The heart is a bloom
Shoots up through the stony ground
There's no room
No space to rent in this town

The lyrics of U2's Beautiful Day speak to a different reality in 2023 than when the song was released over 2 decades ago, reflecting The Edge’s words on The Ryan Tubridy Show that a song is a living thing, revealing new depths of meaning with each performance. Ryan played the track from U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind just ahead of settling in for a Zoom chat with a very busy Edge about U2’s new album Songs of Surrender, playing in Ukraine and the band’s legendary cohesion, spanning almost 5 decades in the music business.

Lockdown was a productive time, Edge says, and it got him thinking about putting some of U2’s classic songs to the test, to see what would come of some rearrangements. He was inspired by the way in which certain songs like Every Breaking Wave or Staring at the Sun had evolved in a live context, but he says the plan to re-record 40 of their classics was an experiment:

"We’ve seen it work on a couple of classics when we would play them live: I’m thinking of songs like Every Breaking Wave or Staring at the Sun that ended up becoming iconic in their stripped-down version. So the theory was, could we do that to a song like Bad or like Pride? It was a bit of an experiment, to be honest."

After selecting 40 songs from their back catalogue and working on new arrangements, Edge says it was clear that once Bone started singing the risk was going to pay off. He says the band have forged a new relationship with these familiar songs:

"It’s still the same song in essence, but you might understand it in a different way, you might have a deeper sense of really what it’s communicating. That’s what I’ve discovered making the new arrangements in this collection is these songs have different dimensions and by presenting them this way I think people will fall in love with them all over again, which is kind of what happened to us."

The album Songs of Surrender reflects the band members’ growth as people; it’s personal, Edge says. A song like Stories for Boys means something different to them now than when it was released in 1980. The new album also recognises the way their music resonates with events beyond themselves, Edge explains:

"To make these lyrics reflect where we’re at today. Not just as people, but events. So, for instance, Walk On we rewrote with a sort of nod to Ukraine, because that’s what’s happening right now in our world, in our life, that we feel deserves a spotlight."

Ryan asked about U2’s performance last year in a metro station in Kyiv and Edge says it was pretty nerve-wracking. After a 12-hour train journey from Poland, it was a confronting experience:

"As we were drawing into the main station in Kyiv the sirens are going off, so you’re aware that this is a real war zone, it’s not pretend. We found out later the missiles had arrived to the city at that moment."

The Edge spoke about meeting President Zelensky and how the band witnessed the destruction wrought by the war, including a recent mass burial site of civilians. The visit left them with admiration for the Ukrainian people and for the leadership of President Zelensky:

"We left feeling that this is a united country, behind a just cause and I mean, it’s very hard, I can’t imagine the Ukrainian people and the military not prevailing in the end, because they are fighting for a completely different set of reasons"

The conversation turned to U2’s planned residency in Las Vegas towards the end of this year. It's happening at the brand new 4D state-of-the-art MSG Sphere and Edge says it’s a massive opportunity for U2 to do what they love – putting on a show that’s never been done before:

"That’s the thing that always gets U2 excited, is the idea that we’re breaking new ground. We’re innovating and finding a new way to present our music to our fans that marries great audio and the live experience with visuals that meet the songs and add a different layer of understanding to the material."

Ryan asked about the band’s legendary bond – what is it that keeps four individuals pulling in the same direction? Edge says it’s not exactly a democracy, they don’t vote on anything, but they have an ethos that serves them well:

"Within U2 it’s not equal, but we all have equal respect. We all do what we can and that varies hugely between the four members. We’re all important and we’re all given that credit of being a member and that means we’re all on the same level... What we do is we get behind what seems to be the prevailing sentiment. This seems to be what everyone wants to do – let’s get behind that."

The Edge talks more about U2’s working relationship, the documentary Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, With David Letterman and much more in the full interview here.

U2’s album Songs of Surrender is scheduled to be released on 17 March 2023.