U2 have announced their return to the stage with a Las Vegas residency based around their 1991 album Achtung Baby.
The Irish rock giants signalled their intention to return to live performance with an ad during last night’s (February 12) Super Bowl; they had teased the announcement on Twitter earlier in the evening with a post that used the hashtag #MSGSPHERE. This is in reference to the under-construction spherical arena being built by the owners of New York City’s iconic Madison Square Garden in Vegas; they also intend to open one in Stratford, East London.
It appears that U2 will headline the venue once it opens, after a pandemic-enforced delay saw its initial 2021 ribbon-cutting postponed; so far, only a ‘Fall 2023’ date is set. The ad riffed on the sphere’s otherworldly appearance by making reference to a UFO; in keeping with the NFL theme, it was described as an “unidentified object the size of three football fields.”
The shows will go ahead without drummer Larry Mullen Jr,, who is stepping back as he recuperates from back surgery. “The Sphere show has been in the works for a long time,” said U2 in a statement, per Rolling Stone. “We don’t want to let people down, least of all our audience… the truth is we miss them as much as they appear to miss us… our audience was always the fifth member of the band.”
“Bottom line, U2 hasn’t played live since December 2019,” the statement went on, “and we need to get back on stage and see the faces of our fans again. And what a unique stage they’re building for us out there in the desert. We’re the right band, Achtung Baby the right album, and the Sphere the right venue to take the live experience of music to the next level. That’s what U2’s been trying to do all along with our satellite stages and video installations, most memorably on the ZOO TV Tour, which ended in Tokyo 30 years ago this fall. The Sphere is more than just a venue, it’s a gallery and U2’s music is going to be all over the walls.”
The news comes after Bono released his memoir Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story, last Autumn; the group is set to release a four-disc album of re-recorded songs themed around the book, Songs of Surrender, on March 17. Dutch drummer Bram van den Berg is set to sit in for Mullen Jr. at the Sphere.