The Edge

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The Edge
The Edge during U2's Experience + Innocence Tour in 2018
The Edge during U2's Experience + Innocence Tour in 2018
Background information
Birth nameDavid Howell Evans
Born (1961-08-08) 8 August 1961 (age 59)
Barking, Essex, England
OriginDublin, Ireland
GenresRock, post-punk, alternative rock
Occupation(s)Musician, singer, songwriter
InstrumentsGuitar, keyboards, vocals
Years active1976–present
LabelsIsland, Mercury
Associated actsU2, Passengers, Bono

David Howell Evans (born 8 August 1961), better known by his stage name the Edge (or simply Edge),[1] is a British-born Irish musician and songwriter best known as the lead guitarist, keyboardist, and backing vocalist of the rock band U2. A member of the group since its inception, he has recorded 14 studio albums with them as well as one solo record. The Edge's understated style of guitar playing, a signature of U2's music, is distinguished by chiming timbres, use of rhythmic delay, drone notes, harmonics, and an extensive use of effects units.

The Edge was born in England to a Welsh family, and was raised in Ireland after the Evans family moved there. In 1976, at Mount Temple Comprehensive School he formed a band with his fellow students and elder brother Dik that would evolve into U2. Inspired by the ethos of punk rock and its basic arrangements, the group began to write its own material. They eventually became one of the most successful acts in popular music, with albums such as 1987's The Joshua Tree and 1991's Achtung Baby. Over the years, the Edge has experimented with various guitar effects and introduced influences from several genres of music into his own style, including American roots music, industrial music, and alternative rock. With U2, the Edge has also played keyboards, co-produced their 1993 record Zooropa, and occasionally served as co-lyricist. The Edge met his second wife Morleigh Steinberg through her collaborations with the band.

As a member of U2 and as an individual, the Edge has campaigned for human rights and philanthropic causes. He co-founded Music Rising, a charity to support musicians affected by Hurricane Katrina. He has collaborated with U2 bandmate Bono on several projects, including songs for Roy Orbison and Tina Turner, and the soundtracks to the musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and the Royal Shakespeare Company's London stage adaptation of A Clockwork Orange. As a member of U2, the Edge has won 22 Grammy Awards and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Several music publications have ranked the Edge among the greatest guitarists of all time.

Early life[edit]

David Howell Evans was born at the Barking Maternity Hospital,[2] in the county of Essex in England, on 8 August 1961. He is the second child of Welsh parents Garvin and Gwenda Evans,[1] both of whom originated from Llanelli, a coastal town in South Wales. Garvin was an engineer who worked for the local electricity board, and subsequently worked for the electronics company Plessey.[1] The Edge has an elder brother Richard (often called Dik) and a younger sister called Gillian.[1] The Evanses initially lived in Chadwell Heath, Essex. Around 1962, Garvin was offered a promotion and a transfer at his job, and the family subsequently moved to County Dublin, Ireland for him to take it.[1]

During his childhood in Dublin he possessed two differing accents to converse in, Welsh and Irish English, the former being used when he was in the family home and the latter when he was outside; as he later explained: "The reason for this dual identity was mainly to be understood by my peers but also to be accepted."[1]

He received his initial formal education at St. Andrew's National School, in Malahide. As a child, he also received piano and guitar lessons, and practised music with Dik. The Edge received his first guitar at the age of seven when his mother bought him a Spanish guitar. He did not know how to properly tune it or hold it and referred to it as "little more than a toy", but he was fascinated by how cool it was. At the age of nine, the "first proper guitar" came to the Evans household when the Edge's mother purchased an old acoustic guitar at a jumble sale for a pound. He and Dik both experimented with this instrument, replacing the rusty wire strings with nylon ones and learning to properly play it.[1] The Edge said in 1982 of this early experimentation, "me and my elder brother Dik both played it, plonking away, all very rudimentary stuff, open chords and all that."[3]

Musical career[edit]


The Edge performing at a U2 concert in Belfast in 2015

While the Evans brothers were at Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin in 1976, they went along to a meeting in response to an advert posted by another pupil, Larry Mullen Jr., on the school's noticeboard seeking musicians to form a new band with him. Among the several other pupils who also responded to the note were Paul "Bono" Hewson and Adam Clayton.[4] The band went through a number of reformations before becoming known as U2 in March 1978 (Richard Evans having left before this to join another band, leaving his younger brother as the lead guitarist).[5]

Early in the band's career, Evans was given the nickname "the Edge" by members of the Lypton Village surrealist street gang to which Bono belonged. The nickname is commonly believed to be derived from the angular shape of Evans' head.[6][7] However, the origin of the name is disputed and other theories include a description of his guitar playing and his preference for not becoming fully involved and therefore remaining on the edge of things.[8]

U2 began its public performance life in small venues in Dublin in 1977, occasionally playing at other venues elsewhere in Ireland. In December 1979, they performed their first concerts outside Ireland, in London, and in 1980 began extensive touring across the British Isles, developing a following. Their debut album Boy was released in 1980.

