U2 Health Emergency Jeopardizes Las Vegas Residency

Posted on: November 30, 2022, 06:14h. 

Last updated on: November 30, 2022, 07:21h.

Will U2 perform its Las Vegas residency next year with or without founding drummer Larry Mullen Jr.? That’s the question reverberating through the live concert business right now in the wake of a U2 profile in the Washington Post this week. The profile revealed that the Irish band’s drummer needs surgery to continue drumming.

Though U2 is reportedly slated to open the brand new MSG Sphere in September, the Post stated that “if the band plays live in 2023 it will probably be without (Mullen), as he needs surgery to continue playing — and admits the dynamics in the band are not the same as they were decades ago.”

Did you catch that “if the band plays live in 2023?” U2’s residency has been reportedly scheduled to run six weekends, 12 performances total.

Larry Mullen Jr.
U2’s Larry Mullen Jr. says he’s a damaged man who requires surgery to fix the toll taken by years of drumming. Will this put the kibosh on the band’s first Las Vegas residency? (Image: dublinlive.ie)

According to the Post report, the required surgery is for longtime neck and elbow problems – though it notes that the drummer also suffers from back problems. Mullen previously underwent knee surgery in 2009 at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado.

11 O’clock Tick Tock

Mullen, 61, cofounded U2 in 1976, when he, singer Paul “Bono” Hewson, guitarist Dave “The Edge” Evans, and bassist Adam Clayton were high school buddies. In fact, it was Mullen who formed the band, pinning a note to the bulletin board at Mount Temple School in Dublin seeking fellow musicians.

Reporter Geoff Edgers buried this bombshell news deep in his Post profile, which was pegged to the band’s upcoming Kennedy Center Honors PBS broadcast on Dec. 28. However, Edgers tweeted the following quotes from Mullen, which didn’t make it into his story: “My body is not what it used to be physically. Like next year, I won’t be performing live next year. I don’t know what the band’s plan is. There’s talk of all kinds of things … I have lots of bits falling off, elbows, knees, necks, and so, during COVID, when we weren’t playing, I got a chance to have a look at some of these things. So, there’s some damage along the way.”

U2 has a history of waiting out health scares – postponing concerts when Edge’s daughter was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, after Bono had a bicycle accident in Central Park in 2014, and when Bono underwent heart surgery in 2016 to repair a blister on his aorta. And it has never played a gig with a substitute member. When considered along with the lack of any confirmation of U2’s Sphere residency so far from the band or venue officials, this could spell a major delay, if not a cancellation.

The news also seems to shed light on why, during an interview on Ireland’s “The Brendan O’Connor Show” earlier this month, Bono stated: “I can’t announce Vegas, you’d have to shoot me! But if it happens, I can promise you it won’t be like anything you’ve ever seen in Las Vegas or anywhere, ever.”

Once again, there’s that dreaded “if it happens.”