On the most recent dates of U2's 360° Tour, the band members have been showing grainy footage of themselves hanging out in Berlin during the recording of Achtung Baby — a rare moment of unabashed nostalgia that also hints at what's next from U2. This fall, the band will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the album that hit the reset button on its sound — along with the LP's accompanying Zoo TV Tour and its 1993 follow-up, Zooropa — with ambitious reissues, complete with unseen video footage and rare recordings.
"I'm blown away listening to some of the rough mixes and the outtakes," says the Edge. "There's some very interesting alternative versions that we discovered of songs that wouldn't have seen the light of day, alternative lyrics, different arrangement styles — it's like Achtung Baby out of focus."
It's likely there will be separate reissues of Achtung Baby and Zooropa, along with a deluxe box set that incorporates both albums as well as video and/or audio from Zoo TV. "There will be multiple formats," says U2's manager, Paul McGuinness. "If you pile a lot of extra material and packaging and design work into a super-duper box set, there are people who will pay quite a lot for it, so you can budget it at a very high level and pump up the value." The band is also working on a U2 app for the iPad and other tablets that could be involved with the releases.
The group recently filmed a new performance of songs from the period in a Canadian theater, reportedly for use in a documentary directed by Davis Guggenheim, who worked with the Edge on the guitar doc It Might Get Loud. The band has also discovered substantial unseen footage from the early Nineties. "We were filming everything," says McGuinness. "There's a lot of material that has never really been seen, and seeing it will be quite startling."
This story is from Rolling Stone issue 1134/1135, available on newsstands and through Rolling Stone All Access on June 24, 2011.