2023’s St. Patrick’s Day is one like no other. Not only did a U2 album full of new versions of old songs drop (Songs of Surrender) — which I was fortunate enough to listen to early — but the new documentary, Bono and The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, with David Letterman, dropped on Disney+. Add U2 to the growing list of musicians, specifically rock stars, to have some sort of special drop on Disney+ — Elton John live-streamed his final US show on the streamer and has a documentary coming soon; The Beatles premiered the Get Back docuseries in 2021; and the Mary McCartney-directed documentary on the legendary Abbey Road Studios, If These Walls Could Sing, dropped a few months back.
A Sort of Homecoming, named after the opening track of U2’s 1984 album, The Unforgettable Fire, is a wonderful journey through the lens of David Letterman as he explores Dublin for the first time and talks to Bono and The Edge. Groundbreaking? No. But A Sort of Homecoming provides the type of history lesson and insight into the group that would make even the most adamant U2 hater reconsider that. It’s all brought together by the interwoven selections from a free show Bono and The Edge put on with some of their Irish friends that revisit their old songs and their new arrangements.
If you’re a U2 fan, there’s “nothing you can throw at me that I haven’t already heard,” as Bono once sang, in A Sort of Homecoming. In his interviews, Letterman covers the bases that any show on the “iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour” and its sequel tour already touched on — The Troubles, U2’s formation, their faith, etc. — but it’s certainly understandable that director Morgan Neville would want to include this for any non-U2 fans.
It’s the performances that really shine (like stars). While Bono and The Edge played it relatively safe with their song choices — most are songs the duo would play during promo appearances like “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of,” “Beautiful Day” and “One” — the new arrangements do breathe new life into them. In all fairness, I doubt many fans in attendance would want to hear the reworked renditions of “Two Hearts Beat As One” or “Red Hill Mining Town.”
Credit to Neville and his crew for the framing of these performances. A camera dolly circles Bono and The Edge as they perform, which looks quite cool, but the specific framing of the performance of “One,” which intimately gets Bono hovering above The Edge as he plays piano with a spotlight shining behind them, puts a nice spin on the Rattle & Hum album cover (even if it’s likely unintentional).
Outside of the performances, there are some snippets of Letterman as he wanders around Dublin speaking to locals and taking in the streets (with no name) that inspired many of the songs in U2’s catalog. While Letterman made a career out of being a good interviewer, it’s his down-to-earth interactions with the locals that really bring this whole documentary together and not the softball questions lobbed at Bono and The Edge.
To get personal, Bono was a star in the Sing 2 film a couple of years back. U2 contributed a song for the soundtrack, “Your Song Saved My Life” — which falls dead in the middle of their soundtrack contributions, never reaching the heights of other soundtrack songs like “Until the End of the World” and “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)” nor the lows of the likes of “The Hands That Built America” — perfectly encapsulates the beauty of U2. For many fans, U2 has saved their life. I know for myself, I was a freshman in college at a university I shouldn’t have gone through. I listened to the likes of Achtung Baby and Songs of Experience — their most recent release at that point — on repeat and wore my “eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour” hoodie everywhere I went. If it wasn’t for those songs like “Walk On” or “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” — two of the reworked songs on Songs of Surrender — I don’t know where I’d be.
And that’s why I believe that as the band gets older and the music/tours become even rarer, it’s appropriate to celebrate the little things (that give you away). As Bono’s son — who’s also the frontman of a talented band called Inhaler — sang, “it won’t always be like this,” and if you’re a U2 fan, cherish this moment. If you’re not, give A Sort of Homecoming a chance. Even if your opinion of U2 goes unchanged after watching it, just know that they’ll go on “With or Without You” (last one, I promise).
Bono and The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, with David Letterman is streaming on Disney+ now.