In 1981, leading up to the October Tour, Evans came very close to leaving U2 for religious reasons, but he decided to stay.[9] During this period he became involved with a group called Shalom Tigers, in which bandmates Bono and Larry Mullen Jr. were also involved.[10] Shortly after deciding to remain with the band, he wrote a piece of music that later became "Sunday Bloody Sunday".[9]

Other musical pursuits[edit]

The Edge performing in 2009

In addition to his regular role within U2, the Edge has also recorded with such artists as Johnny Cash, B. B. King, Tina Turner, Ronnie Wood, Jah Wobble, Holger Czukay, Jay-Z, and Rihanna. The Edge connected with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois collaborator Michael Brook (the creator of the infinite guitar, which he regularly uses), working with him on the score to the film Captive (1986). From this soundtrack the song "Heroine", the vocal of which was sung by a young Sinéad O'Connor was released as a single.

He also created the theme song for season one and two of The Batman. He and fellow U2 member Bono wrote the theme of the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye. The Edge, along with Bono, composed a musical adaptation of Spider-Man. On 25 May 2011, a single titled "Rise Above 1" by Reeve Carney featuring Bono and the Edge was released digitally.[11] The music video was released on 28 July 2011.[12]

In 2008, the Edge participated in the Davis Guggenheim-directed documentary film It Might Get Loud. The film examines the history of the electric guitar, focusing on the careers and styles of the Edge, Jimmy Page, and Jack White. The film premiered on 5 September 2008 at the Toronto International Film Festival

On 29 April 2016, the Edge performed in the Sistine Chapel as part of a conference for the Angiogenesis Foundation, making him the first rock artist to stage a concert at the site.[13]

Musical style[edit]

"Notes actually do mean something. They have power. I think of notes as being expensive. You don't just throw them around. I find the ones that do the best job and that's what I use. I suppose I'm a minimalist instinctively. I don't like to be inefficient if I can get away with it. Like on the end of 'With or Without You'. My instinct was to go with something very simple. Everyone else said, "Nah, you can't do that." I won the argument and I still think it's sort of brave, because the end of 'With or Without You' could have been so much bigger, so much more of a climax, but there's this power to it which I think is even more potent because it's held back... ultimately I'm interested in music. I'm a musician. I'm not a gunslinger. That's the difference between what I do and what a lot of guitar heroes do."

—The Edge in 1991[14]

Guitar playing[edit]

The Edge's style of playing guitar is distinguished by his chiming timbres,[15][16] echoing notes,[17] sparse voicings,[18] and extensive use of effects units.[19] He favours the perfect fifth interval and often plays chords consisting of just two notes, the fifth and the root note, while eliminating the third.[20][21] This style is not explicitly in a minor or major key, but implies both, creating a musical ambiguity.[20][17] For these chords, he often plays the same notes on multiple strings, some which are left open, creating an Irish-influenced drone.[16][22][23] Against this drone, he changes other notes to imply a harmony.[24][25] Among the Edge's signature techniques are playing arpeggios,[26][24] sixteenth note percussive strumming,[27] and harmonics,[20] the latter of which he described as "so pure and finely-focused that [they have] the incredible ability to pierce through [their] environment of sound, just like lightning".[23] The Edge takes a relatively understated approach to guitar playing, viewing notes as "expensive" and preferring to play simple parts that best serve their song.[28] He eschews virtuosity in favour of "atmospherics, subtlety, minimalism, and clever signal processing", according to Guitar Player.[29] Rather than emulate common playing styles, the Edge is interested in "tearing up the rule book" and finding new ways to approach the instrument.[17] He cited guitarists such as Tom Verlaine of Television, Rory Gallagher, and Patti Smith as some of his strongest influences.[30][23]

