“For me, music and songwriting is heart surgery,” reveals Bono in A Sort of Homecoming with David Letterman. The documentary on U2, airing on Disney+, is a partial visual dissection into a portion of the band’s new album, Songs of Surrender.
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Part comedy, with the former Late Show host making his very first journey (ever) to Ireland to meet U2’s Bono and The Edge, the documentary is also a partial narrative of the band’s journey over the past 45-plus years together and how they revisited 40 of their songs and made them new again.
Featuring only two members of U2—drummer Larry Mullen was recovering from surgery and bassist Adam Clayton was making an “art film,” according to Bono—the duo made sure to thank their bandmates by the end of the film for “letting us go rogue on this one.”
Touched up by Letterman’s subtle comedic bits—including his visit to the Forty Foot, a frigid promontory on the southern tip of Dublin Bay where swimmers regularly dive—the film follows the more serious and sentimental beginnings of the band, starting from 1976 at Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin where all four first met, and revolves around the story and transformation of some of their songs.
Part concert film, the documentary portion features interviews with Bono and Edge, along with Irish artists, including Glen Hansard, producer Jimmy Iovine, and a number of other artists and friends linked to the band over the years, along with performances by the Bono and The Edge at the Ambassador Theatre in Dublin.
The film is a visual accompaniment to the Songs of Surrender, which features 40 of the band’s songs. Beginning with “One,” from the 1992 album Achtung Baby, the album appropriately closes on “40,” off their third album War, and is broken up into four parts with 10 songs, each under a different band member’s name.
Produced and curated by The Edge, the tracks on Songs of Surrender were revisited, rearranged—and partially rewritten—to reflect the band now. “Part of me wanted to hear them as if it were the first time,” says The Edge in the film.
Bono adds, “We wanted to strip away the artifice that inevitably emerges after you’ve been around this long.”
A Sort of Homecoming scratches the exterior of Songs of Surrender and a greater catalog of stories by U2 and spends time on the origins of one of the band’s most poignant songs, “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” and its updated closing lyrics—with And today the millions cry becoming Why so many mothers cry, and the closing To claim the victory Jesus won turned into the question Where is the victory Jesus won.
“Isn’t it a thrill to finish ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ all these years later?” says Bono.
Moving through performances of new altered versions of “Vertigo,” “One,” and “Beautiful Day,” among others featured on the album, there’s a break around the band’s 2014 Songs of Innocence track “Every Breaking Wave,” and Bono re-recording the vocals for the song.
“Sometimes you just started the song, and it might take 20 years to finish it,” says Bono of “Every Breaking Wave.” He adds, “But then you realize, this song has been waiting for this moment.”
Towards the end, the band gathers a sing-along of musicians at McDaid’s Pub in Dublin with Bono and The Edge joined by Hansard, along with Imelda May, Dermot Kennedy, Saint Sister, Grian Chatten of Fontaines D.C, and a recording of the band’s new song “Forty Foot Man,” written by the duo for Letterman, 75, who ultimately returns to Forty Foot and takes a dive in.
Watch ‘A Sort of Homecoming’ HERE.
Photo: Han Myung-Gu/WireImage