All That You Can’t Leave Behind, 20th Anniversary Box Set
Maybe it’s the luck of the Irish or a stern and stoic denial of rock n roll’s childish instinct to never admit when enough is enough, but U2 understands on a cellular level when the time for re-invention knocks and rushes headlong through walls to answer the door. 1980 was the big start with Boy, then on to decade domination with War, The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree. In ’91 came the fireballing, electro ga-ga mosh/mix Achtung Baby, a blistering collection that still serves as the backbone to their longevity and anchors their concerts. Come the new millennium they delivered All You Can’t Leave Behind, a generously charged amalgam of mature vision and the best of everything that had come before. In essence, it’s arguably one of their three or four true masterworks.
Now we have the 20th Anniversary version, a near five-hour, five-disc investigation into the tinkering and rethinking of such etched-in-memory songs as “Beautiful Day,” “Stuck In a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of,” “Walk On,” “Peace On Earth,” and “Elevation.” And let’s just stop here and thank producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois for sticking with this “Elevation” rather than any of the four utterly annoying remixes included herein. Disc 2 is highlighted brightly by B-sides (the firefly lit “Summer Rain” and shaded “Stateless,”), alternate tracks, and outtakes (the exquisite “The Ground Beneath Her Feet”). Disc 5, for the truly stout-hearted U2er, harbors all those remixes and mash-ups that too often pummel to the point of exhaustion. Discs 3 and 4 contain the music from the previously released DVD Elevation 2001: Live In Boston, a max-voltage concert that serves, along with the remastered All You Can’t Leave Behind, as the true centerpiece of this celebratory set.
Mike Jurkovic is a writer, poet, a founder of CAPS (Calling All Poets) and is a Lightwood music critic.