Ok this is a new U2 song, but at the same time it’s not. It’s called “Mercy” and a long, winding 7 minute rough cut of it has been riding the interwaves since 2005. This version, performed Sunday in Zurich, is a little different than that one; a little more spare, a little shorter (mercifully…get it?), and with a different chorus, which I’ll touch on in a second.
Basically, “Mercy” ended up on the cutting room floor from the How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb sessions…for a reason. The lyrics are/were a little rocky, but one area Bono’s really improved the song is the chorus. It’s much better this time around; a little more concise and purposeful. The original one was just pointless. It also seems they dropped the “binary code” line, which is good because it made me cringe. Overall, this new version is much more focused. They trimmed the fat a bit, upgraded some of the lyrics, changed some stuff around, you know, a fresh coat of paint. An improvement for sure, but still not quite up to the standards they’ve set over the years.
That said, I imagine that they’re road-testing these songs and working out the kinks in front of a live audience. I wouldn’t be surprised if the new album (Songs of Ascent?) features a 3rd version of “Mercy” that’s, again, different. Same goes for “North Star” and “Every Breaking Wave” and “Glastonbury” and “Return of the Stingray Guitar” and all that. I hope they work on them a little more for the actual album release, because they have potential, they just need more work. Seems to be an interesting direction.
I’ve posted the videos for both versions (cut-studio version and new live version) so you can decide for yourself.