On an early Sunday morning in downtown Las Vegas, the legendary Irish ensemble, U2, captivated the city by filming a video for their new song, “Atomic City.” Utilising a makeshift stage on a flatbed truck, they commenced their performance at the stroke of midnight, offering an enchanting spectacle under the neon lights.
U2 is currently stationed in the city, rigorously preparing for their “U2: UV Achtung Baby Live” residency at the MSG Sphere, which is set to debut the phenomenal $2.3 billion venue on September 29. The new song, as Bono explained to the privileged audience gathered under the vibrant Fremont Street Experience canopy, is much more than just a new tune. Portraying it as a “rock n’ roll 45 in the tradition of late-’70s post-punk,” he declared it a token of their affection, a rendition written exclusively for their fans.
“Atomic City,” a vibrant homage to Las Vegas, encapsulates the city’s vibrant past (“Sinatra swings, a choir sings”) whilst humorously spotlighting some of its more prevalent albeit antiquated stereotypes. Echoing tales of fallen stars using the city as a comeback platform and whimsical nods to its alleged popularity among aliens, the song spun an intricate web of nostalgia and humor.
Performed live to a pre-recorded audio track, this newest addition to U2’s repertoire was recorded just last week in Los Angeles. It is anticipated to grace the setlist at their Sphere performances, which predominantly features a meticulous replication of their 1991 album, Achtung Baby.
Their nomadic stage, reminiscent of the Rolling Stones’ iconic 1975 stunt in New York’s Fifth Avenue, carried the band to various filming locations: behind the 3rd Street stage and before the Plaza Hotel and Casino.
Arguably, the most unexpected occurrence was the reappearance of the band’s founding drummer, Larry Mullen Jr., whose long-standing neck and elbow issues had previously forced him to withdraw from the Sphere dates. Comfortably occupying the drum stool once more, Mullen’s presence was an unexpected treat for fans.
U2’s decision to film at the historical Plaza was a poignant one, the casino resort marking the site of the city’s inaugural railroad stop, an event that signaled the birth of Las Vegas in 1905. Despite the original depot being replaced by the Plaza in 1970, the train lines, now exclusive freight lanes, continue to run behind the establishment.
Additionally, the site served as a sentimental reunion for U2, having famously filmed their iconic 1987 video for “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” there. Recreating the magic of the past, the band revisited the song, offering a stripped-down, country-tinged rendition, sending waves of nostalgia radiating through the crowd.