The Edge playing his signature guitar, the Gibson Explorer

The Edge's guitar sound is frequently modulated with a delay effect set to a dotted eighth note for rhythmic effect.[16][31][32] After acquiring his first delay pedal, the Electro-Harmonix Memory Man,[33] he became fascinated with how to use its return echo to "fill in notes that [he's] not playing, like two guitar players rather than one".[34] The effect unit became a mainstay in his guitar rig and had a significant impact on the band's creative output.[33] The Edge became known for his extensive use of effects units, and for his meticulous nature in crafting specific sounds and guitar tones from his equipment choices.[19][35] Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page called him a "sonic architect",[34] while Neil McCormick described him as an "effects maestro".[36] Critics have variously referred to the Edge's guitar sounds as evoking the image of fighter planes on "Bullet the Blue Sky",[37] resembling a "dentist's drill" on "Love Is Blindness",[38] and resembling an "airplane turbine" on "Mofo".[39] The Edge said that rather than using effects merely to modify his sound, he uses them to spark ideas during his songwriting process.[31]

The Edge developed his playing style during his teenage years, partially as a result of him and Mullen trying to accommodate the "eccentric" bass playing of Clayton by being the timekeepers of the band.[20] In their early days, the Edge's only guitar was his 1976 Gibson Explorer Limited Edition,[31][40] which became a signature of the group.[41] However, he found the sound of the Explorer's bass strings unsatisfactory and avoided them in his playing early on, resulting in a trebly sound. He said by focusing "on one area of the fretboard [he] was developing a very stylized way of doing something that someone else would play in a normal way".[3] Other equipment choices contribute to the Edge's unique sound. His 1964 Vox AC30 "Top Boost" amplifier (housed in a 1970s cabinet) is favoured for its "sparkle" tone, and is the basis for his sound both in the studio and live.[35] The Edge has also used plectrums manufactured by the German company Herdim that he turns sideways or upside down so the dimpled grip strums against the strings, resulting in a "rasping top end" to his guitar tone.[17]

About his playing style, the Edge said in 1982:

"I like a nice ringing sound on guitar, and most of my chords I find two strings and make them ring the same note, so it's almost like a 12-string sound. So for E I might play a B, E, E and B and make it ring. It works very well with the Gibson Explorer.


The Edge singing backing vocals into a headset microphone in 2019

The Edge provides the backing vocals for U2. Their 1983 live album and video release, Under a Blood Red Sky and U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky are good reference points for his singing (as are the live DVDs from the Elevation Tour, U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle and Elevation 2001: Live from Boston). For example, he sings the chorus to "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (Bono harmonises on the final 'Sunday'). U2 used this tradeoff technique later in "Bullet the Blue Sky" as well. His backing vocals are sometimes in the form of a repeated cry; examples of songs that use this approach include "Beautiful Day", "New Year's Day" and "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)". Another technique he uses in his backing vocals is the falsetto, in songs such as "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of", "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own", "A Man and a Woman", "The Wanderer", live versions of "The Fly", and "Window in the Skies".

The Edge sings the lead vocal on "Van Diemen's Land" and "Numb", the first half of the song "Seconds", dual vocals with Bono in "Discotheque", and the bridge in the song "Miracle Drug".[10] He also sings the occasional lead vocal in live renditions of other songs (such as "Sunday Bloody Sunday" during the PopMart Tour and "Party Girl" during the Rotterdam Zoo TV show when it was Bono's birthday),[42] and has sung the second verse of the "Stand by Me" cover on a few shows. A solo acoustic version of the song "Love is Blindness", that is featured in the documentary film From the Sky Down, is sung by him as well.

Other instruments[edit]

He has played keyboards on many of the band's songs, including "I Fall Down", "October", "So Cruel", "New Year's Day", "Running to Stand Still", "Miss Sarajevo", "The Hands that Built America", and "Original of the Species" and others. In live versions of "New Year's Day", "The Unforgettable Fire", "Your Blue Room", "Moment of Surrender" and "Raised By Wolves", he plays both the piano and guitar parts alternately. In most live versions of "Original of the Species," piano is the only instrument played during the song. Although the Edge is the band's lead guitarist, he occasionally plays bass guitar, including the live performances of the song "40" where the Edge and bassist Adam Clayton switch instruments.


