|Song by U2 from the album All That You Can't Leave Behind|
|Released||30 October 2000|
|Writer||Bono and The Edge (lyrics)
|Producer||Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno|
|All That You Can't Leave Behind track listing|
Inspiration, writing, and recording
The idea for the song came from a kite-flying outing on Killiney Hill overlooking Dublin Bay that Bono attempted with his daughters. The outing went quickly awry when the kite crashed and one of the girls asked to go home and play a video game. Guitarist The Edge assisted Bono in writing the lyrics and felt that they were actually about Bono's emotionally-reserved father, Bob Hewson, who was dying of cancer at the time: "[Bono] couldn't see it, but I could." Bono recalled a similarly ill-fated kite-flying outing in his own childhood with his father in the County Dublin seaside towns of Skerries or Rush.
Composition and theme
The song was at first written with Bono's daughters in mind, or more generally, about a kite as a metaphor for someone or something escaping one's realm of control; the song is, more or less, about Bono realizing a day will come when his daughters will "no longer need him". During early promotional appearances Bono emphasized the song could be about letting go of any kind of relationship.
The music to "Kite" was equally evocative. The song begins with a string loop that The Edge had arranged. The verses feature The Edge playing a simple repeating slide guitar piece, while the chorus featuring an emphatic wail from Bono set against The Edge's churning guitar lines. The song concludes with an odd coda in reference to the new media. In concert the coda is sometimes repeated, with almost all instrumentation dropped out; Bono later said the coda was intended to pinpoint the narrative by "just setting it in time, saying that's the moment, and then leaving it behind you."
As is often the case with U2 songs, listeners heard various things from "Kite". Rolling Stone magazine saw it describing "the plight of a fraying couple; when Bono glimpses 'the shadow behind your eyes,' his lyric evokes the music's slanted conversations of melody and rhythm and guitar figures." The New York Times entitled their review of an Elevation Tour concert "Like a Kite, Grounded But Soaring To the Skies", and said the song was "music made after the fall," merging idealism with experience. A United Methodist Pastor in McGregor, Texas took the song's lines "I'm not afraid to die / I'm not afraid to live" and related it to his belief that Christians should not think of God as a stern judge and should not be afraid to live to the fullest, while a London memorial service honoring The Door magazine founder and religious figure Mike Yaconelli used it as the spiritual pivot of the service. Author Višnja Cogan partially echoed Edge's interpretation, seeing the duality of Bono's role as both father and son embodied in the song's interior climax "I'm a man, I'm not a child...."
During the band's Elevation Tour, "Kite" was played to a set of swirling images projected against a scrim above the stage, furthering the song's central theme. "Kite" took on an additional meaning later in 2001 on the tour, when Bono's father, Bob Hewson, died after a long bout with cancer. Bono would alter the line "The last of the rock stars" to "The last of the opera stars", a reference to Bob's past as an amateur opera singer. Bono paid tribute to him with a tearful rendition of this song on the live release, U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle, which depicts the band's memorable performance at Slane Castle, one day after Bob Hewson's funeral. Prior to the song, Bono fondly recalls his father and The Edge's father, Garvin Evans, walking down Madison Avenue late-night in New York City drunk together and singing "the duet from The Silver Fish".
"Kite" was played for the first time on the Vertigo Tour on 7 November 2006 in Brisbane, Australia, when the tour resumed after a long hiatus. It was also the first time that "Kite" has closed a concert, and was the regular closer on the Australian leg of the tour, while it also closed the first show in Auckland, New Zealand. A live version of the song from the Vertigo Tour, recorded in Sydney's Telstra Stadium on 11 November 2006, was released as a B-side to "Window in the Skies" on 1 January 2007. The live Australian version featured the use of didgeridoo (especially audible toward the end).
- "U2's Bono loses dad to cancer", Associated Press, August 23, 2001.
- U2 Limited (2006). U2 by U2. London: HarperCollinsPublishers. pp. 296, 299. ISBN 0-00-719668-7.
- U2 promotional concert at Irving Plaza, New York, December 5, 2000.
- James Hunter, All That You Can't Leave Behind album review, Rolling Stone, October 26, 2000.
- Ann Powers, ROCK REVIEW: Like a Kite, Grounded But Soaring To the Skies, The New York Times, June 19, 2001.
- Steve Hayduck, " Afraid to Die? Afraid to Live?", July 7, 2005.
- John Davies, "A day for Mike", November 23, 2003.
- Višnja Cogan (2008). U2: An Irish Phenomenon. Pegasus Books. p. 92. ISBN 978-1-933648-71-2.
- Dominic Mohan, "Bono's agony after dad dies", August 22, 2001.
- All That You Can't Leave Behind (CD). Canada: Island Records. 2000. 314 548 285-4.