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Achtung Baby: U2 coming to the Sphere

Updated February 13, 2023 - 12:07 am

It was a U2-point conversion on super ball Sunday.

“U2: UV Achtung Baby Live At The Sphere” was revealed in superlative fashion, with a quick but dazzling commercial in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LVII. The legendary Irish rockers are planning to open this fall, according to a news release timed to the 15-second Super Bowl ad.

The dates will begin “this fall,” according to the release. Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer David Byrnes said Friday that the venue would open in September. We have previously reported that to expect U2 to open The Sphere on Sept. 29-30, though those specific dates are not confirmed.

More information on show dates, on-sale details and related information is available at verifiedfan.livenation.com/u2 to register.

Dubbed a “venue launch” instead of a residency, “UV Achtung Baby” is U2’s first live performance in four years, following its Joshua Tree 30th anniversary tour.

For the first time since its formation in 1976, U2 is touring without founding drummer Larry Mullen Jr., who is taking this year off to undergo surgery. Mullen has suffered an assortment of back, knee and shoulder injuries over the years. Drummer Bram van den Berg is playing the Vegas dates. He’s backing the iconic lineup of Bono, The Edge and Adam Clayton.

The “UV” in the series title refers to the song “Ultra Violet (Light My Way)” from “Achtung Baby.” The full-length trailer announcement can be viewed at U2xSPHERE.com. The video features a selection of new and long-running fans of the band — and also band doppelgangers — for what is described as a “futuristic Achtung who is Baby adventure in a unique desert landscape.”

Bono, The Edge and Clayton said in a 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 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.”

MSG President Lucas Watson said in January between four and six headliners to rotate into The Sphere. “Each artist will play roughly 10 to 12 shows, depending on their availability and scheduling,” Watson said Jan. 23 during Preview Las Vegas at Las Vegas Convention Center’s Wet Hall. “But that’s the rough order of magnitude.”

Veteran live-entertainment exec Josephine Vaccarello has been promoted to lead all MSG Sphere’s bookings.

The Sphere will be equipped with the first 16K screen that wraps up, around, and behind, the audience. Sphere Immersive Sound delivers what the company promises will be pitch-perfect audio to all seats. 4D technologies will allow the audience to “feel the wind on their face, the heat on their skin and the rumble of thunder,” according to the company.

Central to the venue’s programming will be a theatrical production customized for The Sphere’s advanced audio/video technology.

“Yes, theatrical, but multisensory, so with less live performers and more cinematic technology,” Watson said, “and just for The Sphere.”

Cool Hang Alert

Iconic drummer and vibraphonist Chuck Redd plays Vic’s Las Vegas (making its Cool Hang Alert debut) Friday and Saturday night. Redd leads a quartet into the dining room of the new music club in Symphony Park. Go to vicslasvegas.com for info and reservations.

PodKats! Episodes

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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