U2 announced a series of concerts in Las Vegas this fall celebrating their 1991 album “Achtung Baby” in a cryptic 15-second ad aired during the Super Bowl on Sunday — although drummer Larry Mullen Jr., still recovering from surgery, will sit out this run of shows. Dutch drummer Bram van den Berg will fill in.
The concerts, titled “‘U2:UV Achtung Baby Live at the Sphere,” will see the band launching the new venue, MSG Sphere at the Venetian, in Las Vegas this fall. While further details were not immediately available, the unspecified “special run of shows” — which a rep stressed are not a residency — mark the band’s first live performances in four years, and seem likely to be a kickoff for a world tour (presumably next year, and including Mullen) celebrating the anniversary of “Achtung Baby,” similar to their blockbuster tours around the 30th anniversary of their 1987 album “The Joshua Tree.” Those tours, which took place in 2017 and 2019 (and were interspersed with the band’s “Experience + Innocence” tours of 2015 and 2018), were seen by more than 3.2 million people and grossed nearly $400 million.
Recorded in Berlin and released in November of 1991, “Achtung Baby” and the follow-up “Zooropa” album effectively rebooted U2’s career, introducing new sounds, influences and songwriting styles and distancing them from the anthemic rock style that had made them one of the world’s biggest bands in the 1980s. Their audience remained with them every step of the way: The ensuing “Zoo TV” tour lasted for nearly two years and was seen by more than 5 million people.
Fans can register now here to receive more information regarding show dates and on sale details once they are announced. The full-length trailer announcement can be viewed at www.U2xSPHERE.com.
The concerts will mark the first U2 has ever performed without Mullen since the band formed in Dublin in 1976; he had suggested the group might perform without him this year due to his unspecified surgery in a November interview around the quartet’s acceptance of a lifetime achievement award at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony.
In the announcement of the Sphere shows, the band’s Bono, the Edge and Adam Clayton spoke of the upcoming concerts and the relatively little-known van den Berg, a veteran of the Dutch group Krezip, in a joint statement:
“It’s going to take all we’ve got to approach the Sphere without our bandmate in the drum seat, but Larry has joined us in welcoming Bram van den Berg who is a force in his own right.
“The Sphere show has been in the works for a long time. 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 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 Edge added, “The beauty of the Sphere is not only the ground-breaking technology that will make it so unique, with the world’s most advanced audio system, integrated into a structure which is designed with sound quality as a priority; it’s also the possibilities around immersive experience in real and imaginary landscapes. In short, it’s a canvas of an unparalleled scale and image resolution and a once-in-a-generation opportunity. We all thought about it and decided we’d be mad not to accept the invitation.”
Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. executive chairman and CEO James L. Dolan said, “MSG Sphere’s advanced technology allows a legendary band like U2 to bring its music to life in entirely new ways. The Sphere is a new medium that will redefine entertainment.”
Long in the works, MSG’s Sphere arenas in Las Vegas and London will introduce “the first 16K screen that wraps up, around, and behind the audience,” according to the announcement. “Sphere Immersive Sound delivers pitch perfect audio to every seat in the house. 4D technologies will let the audience feel the wind on their face, the heat on their skin and the rumble of thunder. The ‘U2 UV Achtung Baby Live at the Sphere’ opening series of shows will tap into this exclusive technology, allowing fans to experience something completely new.”
On March 17, U2 will release a new-ish album called “Songs of Surrender” — a collection of 40 U2 songs from across the band’s catalog, “re-recorded and reimagined for 2023” in sessions spanning the last two years. They follow singer Bono’s similarly titled autobiography “Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story” and subsequent book tours.