(Photo courtesy of Pitchfork) U2 has had a very successful and prolific career in the Rock music genre.
Those who tuned into the Super Bowl and watched the whole game may have noticed an odd commercial during the two-minute warning. In the ad, a series of UFOs converged over Las Vegas, and then text on the screen said, “U2:UV: Achtung Baby Live at the Sphere.”
A full, four-minute version of the ad was then uploaded to U2’s social media accounts. This version showed hundreds of U2 fans who had teleported into the desert outside of Las Vegas along with the U2 band members. The members were shown walking towards the brand new, state-of-the-art arena, the MSG Sphere.
In the MSG Sphere’s residency, which is expected to begin in late September, U2 will play their 1991 album “Achtung Baby” in its entirety for the first time. This will be the band’s third time performing one of their classic albums in full, following massive tours in 2017 and 2019 to celebrate 1987’s “The Joshua Tree.”
However, not all of U2 will be performing in Las Vegas this fall.
Since their formation in 1978, U2 has been made up of lead singer Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. While a U2 residency in Vegas has been rumored since last fall, it was reported later in December that Mullen may not be up for the task.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Mullen stated that he would not tour in 2023, and said, “I’d like to take some time…to get myself healed.”
This quote led to fan speculation that any news of a Vegas residency was most likely false. The band has only performed two shows in its history of over 40 years with substitute members.
In November 1993, Clayton missed a show in Sydney, Australia, and was replaced by bass technician Stuart Morgan. While Bono told fans during the show that Clayton was ill, it was later revealed that he was too hungover to perform. The show could not be canceled as it was effectively a dress rehearsal for the following night’s show, which was filmed and released on video in 1994.
In December 2014, the band took part in a show in Times Square on World AIDS Day. Just two weeks prior, Bono was involved in a major bike accident, requiring multiple surgeries that prevented him from ever playing guitar again. While U2 canceled the remainder of their promotional tour for the “Songs of Innocence” album, the rest of the members performed the charity show with help from Bruce Springsteen and Coldplay’s Chris Martin.
As it became clear that U2 was preparing some sort of announcement for Super Bowl Sunday, speculation ran rampant on social media. Some fans were still convinced that the residency was not going to happen, while others were convinced that Mullen’s comments were referring to a tour and not a residency.
Immediately after the ad was released, the band and MSG Sphere released a statement confirming that U2 would be the first band to perform at the Sphere. However, Mullen will not be a part of the shows.
The press release said, “These Las Vegas shows will see Larry and the band welcome Bram van den Berg, who will be sitting in to join Bono, The Edge and Adam Clayton onstage at MSG Sphere.” Later in the statement, the band reiterated that Mullen was on board with welcoming van den Berg, a Swedish drummer who is best known for his work with the Dutch band Krezip.
The immediate reactions of U2 fans on Twitter seemed to be anger and outrage, especially since many fans acknowledged that Mullen’s health issues were the reasons why previous tours were postponed.
In 2006, the “Vertigo tour” was postponed while The Edge’s daughter battled leukemia. In 2010, the dates for the “U2 360° tour” in Europe and Latin America, with a headlining performance at Glastonbury, were pushed back after Bono needed back surgery. In both cases, there seemed to be no consideration of pushing forward with replacement members.
The members of U2 have not done any interviews since the announcement of “U2:UV: Achtung Baby Live at the Sphere,” and there has been no official announcement of show dates or ticket sales.