More than seven months after rumors circulated that U2 would perform the first-ever concerts at Las Vegas’ MSG Sphere, the Irish rockers officially announced on Super Bowl Sunday that they will stage shows dedicated to their 1991 LP Achtung Baby to launch the city’s massive new globe-shaped venue.
Bono and company — who have their sorta-new album Songs of Surrender arriving in March — previously teased the worst-kept secret in Sin City prior to the Super Bowl, posting an image of a newborn baby within the newly constructed MSG Sphere on a website not-so-subtly called U2xsphere.com. The official announcement came Sunday, with a mysterious UFO-themed ad for the ‘U2:UV Achtung Baby Live At The Sphere’ shows this fall.
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“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,” U2 said in a statement.
“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.”
However, the Sphere shows will mark the band’s first-ever concerts without drummer Larry Mullen Jr., who is sitting out the 2023 dates in order to recuperate from a reported back surgery. Drummer Bram van den Berg will fill in for Mullen at the Sphere concerts. “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,” Bono, the Edge and Adam Clayton said in a statement.
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U2 has not performed a U.S. concert since the North American leg of their Experience + Innocence tour wrapped up stateside in July 2018. The band last played together onstage in Dec. 2019 when their Joshua Tree anniversary tour ended in Mumbai, India.
The MSG Sphere was originally scheduled to open in 2021 but the Covid-19 pandemic delayed its arrival until 2023. When completed, the 388-foot-tall venue will hold between 17,500 and 20,000 people along with what is promised as a state-of-the-art audio and visual experience, including 580,000 square feet of programmable LED panels, KSNV reported.
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.”
In addition to Songs of Surrender — a re-recording of 40 tracks from the U2 songbook, inspired by Bono’s book of the same title — the group will also stream their music special Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, With Dave Letterman on March 17, the same day the album is released.