David Howell Evans, known around the world as ‘The Edge’ is likely the first ‘guitar
hero’ in history who bases his creativity and centers his talent on the sounds
he gets from his own equipment; an authentic guitar arsenal, by the way, and
amps, and especially pedals he knows how to use and mix like no one else, which
have been his signature sound since he began his career at the end of the 70s
in the Irish band U2.
It’s practically impossible to sum up in a few words the musical universe of U2’s guitarist and the gear he creates it with . There are probably books and magazines specialised in covering it all, but here we are going to speak about a few of the treasures in his armory that is almost always with him on tour.
The first thing to remember is that he goes on tour with almost 50 guitars and on occasion has used 20 in just one show. In any case, his 1976 Gibson Explorer has always been one of his faves. He fell in love with it at 17 on a family trip to New York. According to Edge himself he wanted to buy a Les Paul but fell for the sound of this one, which among this immense harem, is his favourite girl. In fact, it seems he loves her so much he pulled her from circulation years ago (his techie, Dallas Schoo, convinced him to stop abusing it considering it’s the main guitar used for U2 recordings and already had numerous bumps and bruises including a broken headstock in the mid-80s).
Apart from the Explorer we must mention his black ‘73 Fender Stratocaster, another of the gems in his crown, and one of the most characteristic with which he recorded the emblematic songs of the band and his signature sound like I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and Where the Streets Have No Name.
To mention a few other faithfuls, we can talk of his Gibson SJ200 from the 50s or his beautiful white Gibson Les Paul from 1975, which he put up for auction to help victims of hurricane Katrina and sold for $288,000...but not to worry, Gibson took little time to make him an exact copy and sent it to him.
Let’s have a tip-toe around his amps, most of which are vintage, including several Fender Tweeds from the 50s, although the amp he always uses for recording and onstage is the combo Vox AC30 from 1964.
And from tip-toeing around his amps we get to his pedals, the authentic creator of The Edge’s universe and everything he is. It’s quite amazing how he converts riffs into instant classics with just two chords thanks to the way he wraps them to perfection. A wonderful example is seen in the documentary It Might Get Loud where he begins Elevation with and without effects. Absolutely incredible.
He gets this by figuring himself to be a guitarist that contributes to the song rather than shine over it. He focuses on delivering the perfect texture for Bono, Adam, and Larry to feel supported by. To achieve this he uses a real arsenal of effects on a pedal rack, such as his legendary Tc Electronics 2290 delays, besides another pedal board with the mythic Ibanez Tubescreamer, the Lovetone Doppelganger, and the POG by Electro Harmonix, supervised by his technician and all together managed by the Edge himself through a controller he uses onstage; a controller also his personal techie has and which he must activate or deactivate depending on how far his boss is from it during the performance.
Apart from his controller, he usually just has a wah pedal onstage, one for volume and to that he adds the Whammy by Digitech. So, this whole cascade of sound and effects which for anyone else could be overwhelming or even, as often happens, could lead to falling into an overproduced noise bordering on tackiness, The Edge is always able to find a new effect that we all want to copy. This is also part of the business side of playing the guitar, and because of it, with one tenth of technique and knowledge that many of the ‘gunslingers’ out there have, The Edge always ends by shooting us through the heart faster than anyone. Without tapping or shredding, and hardly any solos...an authentic guitar genius.