U2 "All That You Can't Leave Behind"

• A decade of challenge and change in Irish and Irish-American music

Top Irish-American albums of the decade

• Black 47: 'Trouble in the Land'

• Prodigals: 'Needs Must When the Devil Drives'

• Pierce Turner’s '3 Minute World'

• Enter the Haggis: 'Casualties of Retail'

• Dropkick Murphys: 'Blackout'

Top Irish albums of the decade

• U2’s 'All that you can’t Leave Behind'

• Afro Celt Sound System’s 'Volume 3: Further in Time'

• Saw Doctors 'The Cure'

• Sinead O’Connor’s 'Throw Down your Arms'

• 'VH1 Presents The Corrs: Live from Dublin'

I can’t listen to U2’s "All That You Can’t Leave Behind" and not think of two concerts. The band came to Madison Square Garden shortly after releasing the album in October of 2000, and fans like me listened attentively at the possibilities within these hatchling classics. It was a great U2 show as I recall.

By the time the band came back to that same room for the second leg of that tour, the world was a different place. The Twin Towers had just fallen about a mile away, and the city was drowning in a mixed cocktail of grief, shock, and anger.
 
“A mole, living in a hole / Digging up my soul / Going down, excavation / Love, lift me out of these blues / Won't you tell me something true / I believe in you,” shouted the singer on their(then-new hit, “Elevation.” It was if the line was written for the city in the wake of our disaster, but clearly, Bono recorded the album with something else in mind.

“And if the night runs over / And if the day won't last / And if your way should falter / Along the stony pass / It's just a moment, this time will pass,” he sang on “Stuck in a Moment that You Can’t Get out Of.” Was he some rock 'n' roll Nostradamus, predicting this moment of public mourning when he wrote those lines in Dublin a year ago?

Bono might be a saint, but he was no prophet. This was a testament to U2’s songwriting magic: Their lyrics are so big and broad that they could be about everything and nothing. Bono could be singing about an intimate barroom conversation he overheard, or it could be a global philosophy. The words fit in a jukebox or a pulpit. These Dubliners have mixed abstract spiritual references into their music for decades, but it took a terrorist attack to bring a higher meaning to the equation.

By accident, this was the band’s gift to New York. Then again, they named a song after the town, so maybe that was their intent all along. “In New York summers get hot, well into the hundreds / You can't walk around the block without a change of clothing / Hot as a hairdryer in your face / Hot as a handbag and a can of mace,” he sings on “New York.”

Of course, this went on to be a monster seller and why not? It was straightforward rock 'n' roll and that was indeed a relief for the fans. After a decade that saw them veer off-course (sometimes with marvelous results) into electronica ("Pop"), wild experimentation ("Zooropa") and orchestral ("Passengers"), the band ushered in a new millennium with three chords, the truth, and a little Motown thrown in for good measure. Bono’s voice croaked as the band laid down sweet soul on “In a Little While,” a criminally neglected track from the album. “Beautiful Day” whispered and built into a deafening roar, elevating the band to new heights.

"Pop music often tells you everything is OK, while rock music tells you that it's not OK, but you can change it,” Bono said during an interview promoting the album. “There's defiance in rock music that gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Most pop music doesn't make you want to get out of bed, I'm sorry to say. It puts you to sleep.”

It was hard to fall asleep at those MSG shows when the music was so thrilling. More importantly, the words delivered comfort and hope to a nation that desperately needed it and for that, I am naming it album of the decade.