20 Years of Achtung Baby
As most U2 fans know, November 19, 2011 marks the 20th Anniversary of Achtung Baby – the prolific album that elevated U2 to astronomical heights beyond the stratospheric Joshua Tree. A little over 10 years ago when I became a fan, Achtung Baby (as an album) resonated with me strongly. The mood, the beats, the atmosphere, and the lyrics seemed so relevant to what I was going through and what I was thinking at that time. I stress “as an album” because there are so many great U2 songs, but when you consider Achtung Baby as a whole there is an over-arching narrative of heart-ache, renewal, contradiction, and redemption. Perhaps as fans, we look at U2’s transformation and hope for the same in us at our times of desperation. These themes were developed at a tumultuous time during the history of the band and of the world. Those micro and macro factors provided a perfect environment to create the dark, yet rich imagery of Achtung Baby. I reckon the lack of such turbulent conditions for U2’s later albums is a main reason why they don’t measure to the same degree as Achtung Baby. You ask any die-hard fan which song they want to see live, but hasn’t been performed yet, most will answer Acrobat – the song that best encapsulates the spirit of Achtung Baby.
I look forward to the October 31, 2011 re-release date of Achtung Baby, particularly the bonus DVD documentary “From the Sky Down,” which was partially filmed in my hometown of Winnipeg at the Burton Cummings Theatre while they were in town for the 360 Tour. I haven’t settled on which re-release version I’ll get, but there has been a lively online discussion regarding the expensive pricing of the various versions ranging from the single CD at $13.48 to the Über Deluxe Box at an eye-watering cost of $659.62 (amazon.com USD). Atu2.com have an ongoing price-watcher worth checking out.
Needless to say, it is interesting that U2 have made the re-release of Achtung Baby to be an even bigger deal than the anniversary editions of The Unforgettable Fire or The Joshua Tree. This era in the early 1990s and their subsequent Zoo TV / Zooropa tour re-characterized U2, and was seminal in redefining the concert sensory-experience for all future shows. The hoopla and hype around this anniversary edition is not only a commercial opportunity for the band, but also a recognition of a trans-formative time in their lives.