NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Ten years ago no one knew that a song dropped on this community would come to represent not only the return of their beloved Saints but also become a rallying anthem for their own return. "The Saints Are Coming" is that song and you can thank The Edge of U2 for this.
"The Saints Are Coming" grew out of a need to do something for musicians who had lost their instruments after Katrina and thus threatened their livelihood and the state of music in New Orleans. Legendary music producer Bob Ezrin and The Edge stepped in and formed "Music Rising" which helped raise money and got those much-needed tools back into the hands of our precious resource, the musicians.
With the near miraculous reopening of the Superdome in September of 2006, the NFL asked U2 and they agreed to perform for the Monday Night Football pregame show of the Saints-Falcons on September 25th. The song they would play that night was one The Edge picked out called "The Saints Are Coming" and it was originally a punk rock song by a Scottish band called "The Skids." The Edge brought along Green Day and the two bands created a song at the Beatles famed Abbey Road studios in London.
Some local musicians were brought in to help perform it live. "Big Sam" Williams, Kermit Ruffins, Rebirth Brass Band, New Birth and Trombone Shorty would give the punk rock song some New Orleans R&B. Quint Davis of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was brought on board to pull off the complicated logistics of getting the performance on and off of the floor of the Dome.
Then came the night to pull it off live on national TV, in front of a sold out Superdome audience, all to reopen a facility that 13 months earlier looked like it may have seen its last days.
While "The Saints Are Coming" is the enduring statement of the performance, Green Day stepped on stage and opened with "Wake Me Up When September Ends." Right before the song ended with a guitar solo, Billy Joe Armstrong screamed "New Orleans!" and the crowd erupted.
Then they broke into the beginning of "House of the Rising Sun" and Armstrong changed the lyrics to "There is a house in New Orleans, they call the Superdome..." when Bono walked on and sang the chilling first lyrics of "The Saints are Coming", Saints fans who were already in a fevered state, went nuts.
Bono called out the local musicians on stage and then belted out some emotionally charged lyrics they rearranged for this song, "Living like birds in the Magnolia trees, a child on the rooftop, a mother on her knees, her sign reads please, I am an American!"
A New Orleans classic was born.
Bono has always been a master of the moment and as they finished "The Saints Are Coming" they transitioned into "Beautiful Day." The song was U2's gift to the city and was meant to mark a new beginning so many were having difficulty getting started.
Bono again created some personalized lyrics for the night to start the song:
"See Gentilly and Lakeview, Crescent City right in front of you,/
Birds sing in broken trees, coming home to New Orleans,/
Though the 9th will rise again, above the waters of Lake Pontchartrain."
Tears flowed and people embraced loved ones and strangers from Section 641 to the field.
It was 9 minutes of bliss for a crowd that had been beaten, battered and bruised. U2 and Green Day had just performed one of the most important and healing concerts in New Orleans history.
Superdome Reopening Performance
"The Saints Are Coming" is a song written in 1979 by a Scottish band for a friend who had joined the British Army and had died in Northern Ireland.
An Irish band retooled the song with an American punk band to create a lasting statement for an American city that was hurting in the throes of one of the biggest man-made disasters in U.S. history.
It was a confluence of so many selfless and unlikely elements coming together to help this city, our city get off of its knee and move forward in a long recovery process.
For that, New Orleans will forever be grateful. Now it's time to eat some dirty birds!
U2 featuring Green Day - The Saints are Coming