U2 delivered the first show of their three-month residency at the new Las Vegas Sphere video arena on Friday night. But they did it without one of their founding members, who they’ve never performed without for the past 45 years.
Early in the show, Bono said, “Where are we? Who are we?” He introduced The Edge, Adam Clayton and… Bram van den Berg, subbing in for Larry Mullen Jr. on the drums. “Who the hell are you?” Bono quipped, adding, “I think I know you… let’s go!”
It’s the first show they’ve played without Mullen since October 1978, Bono pointed out. One of the songs they played, “All I Want Is You,” included a story about Mullen.
“I’ve never told anyone this before, but this is an attempt to write a wedding song from a woman’s point of view,” Bono said — he’d never even told the song’s producer. Bono later added that he sang that song for Mullen. The regular drummer is taking time away from the band to focus on his health.
The band celebrated substitute Van den Berg’s birthday, but the drummer made sure to note, “Make no mistake: There is only one Larry Mullen Jr.”
The Sphere is a venue featuring giant ultra-high-quality LED video panels, being used to create a reality similar to the LED screens used in recent TV and film allowing actors to work on virtual sets. You can watch an example of the Sphere in action in the video above.
The two-hour show featured songs with new arrangements, as well as some lyrical differences, the official writeup on U2.com noted. The band also tweaked some of their favorites on their recent “Songs of Surrender” album released earlier this year.
The performance featuring the entirety of their “Achtung Baby” album,” tracks from “Rattle and Hum” and more.
The show was full of surprises, including covers of the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Prince, Frank Sinatra, Thin Lizzy and Van Morrison. Though it’s not all a surprise — they closed with the always popular “Beautiful Day.” Earlier in the encore, they also played their new single, “Atomic City. Released Friday, it includes footage filmed inside the Sphere.
U2 also paid tribute to Jimmy Buffett, who died earlier this month. His family and doctors were in attendance at the show.
Among others, the band gave shoutouts to attendees including Paul McCartney, Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and others. Iovine produced “Rattle and Hum.”
You can watch another fan-shot video of the event below, as well as visiting U2.com for an official peak at what the Sphere makes possible for U2.