The Edge playing a Fender Stratocaster on the Zoo TV Tour in 1993

The Edge plays electric guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards, piano, bass guitar (on "40" and "Race Against Time") and lap steel guitar. Detailed gear diagrams of the Edge's U2 guitar rig for the 1981 October Tour,[43] the 1983 War Tour,[44] and the 2009 U2 360° Tour[35] are well-documented. In 2016, Fender unveiled a signature model of guitar and amplifier designed in collaboration with the Edge: the Edge Signature Stratocaster and the Fender Edge Deluxe, respectively.[45]

Personal life[edit]

Evans was brought up as a Protestant Christian,[46] and was, along with fellow band members Bono and Mullen, involved with non-denominational Christian group the Shalom Fellowship as an adult.[47]

Evans married his secondary school girlfriend Aislinn O'Sullivan on 12 July 1983.[48] They have three daughters: Hollie (born in 1984), Arran (in 1985) and 'Blue Angel' (in 1989).[10] The couple separated in 1990, but were unable to get legally divorced because of Irish laws regarding marriage annulment at the time; divorce was legalised in 1995, and the couple legally divided in 1996.[10]

In 1993, he began dating Morleigh Steinberg, an American professional dancer who was employed by the band as a choreographer and on-stage belly dancer during the Zoo TV Tour. They have a daughter, Sian (born 1997), and a son, Levi (born 25 October 1999). The couple were married in 2002.[10]

Evans has been criticised for his efforts to build five luxury mansions on a 156-acre (63.13-hectare) plot of land in Malibu, California.[49] The California Coastal Commission voted 8–4 against the plans. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy agreed to remain neutral on the issue following a US$1 million donation from Evans and a commitment to designate 100 acres of the land as open space for public footpaths.[49]


The Edge with US Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Stephen Censky and Angiogenesis Foundation co-founder Dr. William W. Li

The Edge, Bob Ezrin and Henry Juszkiewicz co-founded Music Rising in 2005, a charity that helped provide replacement instruments for those that were lost in Hurricane Katrina. The instruments were originally only replaced for professional musicians but they soon realised the community churches and schools needed instruments as well. The charity's slogan is "Rebuilding the Gulf Region note by note" and has so far helped over a hundred musicians who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. The Edge also serves on the board of the Angiogenesis Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organisation dedicated to improving global health by advancing angiogenesis-based medicine, diets, and lifestyle.[50][51]


