The One About Dreams: U2, Fremont Street, Las Vegas Neon Signs, and Inner Messages

June 3rd, 2020
Back The One About Dreams: U2, Fremont Street, Las Vegas Neon Signs, and Inner Messages

People dream at large. These profound sensations and visions may kick start new endeavors, relationships, experiences, ideas, habits, anything in between or nothing at all. Do dreams also carry the seeds of responsibilities? Yes. Especially for those of us who like to gamble.

Dreams, projected onto lowered shades of windows as a human vessel on auto-pilot navigates oceans of subconsciousness, appear so real. Powered by inexplicable winds of unforeseen possibilities and real-life experiences, phantasmagoric illustrations move through currents of emotions, desires, fears, and inabilities.

Vivid or monochromatic, hectic or slow-paced, tranquil as calm water or ravaging as mountainous waves of the Southern Ocean, the voyage through shattered fragments — or impeccably narrated story — of alternating choices and chances creates a mosaic in bent space and time.

Once at the awakening destination, instead of a pile of postcards, photos, or posts to share, voyagers usually have only a few images, seldom remembered, or a couple of puzzles to decipher.

Now and then, though, barriers separating inner worlds are not that high or thick, enabling people to transport entire dreams on the other side.


Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholderinterpretation is in the mind of the dreamer.

One is left to deconstruct multifaceted dreams into meaningful messages as much or as often as desired or necessary — or possible.

Some voyagers believe those projections also represent God’s presence. To those devotees, dreams are among the most personalized instructions they can receive from the above and within. In a constructive debate, they quickly point to ancient scripts and individual experiences that — once you hear and objectively analyze, let alone live through — are difficult to label as illusions.

Others consider dreams as visits to the soul — the intangible 21 grams of spirituality that humanity is yet to explore and substantiate scientifically. They pull out serious books and discuss the intricate purpose of life, arguing there’s a reason people cannot remember dreams in full: The search for the soul is an everlasting quest for meaning, not about what we know but about what we don't know we know.


There are voyagers who consider dreams as nothing more than stories they wake up after and go on with their day, arguing that any other explanation may be way too heavy or complicated for a life that’s too short. Still, they effusively point out to déjà vu when it happens — I dreamed about this! — and unstoppably devote their intellectual acuity to the meaning of the whole sequence, at least for a while.

That’s the beauty of dreams — there is no right or wrong in how people perceive them: Who’s to tell the drop of water that it’s small or big when oceans are a multitude of drops?

Regardless of personal preferences to dreams…

Somewhere in the future — when the present becomes insight about the past — we may realize that those vivid projections, visions, and inner messages may also bear seeds of responsibility.

A Player As Storyteller

Not related to any voyager in particular — or perhaps the epitome of each one — a gambler, writer, and dreamer comfortably get-together at the casino’s lounge.

They have little in common, though they share so much, like similarities poles apart, sentenced to live a life in the same body, resembling a group of personalities rather than a person. 

Pondering on a narrow precipice of dreams where "probable impossibilities are to be preferred to improbable possibilities,” they recall shooting of the official video for U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For at Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas on April 12, 1987. 

The Joshua Tree album was released a month earlier, hit No. 1 on the top list very soon, and stayed there for nine weeks.

At the time…

The band was not even remotely part of stardom. The Joshua Tree Tour — the seminal undertake that propelled them over there — begun ten days earlier in Tempe, Arizona.

They were in Vegas to perform at the Thomas & Mack Center, in front of 8,673 fans. The concert was one of only four — out of 80 shows in the U.S. — that were not sell-outs.

Boys were cash-strapped to make a splashy video for the song, and the tasker came up as a last-minute job they had to deliver. Tomorrow, they’d be in San Diego, California.

Barry Devlin, a director of the spot, decided to film it amid a backdrop of land-based casinos on Fremont Street — at the heart of the downtown gambling corridor.

A gambler quotes Devlin on why he opted for this location: “For the obvious thematic hook of filming a video about searching for something to fill a void inside oneself in a city where thousands come to do just that.”


I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For is one of the most profound U2 songs — moving, inspiring, exposing — about missing part in an elusive riddle of yearning, and the pursuit of what one could become. Sometimes, some people, though not all, seek those answers while gambling.

Paul McGuiness, U2 manager at the time, considered the whole concept nuts and gave the crew two and a half hours to complete the session.

Limited by budget and time, Devlin improvised at large.

The spot was shot right after the concert at the Thomas & Mack Center. To avoid fans that would overwhelmingly disrupt the shot, he hired four look-alikes dressed up like band members that went by limo straight to the hotel. Crowds followed them while Bono, Edge, Adam, and Larry arrived on location in a laundry van.

Production restraints were ridiculous, similar to highly limited gambling bankrolls.

Devlin borrowed a shopping cart from a homeless man to push around the sound system. He used a wheelchair to stabilize Steadicam shots. There were only two key-lights available, so Devlin used casinos’ forefronts, city lights, and police motorcycles headlights for additional lightning. Instead of the stage, the band performed on the sidewalk. Pedestrians, players at slot machines, and people passing by acted as extras.

