U2 Releases ‘Atomic City’ Video, Shot in Las Vegas, Night Before Sphere Debut

Posted on: September 29, 2023, 09:43h. 

Last updated on: September 30, 2023, 01:09h.

Late Thursday night, U2 released a new single and video, Atomic City. It arrived the day before the Irish band’s first Las Vegas residency, “U2:UV Achtung Baby,” kicks off at the MSG Sphere at the Venetian.

U2 singer Bono mimes along on a dolly, pulling him past the casinos of downtown Las Vegas. (Image: YouTube)

The song and the video, U2’s first since 1997, is a love letter to Las Vegas shot on a crowded Fremont Street and inside an empty Sphere.

“This is a new song written about you,” singer Bono explained to the VIPs gathered under the Fremont Street Experience canopy to watch the shoot in the early morning hours of September 17.

The video shows U2 arriving at the shoot on the back of a flatbed truck — shades of a promotional stunt staged by the Rolling Stones down New York’s Fifth Avenue in 1975 — which shuttled it between two shooting locations: behind the 3rd Street stage and in front of the Plaza Hotel and Casino.

U2 called the song an homage to Blondie, Giorgio Moroder, the Clash, ’70s punk, and the city of Las Vegas. Indeed, the first few notes of the song’s chorus resemble Blondie’s 1980 hit, Call Me.

Expected to be the residency’s set-opener, Atomic City celebrates the history of Las Vegas (“Sinatra swings, a choir sings”) while at the same time pandering to some of its more popular (and dated) stereotypes, such as the stage it provides to has-beens (“Come all you stars falling out of the sky”) and its popularity among extraterrestrials (“All UFOs come on your way home”).

Las Vegas was called Atomic City in the ’50s and early ’60s when 100 atomic bombs were detonated in the air over the Nevada Test Site.

Larry Mullen, Jr.
Larry Mullen, Jr. drums in front of the Plaza Hotel in the video for “Atomic City.” (Image: YouTube)

Larry Was Mullen It Over

The video prominently features founding drummer Larry Mullen, Jr., who is sitting out the Sphere dates as he continues recovering from surgery for longtime neck and elbow problems.

This week, it was revealed that Mullen also plays drums on the new track, which was recorded at Sound City in L.A., where it was produced by Jacknife Lee and longtime U2 collaborator Steve Lillywhite.

Larry went the night before to just make sure,” Bono told Apple Music 1. “He didn’t know if he could play for an hour … He didn’t know if he could play for 15 minutes. And he just played up a storm.”

On stage, Mullen will be replaced by Bram van den Berg, a virtually unknown drummer from The Netherlands.

A Sort of Homecoming

Setting a video about Las Vegas history at the Plaza was appropriate on several levels, as the casino resort sits on the site of the first railroad stop in Las Vegas — the one responsible for the city’s birth in 1905. Though the original depot was demolished in 1970 to make room for the Plaza, the train tracks, now used exclusively for freight, still run behind the casino hotel.

The setting was also a homecoming for U2, whose smash 1987 video for I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For was filmed on a pre-canopied Fremont Street. In the clip, U2 clowned around while imitating Elvis, surprising tourists who didn’t expect to bump into the most famous music act in the world at the time.