There’s a scene in “Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming with Dave Letterman” which left me frankly confused.
The documentary directed by the Oscar winner Morgan Neville (”20 Feet From Stardom”) is already well underway. We are in bright, sunny and idyllic Dublin as half of U2 prepare to present a revised and updated version of their repertoire all‘Ambassador Theatre. A contained audience, warm lights and an intimate accompaniment made up of a few voices and orchestral instruments: that kind of live. The rock songs of U2, stripped of rock and frills.
To accompany us behind the scenes of the‘event is David Lettermana lively 75-year-old who arrives in Dublin for the first time. US conductor a bit‘ does the fan of U2, interviewing them and being told about the beginnings of the band and its connection with the city, a bit‘ he is a tourist by chance. There is no shortage of usual tragic exits from an American not from the world guy I would like a hat for a head more or less this big mimicking the measure o with your hands I would like to buy a‘whole wheel of cheese, because it’s the first time I’ve done it in my life.
Bono’s drawings on tablets: U2 explained to young people?
The subject of the documentary itself (a band with several decades d‘activity behind) and the discourse mediator (a conductor who has achieved the popularity peak over the years ‘90) suggest a mature audience.
Yet Disney usually addresses its documentary-musical operations to an audience of very young people. Just an example. L‘last release “music” on the Disney+ platform in chronological order was Miley Cyrus – Endless Summer Vacation (Backyard Sessions)entirely dedicated to Miley Cirus and her latest album (here the Endless Summer Vacation review). U2 documentary it seems to be aiming at a different kind of audienceby age speaking.
Instead, out of nowhere Bono Vox starts pulling out a tablet and drawing a‘Ireland stylized and a bit‘ crookedbriefly explaining the delicate issue relating to the border between Northern Ireland and the rest of‘Island, IRA and so on. Whose prodest? The obvious answer would be the distracted US public, to which a good refresher on history outside its borders never hurts.
However the musical history and biography of U2 is so intrinsically linked to Dublin, all‘Ireland, on the bloody Sunday of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” that it is difficult to believe that a Bono drawing is needed. On a tablet then, which was already there at hand.
The more the documentary unrolled before my eyes the more the suspicion that you are trying to explain U2 to those who have only the vaguest idea of who they are it makes its way into me. Without missing out on the historical fans along the way, of course.
God, Dublin and Activism: A Nimble U2 Handbook
This is the main limitation of “Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming with Dave Letterman”: be a documentary that he doesn’t make a clear decision about what to tell and who to tell. It’s not a‘easy task, considering the size d‘topics that a band like U2 provides. Precisely for this reason, however, it was essential to do so. Instead the‘effect “mix” was unfortunately not avoided.
When starting the film, the cut seems precise: tell the beginnings of U2 and their relationship with Dublin. Except then follow Letterman who is a tourist by chance, and then return to U2 who rehearse their revised and corrected songs.
Indeed, alone the cooler half of U2. In fact, the protagonists are Bono and The Edge, the most famous part of the quartet. The other two U2s are more or less justified absent: Larry Mullen Jr. is injured, Adam Clayton is busy shooting a film d‘author, explains Bono offhandedly. With a touch of malice, it must be admitted that their absence goes unnoticed. So we have half of U2 to tell the‘entire history of the quartet. The most representative half, in all honesty.
In this picture S‘inserts David Letterman, whose role benefits him personally more than the documentary. The conductor is from time immemorial a fan of the band and is known as an interviewer capable of make awkward admissions from its subjects d‘investigation. A bit‘ as they fan a bit‘ as a guest d‘honor, Letterman goes there with lead feet and velvet gloves.
It seems more like Bono himself in the mood for admissions and atonements. Among the most incisive moments of the 85 minutes of the doc is the one in which he admits that the other band members had to endure his activism, sometimes undergo it, when associated with it‘image of U2 to characters not too welcome. Bono explains:
“I was willing to exchange the current currency that the fame of the group gave me for my causes and they supported my démodé activism”.
Later, on stage a‘performance in full MTV Unplugged style, Bono explains that the side he really can’t stand about The Edge is that “he could do it all by himself: write, play, perform. Yet he doesn’t” and The Edge comments: “it’s much more fun that way “.
Close-ups of younger audiences thrilled by new versions of ‘Bad’, ‘One’, ‘Vertigo’, ‘Invisible’ and other U2 hits, mixed with a‘marked attention to recounting the band’s Dublin beginnings seem to be looking to an audience that needs a‘general smattering on the band.
Indicative in this sense is how we take care to collect, among the many, the testimony of‘activist and drag queen Panti Bliss, whose story places Bono and the others on the right side of queer history, giving way to tell the social change underway in the‘former Catholic Ireland.
At times though the doc seems to speak only to the fans, addressing recent issues. Most of the dialogues with Letterman focus on‘influence that the Irish religious conflict played in the beginnings of the band that reality there‘sung by‘other part of‘Atlantic. Not only: Bono also explores his own spirituality, explaining what the‘led to changing the lyrics of iconic songs like “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. A piece for which the term “historical” is appropriate, yet for Bono it was necessary to “strip away (…) the artificiality that inevitably emerges after you’ve been on the scene for so long”.
Quest‘an operation of naked sincerity in intent it is difficult to find it in the result, the montage of “Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming with Dave Letterman”. Yet the documentary it is not without a certain candorsometimes disconcerting. We are not from the parts of epochal musical documentaries, but an excellent production, a great availability of means and a Dublin recapone on the beginnings of U2 interspersed with excellent live performances are worth watching.
It’s a pity that “Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming with Dave Letterman” did not know choose more carefully which U2 story to tell and to whom. In the end, the winner is David Letterman, whose very presence in the documentary raises more than one perplexity. At the end of the film he goes home to the United States even with an unreleased song by U2 that Bono and The Edge they wrote especially for him. Maybe there‘ultimate VIP experience at a concert.
Where to see “Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming”? Disney+
How long is “Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming”? 85 minutes
When was “Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming” released? March 17, 2023