- 18 Sep 23
If there’s a band that can gather an impromptu crowd of thousands on a light-lined Las Vegas street past midnight, it’s U2. That’s exactly what Bono and the crew (including Larry Mullen Jr.) did late on Saturday, performing a surprise, free Fremont Street show that doubled as a music video shoot for their new (as yet unreleased) track, ‘Atomic City.’
U2 made a surprise appearance on Las Vegas’ Fremont Street this weekend to debut a Sin City-inspired song titled ‘Atomic City.’ - doubtless adding at least one new song to their setlist at the Dublin band's upcoming residency. Utilising a flatbed truck as a stage, the band’s midnight pop-up gig doubled as a music video shoot for the song, and met with enthusiastic applause from the thousands of fans who witnessed the surprise performance.
News of the band's unannounced appearance arrives in the run-up to their U2 UV: Achtung Baby residency at Vegas’ MSG Sphere, which is scheduled to kick off in just two weeks time. The residency celebrates both the opening of the venue at The Venetian Resort along with the slightly delayed 30th anniversary of Achtung Baby, released in 1991.
At the Downtown Vegas show, atop his truck-made-stage, Bono introduced ‘Atomic City’ as a “rock n’ roll 45 in the tradition of late-seventies post-punk, Blondie, The Clash… we’ll take it from everywhere.”
In true Sin City-style, the frontman added, “It’s a confession about not going to confession.”
The track is titled after a ‘50s sort of Las Vegas – a city which saw tourism spike for two reasons: gambling, and because many flooded the city outskirts to view atomic bomb testings at Nevada Test Site, some sixty miles north of Vegas.
Bono opens the track with an invitation, singing, “Come all you stars falling out of the sky / Come all you angels forgetting to fly / Come all who feel we’re not on our own / All UFOs come on your way home.” Driven by fresh rock guitar that sounds like a blast from the past, but with a modern edge, and backed by a euphoric bass line courtesy of Adam Clayton, ‘Atomic City’ sounds like the very '70s-laden, repeat-worthy tune U2 set out to create.
The band performed with the original band line-up, with Larry Mullen Jr. in the hot seat – a real treat, as the drummer will not be part of U2’s Vegas residency due to recovering from back surgery. Instead, drummer Bram van den Berg will stand in on the MSG Sphere nights.
“The four of us recorded the song. Sadly, Larry Mullen Jr. won’t be with us at the Sphere. He doesn’t listen to doctor’s orders,” Bono joked warmly in front of Saturday night’s crowd. “Neither do many of us. But he is here tonight… Give it up for Larry Mullen Jr.!”
The new tune closes with the lines, “I’m front row in Las Vegas/ And there’s a big one on tonight,” a sardonic nod to the band’s more-than-welcome takeover of the city for the rest of what is sure to be a golden year.
Fans who were lucky enough to sprint to the pop-up show have since shared videos on social media, with many eager admirers commenting on the nostalgic sound of ‘Atomic City’ – and predicting an end-of-month single release.
One tweet reads, “Headed to Fremont Street this weekend and had no clue that I was going to witness one of my top ten favourite bands play live,” alongside a video clip of the performance.
Headed to Fremont Street this weekend and had no clue that I was going to witness one of my top ten favorite bands play live. U2's "Atomic City". 🤩#U2 #LasVegas #fremontexperience #live #music pic.twitter.com/z9wlUI2Uob
— 🇺🇸 Zo (@nevada_zo) September 17, 2023
Others gushed over Mullen Jr.’s appearance, with one comically sharing, “I said it back then that Larry would probably turn up in the end to do some shows but here he is before it starts.”
I said it back then that Larry would probably turn up in the end to do some shows but here he is before it starts.😂 #LarryMullenBand
— Victoria✌🏻 (@U2Victoria) September 17, 2023
“I was there and I can’t get that darn bass line out of my head!!! God help me. But it was a fun night!” commented another user.
I was there and I can’t get that darn bass line out of my head!!! God help me. But it was a fun night!!
— Dannene D. (@DanneneJoy) September 18, 2023
In addition to playing the new track through a few times, for the video shoot, U2 also paid homage to their initial Vegas roots. Bono recalled the band’s memorable encounter with Fremont Street back in 1987, as the setting for the ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ music video, filmed during a stop in Las Vegas on The Joshua Tree Tour.
The band performed an acoustic Songs of Surrender version, off the collection of 40 songs from their catalogue released earlier this year, elevating the evening with an element of déjà vu. The stripped-down ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ features additional lyrics accompanied by acoustic and electric guitar and piano keys.
U2 kick off the first two nights of Vegas shows at the MSG Sphere on September 29 and 30. Nine shows are scheduled throughout October, with many more leading up to December 16, when the residency is set to finish. Check out the full list of residency show dates below, along with an Apple Music interview with the band on the Sphere run.
U2: UV, MSG Sphere dates:
Friday, September 29
Saturday, September 30
Thursday, October 5
Saturday, October 7
(Some tickets available here)
Sunday, October 8
Wednesday, October 11
Friday, October 13
Saturday, October 14
Wednesday, October 18
Friday, October 20
Saturday, October 21
Wednesday, October 25
Friday, October 27
Saturday, October 28
Wednesday, November 1
Friday, November 3
Saturday, November 4
Friday, December 1
Saturday, December 2
Friday, December 8
Saturday, December 9
Wednesday, December 13
Friday, December 15
Saturday, December 16