In 2007, the Edge was awarded an honorary doctorate of music from Berklee College of Music.[52] In 2010, Gibson ranked him the 23rd-best guitarist of all time, saying that he "created a sound that is distinctly his own – no small feat when you consider he's had to do it in the course of three decades while working shoulder-to-shoulder with one of the biggest personalities in rock, Bono".[53] The following year, Rolling Stone placed the Edge at number 38 on its list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time"; Daniel Lanois called him an "innovative mind", a "scientist, and a poet by night", and said he is "dedicated to note-taking" to "document every detail of his sound".[54] In 2012, Spin ranked him 13th on their list of the 100 greatest guitarists, saying that he "masked and flaunted his willful ignorance of how guitars are meant to be played with forgiving delay pedals, forging a sonic trademark so distinctive that his band's name became an adjective".[55] In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked Bono and the Edge at number 35 on its list of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.[56] At the 2017 Bonnaroo Music Festival, the Edge was honoured with the Les Paul Spirit Award by the Les Paul Foundation for being someone who "exemplifies the spirit of the late, great Les Paul through innovation, engineering, technology and/or music".[57]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g McCormick (2006), pp. 21, 23–24
  2. ^ Dunphy (1988), p. 70
  3. ^ a b Nolan, Tom (May 1982). "On the Edge of Success". U2 Magazine. No. 3.
  4. ^ McCormick (2006), pp. 27–30
  5. ^ McCormick (2006), pp. 46–48
  6. ^ McCormick (2006), p. 68
  7. ^ McGee (2008), p. 9
  8. ^ "Biography of U2's guitarist, The Edge". Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  9. ^ a b McCormick (2006), pp. 117–120
  10. ^ a b c d e "The Edge biography (@U2)". Retrieved 9 September 2007.
  11. ^ "Rise Above 1 by Reeve Carney feat. Bono and the Edge – Rolling Stone Music – Album Reviews". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  12. ^ "'Spider-Man' star Reeve Carney in new video with Bono, the Edge". Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  13. ^ Denham, Jess (3 May 2016). "The Edge becomes first rock star to play the Sistine Chapel". The Independent. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  14. ^ Flanagan (1996), p. 43
  15. ^ Miller, Jim (31 December 1984). "Stop in the Name of Love". Newsweek. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  16. ^ a b c Gulla (2009), pp. 57–65
  17. ^ a b c d Nolan, Tom; Obrecht, Jas (June 1985). "The Edge of U2". Guitar Player. Vol. 19. pp. 54+.
  18. ^ Fox, Darrin (January 2001). "Basic Instincts: The Edge Brings the U2 Sound Full Circle". Guitar Player. Vol. 35 no. 1. pp. 100–108.
  19. ^ a b DeMasi, Vincent (November 2008). "10 Things You Gotta Do to Play Like The Edge". Guitar Player. Vol. 42 no. 11. pp. 117–124.
  20. ^ a b c d McCormick (2006), pp. 72–75
  21. ^ Pareles, Jon (11 March 1981). "U2 Takes the Fifth". The Village Voice.
  22. ^ Drozdowski, Ted (22 July 2010). "Gibson Guitars and U2's The Edge: Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Boy". Gibson. Archived from the original on 30 June 2017. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  23. ^ a b c Hutchinson, John (September 1986). "U2's Leading Edge". Musician. No. 95. pp. 32+.
  24. ^ a b Ellis, Andy (February 2005). "How to Play Like .... The Edge". Guitar Player. Vol. 39 no. 2. p. 122.
  25. ^ Calhoun (2018), p. 17
  26. ^ Green, Jim (March 1982). "U2: Pluck of the Irish". Trouser Press.
  27. ^
  28. ^ Flanagan (1996), pp. 44–45
  29. ^ DeMasi, Vinnie (September 2017). "Shaking the Tree: Exploring the Edge's Sonic Innovations on the 30th Anniversary of U2's The Joshua Tree". Guitar Player. Vol. 51 no. 9. pp. 62–64.
  30. ^ Hogan, Treacy (17 June 2006). "Edge pays tribute to legendary bluesman who 'laid road' for U2". Irish Independent. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  31. ^ a b c Bosso, Joe (September 2005). "Memory Man". Guitar World. Vol. 26 no. 9. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  32. ^
  33. ^ a b McGee (2008), pp. 29–31
  34. ^ a b The Edge, Davis Guggenheim (director) (2008). It Might Get Loud (film). Sony Pictures Classics.
  35. ^ a b c Bosso, Joe (14 October 2009). "U2 Exclusive: The Edge's stage setup revealed". MusicRadar. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  36. ^ McCormick, Neil (20 August 2009). "Has the axeman lost his mojo?". The Daily Telegraph. p. 25.
  37. ^ Mueller, Andrew. "U2 – The Joshua Tree Re-Mastered (R1987)". Uncut. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  38. ^ Wyman, Bill (29 November 1991). "Burn, Bono, Burn". Entertainment Weekly. No. 94. p. 90. Archived from the original on 20 February 2009. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  39. ^ Marvilli, Joe (9 May 2009). "Guilty Pleasure: U2 – Pop". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  40. ^ Eriksson, Daniel (21 July 2013). "10 Things About The Edge and His Guitars". Gibson. Archived from the original on 18 April 2018. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  41. ^ McGee (2008), p. 18
  42. ^ "U2 Rotterdam, 10 May 1993 at Feyenoord Stadion, ZOO TV Tour – U1".
  43. ^ Cooper, Adam (18 March 2012). "The Edge's 1981 Guitar Rig". GuitarGeek.Com.
  44. ^ Cooper, Adam (20 March 2012). "The Edge's 1983 Guitar Rig". GuitarGeek.Com.
  45. ^ Brown, Eric Renner (24 March 2016). "U2's The Edge: Custom guitar and amp announced with Fender". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  46. ^ "U2's The Edge: 'Being Protestant in an ostensibly Catholic country... it felt strange'". Belfast Telegraph. 7 May 2016.
  47. ^
  48. ^ McCormick (2006), p. 144
  49. ^ a b "U2 star's plans push Malibu over the edge". The Independent. 18 June 2011.
  50. ^ "The Angiogenesis Foundation: People". Archived from the original on 26 February 2010. Retrieved 7 December 2009.
  51. ^ McGinley, Laurie (20 June 2017). "U2's The Edge talks up food as an anti-cancer weapon". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  52. ^ "Rockers Scoring Honorary Degrees". Rolling Stone. 19 July 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  53. ^ " Top 50 Guitarists of All Time – 30 to 21". 26 May 2010. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011.
  54. ^ "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Rolling Stone. No. 1145. 8 December 2011. pp. 49–76. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  55. ^ Spin Staff (3 May 2012). "SPIN's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Spin. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  56. ^ "The 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time". Rolling Stone. 13 August 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  57. ^ Kreps, Daniel (14 June 2017). "Watch U2's The Edge Receive Les Paul Spirit Award at Bonnaroo". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 15 June 2017.


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