It would be hard to blame a band like U2 if it wanted to live in the past full time.
The Irish foursome has released at least two masterworks of rock music of the late 20th century (“The Joshua Tree” in 1987 and “Achtung Baby” in 1991) and been a constant global presence in pop culture for nearly 40 years.
Yet it took the 30th anniversary of “The Joshua Tree” for the band to give a full tour over to nostalgia, taking the album on the road for a front-to-back performance, including set-list staples like “With or Without You” and the never-before-seen-live “Red Hill Mining Town.”
The band is supposedly readying its follow up to “Songs of Innocence,” and therefore will go back to supporting new works on future tours.
But if U2 wants to revisit one of its albums in the future, which one should it choose? One nonscientific ranking would go as such:
The poor middle child of early U2, the band’s second album was a forgettable bridge between “Boy” and “War.” This would be only for the die-hards. It would be fun to watch Davos, Switzerland-vacationing Bono sing a song called “I Threw a Brick Through a Window,” though.
11. “Rattle and Hum”
No offense to the band’s “Joshua Tree” follow-up, but many of its most memorable moments on this release are new versions of older songs. It’d be really nice to see a track like “Angel of Harlem” make it back into the set lists, however.
10. “Songs of Innocence”
It’s much too recent a work to deserve its own tour. The only appropriate way to celebrate the album would be to have a concert video mysteriously show up on everyone’s iPhone one night.
9. “No Line on the Horizon”
On the band’s last album tour, no songs from “No Line” made the set list consistently. That’s a bad sign for either U2’s or the audience’s appetite for tracks like “Magnificent.”
8. “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”
This might be U2’s most inconsistent album; big hits like “Walk On” and “Elevation” sit alongside big misses like “Peace on Earth” and “When I Look at the World.”
7. “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb”
This would work only if we get an explanation, once and for all, why Bono counts “1, 2, 3, 14” in Spanish at the beginning of “Vertigo.” “City of Blinding Lights” is highly underrated, though.
Hearing the much-maligned album stripped of the over-the-top, Day-Glo dressing of the PopMart tour might be interesting. And there were some gems here; “Please” stands alongside the band’s best explicitly political songs.
The slightly weird electronic cousin of “Achtung Baby,” the biggest question might be what to do with the album closer, “The Wanderer,” sung originally by Johnny Cash. Just say no to holograms.
4. “The Unforgettable Fire”
Songs like “Bad” and “Pride (In the Name of Love)” are live staples, but some of the rest of the album has rarely been performed in concert since the mid-’80s.
The highlights of this album, like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “New Year’s Day,” are still some of the band’s most powerful songs. Even if the album is a bit uneven, there’s a lot to work with here.
Debut albums are always interesting fodder for full-length concert performances, and the album containing “I Will Follow” and “The Electric Co.” would be no different.
1. “Achtung Baby”
Along with its legendary status, “Baby” also has one of the few songs that U2 has never played live. Getting to see “Acrobat” performed in person would be enough to sell tickets to many of the band’s hard-core fans.