All That You Can't Leave Behind (20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition)
When U2 got together in 1999 to record All That You Can’t Leave Behind in their old stomping grounds of Dublin, they promised themselves that if it didn’t meet their expectations, it was going to be their last. Following the band’s PopMart tour in support of 1997’s Pop, the Irish four-piece wanted to strip that album’s neon-clad artifice and return to writing more straightforward rock songs.
That’s not to say that U2 still didn’t have lofty ambitions. The band’s everyman rock iconography was just as powerful in the lead-up to the album’s October 2000 release, from playing on rooftops in New York City and Dublin to wearing black leather jackets (elegantly captured in monochromatic black and white on the album’s artwork by longtime U2 photographer Anton Corbijn). Granted, none of that mattered if the songs weren’t any good. And all those questions were laid to rest on comeback single “Beautiful Day,” a joyous anthem about living a more simple and authentic life—which spread The Edge’s echoing guitar shimmer and frequent U2 producer Brian Eno’s soft keyboard lines everywhere from massive football stadiums to television advertisements. They set out to counter the anger, disillusion, and cynicism of Pop with spiritual transcendence (“Elevation”), bluesy licks with soulful accents (“Grace”), and gospel-tinged uplift (“Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of,” which frontman Bono wrote to celebrate the life of his recently deceased friend Michael Hutchence of INXS).
Every song here sounds lived-in and carefully considered, a testament to their collective musical chemistry. But as their UK-only release “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” (included on this deluxe edition and featured on the soundtrack to Wim Wenders’ film The Million Dollar Hotel) attests, the band hadn’t abandoned their sense of experimentation. As it turns out, U2 figured out that moving forward into the new millennium meant not completely leaving the past behind.