U2 have announced plans to become the first live act to perform at a new venue, MSG Sphere at The Venetian, Las Vegas. The venue is scheduled to open this autumn, and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. – who told The Washington Post (opens in new tab) in November that if U2 played live in 2023 it would be without him – will not be on stage.
Mullen Jr., who told the Post that he'll be in recovery from surgery, will be replaced by Bram van den Berg, drummer with Dutch band Krezip.
"It's going to take all we've got to approach the Sphere without our bandmate in the drum seat," say the rest of U2. "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," they continue. "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 news of U2's return to the stage was made in an advertisement broadcast during today's Super Bowl. The full clip (below) follows the progress of a mysterious spherical object "about the size of three football fields".
Set against a backdrop of climate crisis, it shows U2 fans in Belfast, Rio de Janeiro, Paris and Tokyo going about their daily business before being somehow transported to the Nevada desert, where the Sphere slowly descends, before the band invite the fans to join them in experiencing whatever it is that the Sphere offers.
"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," explains The Edge. "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."
It all sounds super impressive, as you'd expect with an estimated construction cost $2.1billion. The organisers promise "pitch perfect audio to every seat in the house" using "Sphere Immersive Sound" and "4D technologies", which will allow the audience to "feel the wind on their face, the heat on their skin and the rumble of thunder."
The MGM Sphere, which was due to be completed in 2021 but delayed because of pandemic-related supply chain issues, will feature 15,000m2 of LED screens, and 164,000 speakers.
Sounds great! But where do we sign up for more info? Right here (opens in new tab).
Last month, U2 announced that their upcoming album Songs Of Surrender will feature 40 reworked versions of songs from their back catalogue.