The camera filmed at a prolonged rate, six frames per second, in contrast to the standard twenty-four. In turn, this created a whirl of images and sounds, and blurred boundaries between the band and audience — resembling the relation between luck and skills patrons experience as they play any table game.

Everything else in the spot was about Las Vegas: People, casinos, and gambling.

A Writer As Gambler

Bono was interacting with onlookers, smooching girls, exchanging low-fives with the kids, hugging tourists, showing off cheerfully with casinos’ employees, climbing on top of a car hood at stoplights.

His three buddies had a slightly different experience.

Larry was without drumsticks (‘what am I doing here?’). Adam had enough after two choruses and took a rain check, leaving the set in a cab. Edge, playing the role of a guy busking for a living, was under constant pressure from Bono, who was instructed by Devlin to act as an overaggressive street preacher. (The look in Edge’s eyes at 3:09 is priceless, like, ‘this isn’t happening.’)

Devlin made the super low-tech video in one take, with only the essential crew at the set.

Upon release, the spot became an immediate sensation, garnering four nominations at the MTV awards. Two weeks later, U2 was on the cover of Time magazine.

By the end of The Joshua Tree Tour in December, the band became one of the greatest in the world.

To this day…

Video remains an iconic showcase of the world's gambling capital, offering a glimpse of an era that was soon to evolve as well.

Freemont Street is one of the most visible manifestations of Las Vegas, portrayed in every TV show or movie representing the lights and neon signs of the city.

(‘If you can’t dial-in its image at the moment, it’s one of those things you don’t know you know, but you do,’ writer chimes in and takes over, expanding the conversation beyond the piece in Las Vegas Review.)

It’s a historic place.

The street hosted the first hotel in the city in 1906. The first telephone in 1907, first paved street in 1925, first traffic lights and elevator in 1932, first gambling license in the state in 1936; the first structure designed as a casino from the ground up, the Golden Nugget, in 1946, and the first tallest building in Nevada in 1956, the Fremont Hotel.

There was no canopy above the street at the time U2 made the spot. Car traffic was still allowed between Main Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. The Coin Castle and Pioneer Casino — both featured in the video — have been closed in the meantime.

A Dreamer As… Lighthouse?

Vegas Vicki, a 25-foot neon sign depicting a seated cowgirl in a decorated outfit kicking her leg outward — yet another city icon featured in the spot — is no longer there.

She was erected in 1980 over the Girls of Glitter Gulch Strip Club but removed in 2017 as part of the club's demolition, which also included tearing down Mermaids Casino, La Bayou, and the Las Vegas Club.


Vicki ‘married’ Vegas Vic in 1994, in a ceremony to mark the launch of the Fremont Street Experience. Vic is another 40-foot neon sign, representing a friendly cowboy waving his arm and welcoming visitors of the Pioneer Club since 1951. He’s in video spot, too.

Although Las Vegas is also known as the divorce capital of the world, these two have no intention of splitting up.

Once Vicki’s restoration and facelift are over, she’ll be back. There’s no timeline at the moment, and the only question is where she’ll end up. The most likely choice is SlotZilla Zip Line though Vicki may also jut out over Main Street.

Four years after shooting their spot in Las Vegas…

U2 released Achtung Baby, which included the song named Acrobat.

The album and ensuing Zoo TV Tour are stories on their own, spectacles beyond recognition, and harbingers of a technological revolution that has everything to do with online gambling.

Among other things, Acrobat — with a name that resembles impressive feats of agility and balances each patron has to make to win over the casino — features lyrics “in dreams begin responsibilities.”

The copyright doesn’t belong to Bono here. Admittingly, he borrowed it from Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966), an American writer. It’s the name of Schwartz’s short story, published in 1937, labeled by The Observer as “a precociously brilliant account of an ill-fated courtship,” that represents the best piece of his writing career.

Building upon this…

The seeds of responsibilities that dreams plant into our subconsciousness may not grow at all or may become huge plants. A lot of things can happen between evoked sensations, desires, chances, potentials, experiences, capabilities, memories, fears, impossibilities, and courage.

Those seeds — especially in dreams we have while awake — may create tiny or huge responsibilities.

To some, dreams may be a reason to call someone or may represent a call to action. They may be sources of persistence: A few became billionaires or Olympic champions because they had faith in their own. Others wrote best-selling books based on visions projected onto lowered shades of their inner windows. At the same time, some couples ended up in ill-fated courtships pursuing their subconsciously stirred emotions.

Again, that’s the beauty of dreams: No particular rule there, we’re free to do as we please.


If we embrace that responsibility may exist within dreams — even to the smallest extent — by the time we get to explore fruits of their seeds, we may better understand what they represent and, most importantly, what we make of them.

So, let’s keep dreaming, but let’s consider the responsibility they may bear within.

Particularly if we pursue dreams in gambling — an entertaining activity intertwined with fun at the behest of players' skills and luck. And who knows, perhaps we can even build lighthouses out of responsibilities, helping us to navigate the oceans of our gambling consciousness even better.

Food for thoughts. And dreams.

“That’s the beauty of dreams — there is no right or wrong in how people perceive them”

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