Trio has candid discussion at film premiere
U2 always manages to find a way to reinvent itself. In 2023, we get that in multiple ways. The first two come on St. Patrick’s Day in the form of a Disney+ documentary film featuring Bono, The Edge and David Letterman, and a new reimagined catalog studio project, Songs of Surrender, featuring 40 seminal U2 songs from across the band’s catalog, re-recorded and reimagined. The third comes later this fall with a series of shows opening the MSG Sphere in Las Vegas that will focus on the 1991 album, Achtung Baby, arguably their first reinvention.
Disney, Bono, The Edge and Letterman premiered Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, with Dave Letterman in Los Angeles last night (Wed, Mar 8th). Last year, Letterman made his first trip to Ireland to join Bono and The Edge for a feverishly funny documentary film that not only tells the origins of U2, but also of their homeland. The part travel adventure and concert film also features Bono and The Edge performing some of the band’s biggest hits with Irish musicians in reimagined form as bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. were unavailable.
“The fun thing about this project is that no one knew about it,” The Edge shares about Songs of Surrender after the premiere. “No one expected it, so when we were started, we were free to just enjoy the process. It was very joyful. And I think without any pressure and expectation, we could lose ourselves in the songs. That’s how it is. Watching [Bono] sing and get back in touch with these songs was an amazing experience for me.”
“There’s a thing if the songs are any good, then they belong to people who need them the most,” Bono adds. “There’s sort of a selfish part to this project where we wanted to hear our own songs again, almost as if for the first time, and because the question of if they could survive the fire power of a big ole rock band at full force, we didn’t know the answer to that. Larry was playing a stand up [drum] kit. He was playing a lot of percussion. Adam sort of [playing] a very gentle bass on the recordings, but we couldn’t find them for filming, so we brought in some students from Music Generation and then these gifted Irish musicians — folk musicians, a lot of them. And then hearing them — hearing the songs through their ears, was a whole other experience.”
The docu-special focuses on the extraordinary relationship between Bono and The Edge and how it has developed across 45-plus years of close friendship and one of the most remarkable songwriting partnerships in the history of rock and roll. On stage, the pair discuss how their music is ever evolving.
“Songs are living, you know, and that’s what we always wanted to see when Bono was inspired to write new lyrics was that they are still potent. They are our boss. They tell us what to do,” The Edge shares.
“You hear people talk about songs as their children, but they’re not. They’re your parents. They tell you what to do. They tell you how to look, how to wear, who to work with,” Bono states.
“If you’re smart, you do what they tell you to do,” Edge replies.
Bono admits that he’s felt many of their songs were never completely finished when they were initially recorded.
“What a thrill to finish ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ all these years later. I could have never finished this song back then,” Bono says of the 40 year old track that appears on its 1983 War album. “We’re still chasing the dragon of the song we can’t get… The project gave us back our songs. Some of the lyrics I was embarrassed by but got to finish on this project.”
The concert footage was filmed in front of an intimate audience at the Ambassador Cinema building at the top of O’Connell Street on Dublin’s Northside. The performance is the first time U2 concert staples, such as “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Every Breaking Wave,” and “Invisible,” were performed in their reimagined state in front of an audience.
The 80-minute film also documents Dublin through Dave’s eyes as he experiences Bono and The Edge’s home city for the first time. The doc introduces “40 Foot Man,” a new song Bono and The Edge wrote after Letterman visited the popular Southern Ireland swimming destination, Forty Foot.
“Edge was up late working on the soundtrack and he brought it in,” Bono shares. “I had this idea of ’40 Foot Man.’ We put it together and we started writing it really quickly. And then, it could’ve gone away, but that’s the thing about The Edge as he will go into the studio and other people go down to the pub.”
“I just want to add here, show of hands. How many have had a world famous rock and roll band write a song about them?” Letterman quips to laughter. “When we were in the library and this was presented to me, I was stunned. I just thought, ‘Three o’clock in the morning and they’re writing a song about me.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, I’m glad that’s over,’ and then it turned out, ‘Oh no, it’s not over. It’s a real song.’ I can’t tell you what a lovely gesture and gift that is for me, so thanks again.”
Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, with Dave Letterman, from Disney Branded Television, is set to premiere globally on Disney+ on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, coinciding with U2’s highly anticipated album Songs Of Surrender.