I am a fan of many things: TV shows such as The Wire, The West Wing and Top Chef; cheesy teen movies from the 80s, Pride and Prejudice (in both book and movie/mini-series form); pizza from Lombardi’s in New York City; Sephora. But no fandom has been more enduring or more profound in my life than my love for U2.
When I was fourteen years old, I “fell in love” with a boy who had just discovered Achtung Baby, widely hailed as the second masterpiece in U2’s canon. And like any teenage girl with a crush, I devoted myself to the interests of the object of my affection. But where my interest in the boy ended, my love for Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. has endured. Now, years later, I am still a U2 fan. I have traveled many miles to see the band perform, and have made lifelong friendships with other U2 fans in the process.
It Might Get Loud, the guitar documentary by Davis Guggenheim was made for devoted fans. The film centers around three aficionados of rock music: Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, Jack White of The White Stripes (and The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather) … and David Howell Evans, better known as U2’s lead guitarist, The Edge.
It Might Get Loud is a love letter to the guitar, but also to those who make it sing. Though all three of these musicians have different approaches to their craft, there is no denying their contributions to music. The Edge has received no small amount of criticism over the years for relying heavily on the technology to produce the sounds that he does, but he doesn’t deny this reliance. There is a segment during It Might Get Loud when he plays the chords from “Elevation”, first using the echo delay that is so prominent in U2’s music and then without it. He pokes fun at himself when he talks about how simple the riff really is. And it is. But he is certainly not the first or the last to take advantage of what technology can do. In another interesting segment, Jimmy Page discusses the birth of the Led Zeppelin classic “Stairway to Heaven”, describing how the complexity of the song necessitated the production of the double-necked guitar they needed in order to play the song live.
Meanwhile, White butts heads somewhat with technology, particularly in an early moment of the film when he builds a guitar out of some scrap materials.
Despite their different approaches, music today would not be what it is without these men, and without the guitar. Though music will continue to evolve, there is no doubt in my mind that it will continue to need men like these: who are willing to bend the rules, to play with the tools at their disposal and to look forward to the future while respecting the past.