SPECTACLE REPORT: ELVIS COSTELLO WITH… All New Season Kicks Off with Bono and The Edge

Elvis Costello performs with U2′s Bono and The Edge on SPECTACLE.

In 2001, a few weeks after the September 11th attacks had stunned the world, high in the sky somewhere between Montreal and Toronto, guitarist The Edge sat back in his seat on U2’s private “ElevationAir” jet and spoke to me about the band’s personal bonds. “We’re not like so many groups you hear about, where the members don’t ever talk offstage or out of the studio,” he said. “It’s not like that with us—quite the opposite. If we end up at a party, at the end of the night you’ll probably find the four of us off in a corner hanging out.”

Let’s set aside the musical contributions, the classic songs and unforgettable performances that U2 have delivered over the years. If you just consider their personal histories, these four Irishmen have boldly gone where no band has gone before. There has never been another group whose line-up has remained intact for over thirty years. Since forming in Dublin in 1976 at the Mount Temple Comprehensive School (a site the Edge revisited in the recent guitar documentary IT MIGHT GET LOUD), these same four guys have shared a stage all the way from drummer Larry Mullen, Jr.’s kitchen to sold-out stadiums around the globe.

Think of it for a minute—imagine yourself and three of your friends from high school, working together, creating art, and running a multi-million-dollar business for over three decades, and somehow remaining friends. As the Edge put it, “it’s a weird thing that a bunch of guys our age are essentially in the same street gang they got into when they were 17.”

Much of the reason for this unprecedented relationship is the fact that all four of the members are given responsibilities and territories of expertise within the U2 operation. We all know about Bono’s 24/7 existence as a frontman, activist, ambassador, and raconteur. When I recently spoke to Elvis Costello about his experience filming this episode, he said, “Bono and I talking would have been the Thrilla in Manila, just the two of us going at it—but fortunately we had the greatest straight man since Stan Laurel with us in the Edge, and I thought he came across just as interesting as Bono.”

The respect these bandmates have for each has always been palpable. In 1993, I interviewed Bono because he had won Rolling Stone’s readers’ poll as Best Singer of the Year, and one of the first things he asked was whether the Edge had been named Best Guitarist. Told that his comrade had actually placed second, Bono expressed his shock. “People are getting it the wrong way around,” he said. “I’m a good singer, he is a great guitar player. “