Brooklyn Bridge concert. This is longer (06:53) than the digital release above, and includes Bono’s introduction to the song, which audio releases had removed. (The official promo video for “City of Blinding Lights” had not been completed at the time of the DVD single’s release, so the live version was substituted.) It also contained the Phil Joanou-directed video for “Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own” (the version containing both colour and black-and-white footage), which had not been completed in time for inclusion on the preceding “Sometimes” DVD single. Finally, the DVD single includes an audio-only track of the album version of “City of Blinding Lights.”

The official promo video for “City of Blinding Lights” was filmed by Alex Courtes and Martin Fougerol at GM Place in Vancouver, British Columbia over two days, April 27 and 28, 2005. Members of the public were invited to take part, and 4000 fans were allowed into GM Place for the shoot. The video features U2 on the Vertigo stage performing “City of Blinding Lights.” It incorporates footage shot on the closed set as well as actual Vancouver concert footage shot the following night. The video shooting was announced at 1:30pm, and at 3:00pm wristbands were distributed to 4000 fans who were let into the building at 7:00pm that night. U2 took the stage at 8:20 and ran through a number of renditions of “City of Blinding Lights”, as well as the “Hokey Pokey” and finished with a mini concert of “Vertigo,” “City of Blinding Lights,” and “Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your Own.”

“City of Blinding Lights” was performed during each concert of The Vertigo Tour, alternating with “Love and Peace or Else” as the show opener. During performances, confetti would be launched from either the stage or the ceiling, and the tour’s massive LED curtains would be used to full effect as a backdrop. The song was also played each night of the U2360° Tour, and was one of the numbers that made use of the fully extended video screens. During 2015’s Innocence and Experience Tour, “City of Blinding Lights” was performed during each show except two. Live performances have been officially released on the “City of Blinding Lights (Live from the Brooklyn Bridge)” digital single on iTunes (New York, November 22, 2004); on the U2.Communication fan club album (Chicago, IL, May 9, 2005); on the U218 Singles deluxe digital version and the DVD accompanying the deluxe physical format (Milan, Italy, July 21, 2005); and on the U22 fan club album (Nice, France, July 15, 2009). Other video formats include the Vertigo 2005: Live from Chicago DVD, the U2360° at the Rose Bowl video, and the multi-artist The Official Inaugural Celebration video, taken from a 2009 concert in Washington, DC at the Lincoln Memorial. The song was also featured on the television show “Entourage,” during the ninth episode of season two, “I Love You Too.” During the show, Bono gives a shout-out to one of the characters live from the stage. The footage used for this episode was filmed at the April 6, 2005 U2 show in San Diego.

The album version of “City of Blinding Lights” has not appeared on any U2 compilations to date. However, it did appear on the soundtrack album for the film The Devil Wears Prada. A 12-inch promo-only single of “City in Blinding Lights” was also issued, including the “Paradise Soul Mix” and the “Phones P.D.A. in N.Y.C. Mix.” The “Paradise Soul Mix” was also edited down and included on the Pete Tong Essential Selection album. Another remix, the “Hot Chip 2006 Remix” debuted on the Artificial Horizon fan club album and commercial vinyl release.

As part of the promotion for this single, a cardboard wallet was made available by mail to residents of the UK who had previously registered online. These were sent out by Island Records UK and were not available in other regions. Shipped flat, they could be folded into a box which would hold the two CDs and the DVD released in the UK. The front and back of the wallet both feature artwork similar to that found on the singles.

On July 22, 2022, U2 upgraded their digital single offerings, and “City of Blinding Lights” was one of the singles upgraded. See our catalog listings below for information on the new release.

Liner Notes

City of Blinding Lights (Radio Edit):
Music by U2. Lyrics by Bono. Produced by Flood. Additional production by Chris Thomas and Jacknife Lee. Recorded by Carl Glanville. Assisted by Chris Heaney and Kieran Lynch. Mixed by Nellee Hooper. Mix Engineering by Simon Gogerly and Greg Collins. Programming by Fabien Waltmann. Assistant Mix Engineering by Ian Rossiter. Piano by The Edge and Bono. Synthesizers by Jacknife Lee.

The Fly (Live from “Stop Sellafield”):
Words by Bono. Written by U2. Recorded by Mike Hayes / Omnibus Mobile. Recorded live at the Greenpeace ‘Stop Sellafield’ concert at the G-Mex Centre, Manchester, England on June 19th, 1992.

Even Better than the Real Thing (Live from “Stop Sellafield”):
Words by Bono. Written by U2. Recorded by Mike Hayes / Omnibus Mobile. Recorded live at the Greenpeace ‘Stop Sellafield’ concert at the G-Mex Centre, Manchester, England on June 19th, 1992.

All Because of You (Killahurtz Fly Mix):
Music by U2. Written by Bono. Remixed by Killahurtz: Mick Park and Lea Kenny. Engineered and Mixed by Lea Kenny. Additional live bass and guitars by Darren Murray.

Out of Control (Live at Brooklyn Bridge):
Recorded live at the Empire-Fulton Ferry Park, Brooklyn, New York on 22nd November 2004

Audio post-production: Cheryl Engels at Partial Productions Inc. Mastering: Arnie Acosta at Bernie Grundman Mastering, Hollywood.


Photography by Kevin Mazur. Designed at Four5One Creative.

Recognition and Awards

#1 Irish Single, 2005 Awards (Hot Press, January 2006) #1 Ringtone, 2005 Awards (Hot Press, January 2006)
Nomination and Win, Best Rock Song (Grammy Awards, 2006) #42, Q Magazine’s Top 100 Tracks of 2005 (Q Magazine)

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