‘Bono & The Edge’: Odd but interesting special teams U2 duo with cranky David Letterman

As the musicians show off Dublin and perform beautiful reimaginings of their hits, their funny fan provides some levity — and a big finish.

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The Edge (left) and Bono from U2 are interviewed in Dublin by David Letterman on the Disney+ special.


As we watch the two most prominent members of U2 return to the roots of their songs and the roots of their lives for the Disney+ special “Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, With Dave Letterman” one question immediately pops into mind:

What the hell is Letterman doing with them?

To be sure, the post-late-night Dave, now 75, has proved to be a master of the substantial, long-form interview in the Netflix series “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” and we know he’s capable of sublimating the cynicism and easy wisecrack in certain situations. And yes, Letterman is a big U2 guy (he once had the band on for an entire week’s worth of shows) — but this is one odd albeit sometimes charming duck of a documentary. Bono and The Edge and … Dave!?

‘Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, With Dave Letterman’


A special available Friday on Disney+

Making his first visit to Dublin and looking like a 19th century Irish writer with his long beard and glasses, Letterman wanders about town and mixes with the locals, who seem greatly amused and taken with him, and spends quality time with Bono and The Edge for sit-down interviews in which the musicians speak candidly and thoughtfully about their early days in Dublin, their enduring friendship and the ups and downs of being global rock superstars. (Percussionist Larry Mullen Jr. was injured and unavailable, and bass player Adam Clayton was “off making an art film,” as Bono puts it.)

“We wanted to strip away … the artifice that inevitably emerges after you’ve been around this long,” says Bono, in that Bono way of his that makes you think, My goodness he loves listening to himself, but also, My goodness he’s fantastic. (One of the many, many Bono/God jokes long in circulation: “What’s the difference between God and Bono? God doesn’t wander around Dublin thinking he’s Bono.”)

Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville (“20 Feet From Stardom”) paints modern-day Dublin in vibrant, gorgeous colors, and nimbly alternates between the interviews, scenes of the gangly Letterman taking a U2 Walking Tour and interacting with merchants (“I’m interested in a wheel of cheese. … I’ve never purchased a wheel of cheese”) — and most prominent and memorable of all, footage from a concert at the Ambassador Theatre in Dublin, where Bono and The Edge perform stripped-down versions of classics such as “Invisible,” “One,” “Vertigo” and “Bad,” in advance of the St. Patrick’s Day release of “Songs of Surrender,” U2’s reimagining of 40 of the band’s best-known tunes. The performance numbers are simply beautiful.

When The Edge describes and demonstrates how he creates music, it’s mesmerizing. At one point Bono says, semi-jokingly, “The thing I don’t like about Edge is he doesn’t need me. He could be doing all of this — writing, singing, performing … on his own. But he doesn’t.”

We see a treasure trove of old pictures and clips, as the lads talk about how their early days (“We had no aspirations beyond something fun to do on a Saturday afternoon,” says The Edge) as they were coming into their own just as Dublin was experiencing its own awakening, “going from black and white to color,” as Bono puts it.

When Letterman asks if Bono has had conflicts with his bandmates and embarrasses them with his various causes, Bono said, “Yes, I do. My activism … is fairly un-hip work.” (And yet that activism is also pretty damn cool, as when we see footage from a few years back with U2 welcoming drag queen and activist Panti Bliss onstage to celebrate strides Ireland had made in the social and political arena, and Bliss cracks, “This might be the straightest audience I’ve ever played to.”)

Relatively late in the film, Bono and The Edge, and yes, Dave, visit a tavern and join talents such as Grian Chatten, Loah and Glenn Hansard (best known from the movie “Once”), the latter having already shared some great insights about Ireland and music with Dave. With pints of Guinness aligned on every table, we hear the loveliest rendition of “All I Want Is You” one could ever hope to hear.

It’s also fascinating to hear Bono talk of changing the lyrics to certain songs, e.g., “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” with “And today the millions cry” becoming, “Why so many mothers cry,” and “We eat and drink while tomorrow they die,” becoming, “Is religion now the enemy of Holy Spirit guide?”

“Isn’t it a thrill to finish ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ all these years later?” he says.

Meanwhile, there’s cranky but contemplative ol’ Dave, making a pilgrimage to The Forty Foot promontory at Sandycove, County Dublin, where locals have been diving into the often-bracing waters of the Irish Sea for decades. (If you watched the Apple TV+ series “Bad Sisters,” you know The Forty Foot.) There’s no way Dave is going into that water, at least not the first time he visits. These people are nuts!

Ah, but before the special is over, Bono & and The Edge will have composed a song about Dave titled, “Forty Foot Man,” and Dave makes a return visit and plunges right in. It’s not as if Letterman becomes the Fifth U2 Member by the end of the journey, but we’ve come to understand on some level why Bono & the Edge invited him to Dublin.

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