U2 will begin its two-residency at Las Vegas’ Sphere with at least one new song to perform: “Atomic City,” a Vegas-themed tune that is expected to be released on or before the band’s Sept. 29 opening-night show. Filming a music video, the foursome repeatedly played through the song Saturday while positioned on a flatbed trailer that had come to a halt on Fremont Street in the city’s neon-filled downtown area.
And by foursome, we do mean the full, original lineup, with Larry Mullen Jr. on drums. Although the founding drummer is sitting out the Sphere residency for health recovery reasons — Bram van den Berg will take his place at the shows — Mullen was in tow alongside the other three on the trailer that rolled through town, having apparently also taken part in the recording session that took place earlier for “Atomic City.”
The site U2songs.com collated on-the-scene reporting from fans capturing video of the downtown Vegas shoot, publishing full lyrics for the song as well as video snippets of the performances and Bono’s comments. Las Vegas Review Journal entertainment columnist John Katsilometes was also on hand and provided copious video coverage of the shoot as well as a print report.
“The four of us recorded the song. Sadly, Larry Mullen Jr. won’t be with us at the Sphere,” Bono told the crowd, per Katsilometes’ report in the Review Journal. “He doesn’t listen to doctor’s orders… Neither do many of us. But he is here tonight … Give it up for Larry Mullen Jr.!”
The arrival of the truck pulling the trailer downtown was not a spontaneous occurrence. Katsilometes reported that 250 extras had been solicited via email and paid $150 each for the shoot, which found the band running through “Atomic City” four times. Clearly there was no ban on cell phones imposed upon the extras, as nearly every observer at the shoot looks to be holding one up to capture video. Fans at the site who reported in to U2songs.com said that the backing tracks during the shoot appeared to be pre-recorded but Bono was singing live.
Bono described the new song as “a rock ‘n’ roll 45 in the tradition of ’70s post-punk, Blondie, the Clash, some ’70s punk … We’ll take it from everywhere.”
The title of the new song refers to a nickname that Las Vegas picked up in the 1940s.
“I’m free / I came here for the fight / I’m front row in Las Vegas / And there’s a big one on tonight,” go the climactic lyrics in the Sin City-centric tune.
The group also delighted the extras during a camera change by playing — not to a backing track — a new arrangement of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” the original video for which was also shot in the same area of Las Vegas’ downtown in the late 1980s, before the current open-air roof was installed over the famous boulevard. Bono told the crowd they were rearranging the 1987 rock classic, saying, “Let’s try it as a country song. It’s a sort of a Saturday night Sunday morning kind of deal anyway; it’s a confession about not going to confession.”
According to U2songs.com, Mullen had been recording with the rest of the band in the south of France as well as at two studios in Los Angeles, with producer Steve Lillywhite, in sessions that wrapped up earlier last week. The site noted, however, that Bono seemed to be improvising or scatting in spots, indicating that the lyrics might still be subject to change.
The fan site noted that this marked the first time the band had performed in public since wrapping up the “Joshua Tree” at the end of 2019.