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Album Review

U2: All That You Can't Leave Behind 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (2CD)


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U2: All That You Can't Leave Behind 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (2CD)
The music of U2 on All That You Can't Leave Behind is very much in keeping with the austere black and white graphics, preserved throughout the graphic design of this digipak as well as its enclosed twenty-four page booklet within. A distinct move away from the density of production experimentation on their three previous studio albums—Achtung Baby (Island, 1991), Zooropa (Island, 1993) and Pop (Island, 1997)— the sound produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois on this 2000 project is also far removed from the stylized likes of The Unforgettable Fire (Island, 1984) and The Joshua Tree (Island, 1987).

Ultimately, U2 achieved its purpose of breaking the very mold they had so assiduously begun to shape two decades prior with Boy (Island, 1980). As if to allay any misgiving, the quartet immediately proves it retains an exalting reach manifest in the opening track, "Beautiful Day." Yet in both his singing and his lyrics there, Bono sounds like he's trying to convince himself, rather than capture the sensation thereof. Meanwhile, the uplifting nature of "Elevation" is a self- evident plea as well, a moment of self-awareness echoed in the soulful likes of the brass-laden "Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of."

None of those tracks rely too heavily on readily predictable verse-chorus structures or The Edge's trademark guitar figures—he is actually featured prominently on organ for "The Ground Beneath Her Feet." Still, along with bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr., the fretboarder owns the cacophonous "When I Look At The World;" in fact, it's the panache of the rhythm section that helps supplant the initially mechanical feel of the track.

It's no small achievement that the co-producers make so much of a spare approach to these songs, the personal significance and overall substance of which, like "Wild Honey," decline as the dozen tracks progress. Perhaps because they both also play, Eno and Lanois help immeasurably to provide settings in which the various arrangements focus on the four musicians: the cryptic imagery in "Kite" corresponds to the action of the musicianship and, even in its spartan, gospel- tinged form, "Peace On Earth" fully captures the ambivalence at the core of the composition.

A little over an hour of concert takes comprise the second disc in this 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition in a deceptively skeletal mix as striking as its dense studio counterpart. Intrusive roar of the attendees aside (most prevalent on headphones), the audience response reaffirms U2's wisdom in featuring new material so prominently—there are eight culls included—and while Elevation Live From Boston takes up but roughly half of U2's presentation on this tour, this sequence of a baker's dozen tracks waxes and wanes with a logic than emphasizes the cumulative momentum of any superior performance.

Nevertheless, by the time "Sunday Bloody Sunday," and "Where The Streets Have No Name" have led to "With Or Without You," the foursome sounds somewhat tired (or perhaps just weary of the tune). Yet they remain brave enough to close with yet another fresh number, an earnest and resolute "Walk On." As a result, the band finishes almost as strong as it started on this content taken from one of four June 2001 nights at the Fleet Center in Massachusetts, further reaffirming the foundation laid with such deliberation through with All That You Can't Leave Behind.

Admittedly, selective hindsight of an anniversary reissue only further clarifies a notion that, as their career unfolded, while U2 may have often publicly undermined its own best instincts away from the studio or the stage, when left to its own devices (and in the company of empathetic others), the bond of the band superseded their human frailties in service of their creativity.

Track Listing

CD 1: The Album Remastered - Beautiful Day; Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of; Elevation; Walk On; Kite; In A Little While; Wild Honey; Peace on Earth; When I Look at the World; New York; Grace; The Ground Beneath Her Feet. CD 2: Elevation: Live (highlights) - Elevation; Beautiful Day; Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of; Kite; I Will Follow; Sunday Bloody Sunday; Desire; Stay (Faraway, So Close!); Bad; Where the Streets Have No Name; With or Without You; The Fly; Walk On.


band / orchestra
Brian Eno
Additional Instrumentation

Bono: guitar; The Edge: guitar; backing vocals; piano, organ, synthesizer; Brian Eno programming, backing vocals, string arrangement; additional guitar; Daniel Lanois: backing vocals; Paul Barrett: brass.

Album information

Title: All That You Can't Leave Behind 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (2CD) | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Universal Music Group

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