Watch Bono and the Edge perform reworked U2 classics using just an acoustic guitar and an Orange practice amp

To mark the release of U2’s Songs Of Surrender, a studio album that revisits some 40 tracks from the band’s catalogue and reworks them as more intimate arrangements, Bono and the Edge dropped by NPR for a very special Tiny Desk concert. 

They performed a quartet of tracks on acoustic guitar – all from 2000’s All You Can’t Leave Behind – accompanied only by the voices of a teen choir from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. All of which is very much in keeping with the ethos behind Songs Of Surrender. 

The Edge alternates between a Martin D-18 and a 000-18 tuned in open E throughout, and appears to be running both of them mic’d up and through an Orange Crush 35T guitar amp – an unorthodox choice of amplification but for a compact show in an office, why not? No need to get too precious with the tones, and the Crush 35T is one of the best combos you can get for £229 street. 

It gives the power chords in A Beautiful Day a bit of great, just what it needs. Besides, this was an occasion that is all about finding the chords and making do and having fun. “All these years trying to avoid a desk job but actually it’s really [okay]. I love it,” joked the Edge. “I’m getting into it.”

For a pair of artists who defined the arena and stadium rock show in the early ‘90s with giga-watt multi-media presentations, this live performance was a change of pace, and clearly a welcome one. On record or on the stage, U2’s sound can be high-concept and a work of spectacle. But this was a chance to show how their songwriting can be upscaled or downscaled to accommodate different interpretations. 

In MusicRadar’s lesson 5 ways to play like the Edge, the focus is on electric guitar, and on his famous man-and-machine approach to the delay pedal, dialling in dotted eighth notes for his signature sound, adding overdrive to delay for those crispy arpeggios that punctuate so many of his compositions. 

Songs Of Surrender, which serves as a companion piece to Bono’s memoir, goes easy on the percussion, and stripping everything back to build upon the foundations of the song. But there is still synth. There’s still the sheen of a box-office production even if that gloss is applied to something more ambient. But here, these tracks are all acoustic. 

A Beautiful Day is followed by In A Little While, the first time the track has been ever performed acoustically, and Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of, before the duo close the set out with Walk On, which is dedicated to the people of Ukraine.

“We were sitting around a year ago, the Edge and I, and we were working on these songs, which are now called Songs Of Surrender, and they are reimaginings, reworkings or early U2 songs – reimagined for the moment we are in,” says Bono “And the moment we were in that day, a war was breaking out in Ukraine, and a stand-up comedian was standing up to the bully that was Vladimir Putin. Standing up for freedom. So we rewrote our song, Walk On, for him and for the upstanding people of Ukraine, and we are going to play it for you now.”

Songs Of Surrender is out now via Interscope.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.