A Sort of Homecoming (song)
|"A Sort of Homecoming"|
|Song by U2|
|from the album The Unforgettable Fire|
|Producer(s)||Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois|
|The Unforgettable Fire track listing|
"A Sort of Homecoming" is the first song of U2's 1984 album, The Unforgettable Fire. A live version of the track is found on 1985's four-track EP, Wide Awake in America. It is also the only song with lyrics inside the sleeve for the album.
As the opening track on The Unforgettable Fire, "A Sort of Homecoming" epitomises the new direction U2 had taken. A far more atmospheric album than the previous overt-rock of War, the album has a rich and orchestrated sound. Like much of the album, the song replaces the hard-hitting martial drum sound of War with a subtler polyrhythmic shuffle, and the guitar is no longer as prominent in the mix.
On the War Tour and leading up to recording The Unforgettable Fire, U2 lead singer and lyricist, Bono, had become a voracious reader. He read fiction, philosophy and poetry, and came to realise that his song-writing mission—which up to that point had been a reluctant one on his behalf—was a poetic one. He read works of poet Paul Celan, whose line "poetry is a sort of homecoming" inspired not just the song's title but the song itself. Celan's profound spiritual doubt contrasts with U2 members' previous religious certainties. The song's line "on borderlands we run...and don't look back" suggests the band had become more comfortable with the contradictions between rock and religious beliefs in comparison to during the October-War period. The phrase, "poetry is a sort of homecoming" had additional significance for Bono as a singer who was constantly away from home and travelling.
A film of U2 on tour in Northern Europe in October-November 1984 was made to accompany a live version  of the song, which was used as a television video to promote The Unforgettable Fire album, showing the band on the road travelling through London, in France and the Low Countries, and in performance at several venues, including the Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, West Germany, returning across the North Sea by ferry boat to the British Isles at the song's conclusion.
Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin wrote for Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time the section on U2, saying: "I don't buy weekend tickets to Ireland and hang out in front of their gates, but U2 are the only band whose entire catalogue I know by heart. The first song on The Unforgettable Fire, "A Sort of Homecoming", I know backward and forward—it's so rousing, brilliant and beautiful. It's one of the first songs I played to my unborn baby." Pearl Jam have covered the song on numerous occasions with lead singer Eddie Vedder often playing it by himself on guitar.
Live performance history
The live premiere of "A Sort of Homecoming" came during The Unforgettable Fire Tour on 17 September 1984. When played live, the song would start with just The Edge playing while Bono sang. After the first verse, the rest of the band would join in.
It was performed regularly on the rest of The Unforgettable Fire Tour, typically after "The Electric Co.", and was played occasionally on the first two legs of the next tour, The Joshua Tree Tour. It was dropped from the band's live set on 27 June 1987 and did not reappear again until the second leg of the Elevation Tour in 2001.
It was played live again for the first time in 14 years during the band's homecoming gig at Slane Castle in Ireland on 25 August 2001, however the performance didn't go well with Bono struggling to recall its original lyrical construction. It made only one more Elevation Tour appearance, when at a concert at the Oakland Arena on 16 November 2001 a fan was invited up on stage by the band to perform on an acoustic guitar, and he began playing the song impromptu. U2 played along but Bono's recollection of the lyrics was even worse than at the Slane Castle gig three months earlier, with him admitting as much mid-song to the audience, and he re-coursed to improvised word-play instead, during which he cited Van Morrison's work as a source of inspiration for the song originally. A Sort of Homecoming was not performed again until opening night of The Joshua Tree Tour 2017.
- Parra (1994), pp. 52-56
- Graham (1996), p. 23
- Stokes (1996), p. 51
- Graham (1996), p. 23-24; Stokes (1996), p. 51
- Recorded during a sound-check for the concert at Wembley Arena in London on 15 November 1984, and released on the Wide Awake in America extended player in 1985, http://www.u2gigs.com/show902.html
- September 2011 internet article detailing the video and its original use, 'Non-stop 80's', 'U2, A Sort of Homecoming', http://www.nonstop80s.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/u2-sort-of-homecoming-1984.html.
- 'A Sort of Homecoming' video film on Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZoX7yiTpiU
- U2 Unforgettable Fire Tour schedule, European 2nd leg in 1984 https://www.u2gigs.com/tour174.html
- "The Immortals: The First Fifty". Rolling Stone Issue 946. Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 19 December 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-21.
- "U2 CONCERT: SEP 17, 1984 AT MELBOURNE".
- "A SORT OF HOMECOMING".
- "U2 Oakland, 2001-11-16, Oakland Arena, Elevation Tour - U2 on tour".
- Recording of the song being performed at Oakland Arena on 16 November 2001 on Youtube (2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNgSItAJUfI
- Graham, Bill; van Oosten de Boer, Caroline (2004). U2: The Complete Guide to their Music. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-9886-8.
- McCormick, Neil (2006). U2 by U2. London: HarperCollinsPublishers. ISBN 0-00-719668-7.
- Parra, Pimm Jal de la U2 Live: A Concert Documentary, 1996, Harper Collins Publishers, ISBN 0-7322-6036-1
- Stokes, Niall (1996). Into The Heart: The Story Behind Every U2 Song. Australia: HarperCollinsPublishers. ISBN 0-7322-6036-1.
- A Sort of Homecoming's performance history at U2-Vertigo-Tour.com - Lists all known performances of "A Sort of Homecoming".
- Lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics