All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)

1. Beautiful Day 2. Stuck in a Moment That You Can't Get Out Of 3. Elevation 4. Walk On 5. Kite 6. In a Little While 7. Wild Honey 8. Peace on Earth 9. When I Look at the World 10.New York 11.Grace


The entire decade of the 1990s featured U2 in its 'techno mode'. The three albums released within this time frame had them going through major experimentation, and whereas the move was greeted positively at first, it seemed to get a bit old by the time they got to 1997's Pop. So maybe it was a conscious decision when they were making this album that they would go back a bit to their roots and produce something much more simple. Whatever the reason, most fans were relieved by the move, and in addition to probably winning a newer generation of fans, they probably got some of their old fans back again.

'Back to their roots' may be too strong a statement. They're really not going back to anything here. This record certainly isn't reminiscent of the early, high-energy crazed band of new-wavers, yet it doesn't hark back to the serious, political driven atmosphere during their explosion period of the mid eighties either. I guess the best way to describe this record is that it's a pleasant sounding album from a bunch of guys almost in their forties. Or, it is the same guys who brought us Boy, it just happens to be twenty years later.

Fortunately, as simple as the record may be (compared to the last few, that is), they haven't lost anything that made them one of the best bands of the last several decades. The sound here is still incredibly powerful, the songs are incredibly melodic, and Bono still reigns in the 'lyrics' department. Probably the best known of the lot here are Beautiful Day, Elevation and Walk On, which not surprisingly are the best things on the record. Once you've heard these tracks, you can get an overall feel of how the rest of the record will go. The CD also features a couple of very good pieces that you might classify as 'gospel', those being Stuck in a Moment That You Can't Get Out Of, and the beautiful In a Little While. My personal favorite is Kite, with lyrics about a loved one that has moved on in life, and having mixed feelings about the whole experience.

All of the songs I've mentioned are on the front end of the album, and in my judgement, the record does lose a little something on the back-half. The songs are all good, they just seem to not be quite so powerful. Peace on Earth (really the only political thing here) is, in fact, a remarkable piece, but the lyrics address some key people that not many people know, and that (for me anyway) always diminishes a song somewhat. I also confess that I've never been able to 'get' New York which seems a bit quirky on the musical side as well as the lyric side. Fortunately the album closes with the slow and beautiful Grace that's a fitting ending to this 'return' by the band.

Not surprisingly, every one fell in love with the record and embraced the band's direction. The band toured arenas instead of stadiums this time. I'm not really sure why - since they could have easily sold out much larger arenas - but it was nice to be able to see the guys up close for a change. A wise and welcome move.

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