Edge talks to Alan Niester of the Toronto Globe and Mail ahead of U2's Canadian shows.
It was December of 1980. A young reporter, trying to get his mind off John Lennon's recent murder, found himself at Toronto's El Mocambo Tavern watching a young Irish band. It hadn't released a record in North America, but was garnering serious buzz on the other side of the Atlantic.
It was named U2, and the writer the next day applauded the band's furious energy, calling it the most promising he had seen in years. Of special note was the incredible playing of the guitarist, nicknamed The Edge, whose technique had the cutting edge of a new razor.
"U2 could be the Led Zeppelin of the eighties," the review concluded. But it wasn't really all that prescient. Anyone in the room that night would have drawn the same conclusion.
It was an odd, little touch of fate that this clipping was stumbled over, reread for the first time in 20 years, mere days before the record company offered that self-same guitarist, Dave (The Edge) Evans for a telephone interview. And it seemed more perfect that it unfolded at a time when many have said the band has returned, to some degree at least, to a musical point not far off from where it had begun.
After years of being on the cutting edge (no pun intended) by incorporating dance, techno and roots elements into its mix, U2 seemed to be glancing backwards on the tellingly entitled All That You Can't Leave Behind.
"I think that tends to happen when you get to the end of a period of a decade or two," the 39-year old guitarist said from Columbus, Ohio, where the band is in the midst of its Elevation tour, which arrives in Toronto and Montreal this month.
"Although as a band we're not really prone to looking backwards, there is a kind of reassessment that goes on. I have to be honest with you, it's not been a feature of U2 over the years to look backwards, and I can't really say it's starting now. But we may have for the first time ever allowed some of the early signatures to come back into our current record.
"I wouldn't want to give anyone the impression that we were starting to get nostalgic, but I suppose that we are more comfortable now with our early years than we would have been 10 years or so ago, when we were so intent on, as we called it then, chopping down the Joshua Tree for good.
"Now I suppose that the dust has settled to some extent and that we can see the good and the not so good in our early work. We're more comfortable with it."
While no one would ever mistake All That You Can't Leave Behind for such transcendent earlier works as the initial Boy or the more fulfilled The Unforgettable Fire, there can be little doubt that the album is an attempt to get back to a simpler mode.
After a decade that saw the band changing colours like a chameleon, from the Bowie-esque Eurotrash of 1991's Achtung Baby to the techno shadings of 1997's Pop, a return to the anthemic grace of earlier works is a not-unwelcome respite.
And as the soft-spoken Edge points out (he speaks, incidentally, with only the slightest trace of the lilt that would connect him to his native Dublin) for many of the band's younger fans, this is itself a new direction.
"Our fans, by this point, are such a mixed bag of age groups. There are a lot of fans out here who have only been around for the past few records, and its great that we're connecting with them. But I think the older fans, those who have been around since the beginning, are making some connections with the early works. And I would say that one of the strengths of this tour is that the sound is a bit reminiscent of the first incarnation of the group."