In the year 2000, a new album came out by Irish rock legends U2 called All That You Can’t Leave Behind. I had the CD when it was released and for some reason I didn’t connect with it. I remember thinking at the time and discussing it with friends that the album felt a bit rushed and perhaps even unfinished so I didn’t give it a whole lot of my energy at that time.
That was then…
Over time, of course, the big hits from All That You Can’t Leave Behind have certainly grown on me. And while doing some reading on this brand new box set celebrating the 20th anniversary of this album I was kind of astounded to find out just how massive a success the album really was. Clearly this was an album for a new generation of U2 fans and it kind of whizzed by me.
Life happens, folks…
From the official materials for the new boxed set we learn: “Produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno and recorded in Dublin and France, it went to Number 1 in 32 countries and won 7 Grammy Awards, including Best Rock Album. It’s the only album in history to have multiple tracks win the award for Record Of The Year -‘Beautiful Day’ in 2001 and ‘Walk On’ in 2002.”
In this five disc box set you get a remastered version of the album which sounds significantly better than the original I had. In fact in preparing for this review the first thing I did was put on my old promo CD of the album and I was shocked how thin it sounded. So I’m wondering if inferior mastering had contributed to my indifference at the time. The new edition sounds night and day better.
In addition to the remastered album you get another disc of all sorts of outtakes and alternative tracks from the sessions which are fascinating. Among the 39 bonus tracks are remastered B-sides including “Summer Rain,” “Always,” “Big Girls Are Best,” and “Don’t Take Your Guns To Town.”
One of the standouts on the All That You Can’t Leave Behind boxed set is a quite stunning acoustic version of their now classic song “Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” which is extremely powerful. Not entirely surprisingly, a compelling new “lyric video” of this version has been issued. But poking around on the Interwebs I found that there is also a version of Bono and The Edge doing this live on The David Letterman Show which is just wonderful (click here).
The bonus disc of dance remixes – – many of which appeared on CD singles from the period – feel like a bit of filler, relatively, but I can understand how completist fans would want these. Apparently, there are four new remixes here from the band’s archives which have never been released previously.
The final two discs in the set are a arguably the sweetest pair in the set presenting a full concert from U2’s Elevation tour of the period. Previously only available on a DVD called Elevate, this is a great concert with the band firing on all cylinders across 19-tracks recorded at the Fleet Center in Boston, Massachusetts (June 2001). It includes seven tracks from the then new album.
This concert feels quite poignant at times. It marks a moment when Bono was just recovering from a period where his voice had apparently gone out on him (which he explains in the show). There is good energy happening from the stage and the fans returned in kind to help elevate the band. I really like the juxtaposition of how the newer songs were delivered with a somewhat youthful exuberance while classics like “I Will Follow” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” are delivered with a certain elegance, a poise and maturity about them that can only come from playing a song for 20-plus years.
In addition to the CDs you also get a lovely hardbound 32-page LP-sized book featuring the works of longtime U2 photographer Anton Corbijn. Showcasing beautiful and intimate behind the scenes portraits of the band on tour, his images are typically haunting — if you if you have seen any of his prior work (and all of us who love peak-period U2 from the ‘80s have), you know how compelling it can be.
Perhaps my only criticism on this set is that they should have at least included the DVD of the Elevate concert from Boston, ideally on a Blu-ray disc with restored video and audio. Other than that the 20th anniversary collection celebrating All That You Can’t Leave Behind is a perfectly fine set if you can get it for a reasonable price.