The old man by the sea - Newspaper Kommersant No. 46 (7491) of 03/20/2023
On St. Patrick's Day, the new album by the Irish band U2 "Songs of Surrender" and the film directed by Morgan Neville "Bono and the Edge. Like returning home. With Dave Letterman. About how the American TV presenter came to Dublin and tried to understand the phenomenon of the main Irish group, tells Igor Gavrilov.
The idea of U2 to release a collection of "reimagined" versions of their songs caused skepticism among many listeners back in January, when the single "Beautiful Day" appeared (see "Kommersant" dated January 23). The song, which belongs to the number of U2's main stadium fighters, seemed to have had its back torn out. Although bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. were on the recording list for the Songs of Surrender album, guitarist Edge, who was in charge of producing it, kept their involvement to a minimum. The new versions of the songs are mellow interpretations of hit songs with lead piano and a rich string section. Most of the works now, according to The Guardian columnist, look like cover versions ordered for bank advertising.
For a small project, this might be interesting. But the only U2 recording that showed the band's greatness at short range was the theme from the 1996 movie Mission: Impossible with Tom Cruise. It was created precisely by the forces of Clayton and Mullen and has since been cited everywhere. And U2 in its entirety is always large forms. So "Songs of Surrender" consists of 40 songs. Each of the band members selected ten songs, and their list does not match, as one might expect, with the title of the book of memoirs by U2 vocalist Bono, Surrender, released in November 2022. "Songs of Surrender" is not a collection of the best songs, but the choice of the musicians themselves. It follows from the album's tracklist that they all consider the album "Songs of Innocence" (2014) to be the most underrated in the band's career. He is featured on Songs of Surrender more than any other. At one time, the Songs of Innocence album became the subject of a deal between U2 and Apple, which was estimated at no less than $100 million. On the day of release, free access to the album was opened in the iTunes online store.
U2 as a business empire is an interesting topic, but while recording and promoting "Songs of Surrender" as they did during "Songs of Innocence", they chose to bypass it, delve into their youthful memories and explore the roots of their friendship. Before the release of the album, they offered to talk about this to the American TV presenter David Letterman, for which they invited him to visit them in Dublin. At the same time, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. were not invited to the shooting.
The absence of Larry Mullen was explained by the state of his health. U2's most photogenic member has been known to miss playing with the band during a series of shows at Las Vegas' new Sphere venue due to joint problems. As for the bassist, Adam Clayton doesn't seem to care about U2. As stated at the beginning of the film, he is now busy with art-house cinema. Clayton recently made a film about Francis Bacon, and during the group's last public appearances, he looked like a real movie star and pulled all the attention of the public. The unbreakable friendship of four schoolmates has always been declared as one of the secrets of the success of the Dublin quartet, and the fact that a way to talk to all four was not found for the film about U2, led to sad reflections.
As Bono and The Edge prepared for the first performance of the new versions of the songs at the Ambassador Theatre, David Letterman wandered around Dublin with a cameraman trying to figure out the city's mysteries alone. A grey-bearded American, whose style of dress is nothing short of "hipster", discovers that there is no peanut butter in the local stores, tries to buy a cheese wheel, picks up hats for Bono and Edge, and chats with "walruses" on Dublin's Forty Foot Beach. All these urban sketches by comedian Letterman significantly reduce the pathos of history. Reducing the pathos - that's what (and not "rethinking") U2 should have done in the first place in the fifth decade of existence.
In ironically flippant dialogues with Bono and The Edge, David Letterman walks through the band's history step by step. Bono draws a rough map of the country on a clipboard and explains the conflict with Northern Ireland in simple terms. The film turns into a gripping tale of how the political and religious beliefs of young Dubliners become the driving force behind their music. With the same naive spontaneity, Letterman explores the very fabric of U2's songs. Letterman is older than Bono and Edge, but when Edge plays the intro to the hit "Where the Streets Have No Name" for a guest, Letterman sticks out the tip of his tongue in pleasure and then asks the guitarist to play again. And when Bono sings a new version of "Every Breaking Wave" to Letterman, the old man can't help but say, "It's like I've become a different person. I need to lay down." It is his teenage perception, this quivering and spontaneous joy from touching the music that saves the entire Surrender project from failure. After all, U2 remains a great band, even when they take wrong turns.
The best shots of the film "Bono and the Edge. As if returning home” were filmed during friendly gatherings in the McDaids pub. In fact, Bono and The Edge only play two songs there, "All I Want is You" and "Invisible", but it's in the pub atmosphere that the touching feeling is born that is lacking in the simplified and spineless songs of "Songs of Surrender". It comes from the fact that around Bono and the Edge in these scenes are the best Irish musicians. Here is Glen Hansard, to whom Letterman deservedly gave a lot of screen time in the film. Here is his partner in the legendary musical "Once" by Marketa Irglov, as well as Dermot Kennedy, Imelda May, Loa. There is a lot of human warmth in these shots, which warms Letterman later, in the finale, when he finally decides to plunge his 75-year-old body into the waters of the Irish Sea near Forty Foot. To the sound of U2's brand new song "Forty Foot Man", written in one night while filming.