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10 Years Ago: U2 and Green Day Unite to Release ‘The Saints Are Coming’ for New Orleans

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A year after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, U2 and Green Day joined forces to help restore the city’s legendary music community. On Oct. 31, 2006, they released a cover of the Skids’ punk classic, “The Saints Are Coming.”

The two bands performed the song a month earlier, at the pregame show of the Monday Night Football match between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons, which was the first game played at the Superdome since Katrina. It was part of a mini-set by the two groups that also included Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends” and U2’s “Beautiful Day.” They invited some of the city’s best-known musicians — Rebirth Brass Band, New Birth Brass Band, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Sam Williams of Big Sam’s Funky Nation — to join them on stage.

“I got chills when Bono mentioned my name and Rebirth and New Birth’s name,” Trombone Shorty said. “Hearing that crowd reaction, and being a proud representative of the city on the biggest stage at the moment. It was bigger than us musicians. … I remember thinking, ‘If this is any indication, New Orleans is going to be OK.’”

U2 and Green Day had recorded the song at Abbey Road Studios that summer, with proceeds from its sale going to Music Rising, an organization founded by the Edge and producer Bob Ezrin to help New Orleans musicians who had lost their livelihoods due to the hurricane. The Edge was the one who spearheaded the project, choosing the track, about a friend of the Skids who had been killed in Northern Ireland as a member of the British Army, and bringing in Green Day. “I could hear them playing the song and knew it would work so well,” he said.

But even though they had rehearsed that morning, the locals didn’t stick to the script. “When we got on stage, we did what we do in New Orleans,” Shorty continued. “The arrangement was a little bit different than what the guy had written. That call-and-response thing — that happened out of the blue.”

The video, which is embedded above, combines footage from the studio, the wreckage from the hurricane and the performance at the Superdome. It also envisions a scenario in which the federal government redeployed troops from Iraq to New Orleans to aid in the rescue and relief efforts, only to close with a sign reading, “Not as Seen on TV.”

As for the game, the Saints, who played their 2005 home games in San Antonio and Baton Rouge due to the damage at their stadium, won 23-3, in a contest remembered for Steve Gleason’s blocked punt on the Falcons’ first series that was returned for a touchdown. That moment became symbolic of the city’s strength and resiliency. “Rebirth,” a statue of Gleason, who now suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease, blocking the punt, was unveiled outside the Superdome in 2012.

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