It was the day rock and roll stopped the traffic – for a few hours anyway. In autumn 2000 U2 climbed onto the roof of the Clarence Hotel in Dublin to play music from their new album for transmission on Top of the Pops.
Like all Irish secrets, everyone knew about it and crowds lined the quays to hear the band's Elevated performance. Colm Connolly was there to capture the Beautiful Day for RTE News and a young Ryan Tubridy was Stuck in the Moment as a radio reporter.
Leaving aside the terrible puns, it’s interesting to look back to 2000 and see where the band was coming from.
They were still a big deal, hence the huge media interest in the day, but it was 13 years after their Joshua Tree world domination phase and they were searching for a new sound.
Having spent a decade experimenting with electronic music, with results ranging from the sublime Achtung Baby to the decidedly patchier Pop, their first album of the new millennium was a return to their rock roots.
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In interviews recorded at the time, Bono described the new record as "what the band was about", written with their head in the clouds and their feet in the mud.
The record was a hit, going to number one in 32 countries around the world, winning seven Grammys and making the band the first to win awards for songs from the same album in consecutive years at that ceremony.
A number of the tracks are now part of the U2 canon. Beautiful Day, although some of us cheekily compared it to an A-Ha hit at the time is one of their best-known later hits, while Elevation is a fine addition to any live show.
Meanwhile, the anthemic Walk On was one of those Grammy nominees, although a lot has happened in the past two decades and its original dedication to Aung San Suu Kyi has been changed on the reissued album to support for the Rohingya people.
For me, however, one of the standout tracks on the album is a quieter song, Kite. Written in the final years of his father’s life, it became something closer to a hymn when Bono performed it at Slane, just a day after Bob Hewson’s funeral and the crowd sang in mourning and celebration with him. Not for the first time, it had taken a live performance to show the fans – and perhaps the band – where the song could really go.
And so, All That You Can’t Leave Behind has now been reissued. For those of us who have followed U2 over the decades, it feels strange to be reevaluating a record that really feels like part of their later work. 2000 can’t actually be two decades ago – can it? But many of the songs do indeed stand the test of time, it’s not an Achtung Baby style groundbreaker but it’s a great rock record and well worth a re-listen.
Looking back on that old footage from the vantage point of October 2020 makes me nostalgic in more ways than one. Shots of crowds packing the quays and dancing together remind me just how much we have lost these past few months. Stuck in a year we can’t quite get out of, it feels good to remember better times and to wish for them again.
A multi-format anniversary edition of All That You Can’t Leave Behind is released today, October 30, on the 20th anniversary of the original release.
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The box set highlights include a hardback book from photographer Anton Corbijn, 39 additional bonus tracks including remastered B sides, out-takes from album sessions as well as live tracks and remixes.
Further information on U2.com