In U2 we trust to deliver music that shapes lives and breaks barriers. The group is back with a new single titled Atomic City as they begin their Las Vegas residency. Having the same impact as an arrow achieving bull’s-eye, the rock belter comes with a glorious drum roll, driving guitar licks and laid-back vocals.
Come all who serve above and below/ Come all believers and all who don’t know bellows Bono and the stage is set for fireworks. After all, Bono makes it clear: Where you are is where I’ll be.
“It’s just an invitation to our audience. It’s like a come-all-ye. You know what come-all-ye is? It’s like a song that invites everybody in. Las Vegas was known as Atomic City because they had atomic bomb tourism here in the fifties,” Bono told Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1. Lowe has become the go-to person when musicians want to speak their hearts out.
Recorded at Sound City in Los Angeles with U2’s original producer, Steve Lillywhite, and longtime associate Jacknife Lee, the song has many layers.
Las Vegas was called Atomic City by its own Chamber of Commerce in the 1940s, before the threat of nuclear war cast a cloud. In the 1950s, when atomic bomb testing was taking place in the Nevada desert, calendars were printed advertising the best dates and locations to watch mushroom clouds blooming. The irony, of course, is not lost on U2.
U2 shoots the music video, Atomic City, on Fremont Street in Las Vegas
“There may be clues for how we can get out of the climate crisis through fusion rather than fission. Though even fission, which is regular nuclear energy, is getting safer and smarter…. we’ve campaigned against nuclear energy and we’ve kind of turned around a little bit on that one. So the lyric ‘atomic sun for everyone’… that’s that reference. So we’re using it as in a comic sense, Atomic City, but actually the idea that by not splitting the atom, by fusing the atom, you have unlimited energy, it’s just a beautiful idea to plop in the middle of a seventies swing stomp,” Bono told Apple Music 1.
There’s also a sense of heartbreak. On hand for the video shoot were Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. Sadly, Mullen will not perform at the band’s Sphere shows due to surgery recovery. His temporary replacement for the concert residency is Bram van den Berg, of Dutch pop rock band Krezip.
“We’re doing the video and he’s (Larry) like: ‘Ow.’ But he’s going to get back to fitness. It’s heartbreaking for Larry to be here and to see this and know that Bram is standing in for him (during the residency). By the way, Bram is a superstar. He was a fan of Larry’s and a student of Larry’s. And now he’ll be here playing instead of Larry, and that’s got to hurt as much as some of the injuries. But he gave it all on this song anyway. Drummers are born, not made. And they speak their own language. They’re a breed apart. And we’re nothing... That’s where the rock and roll comes from in our band,” said Bono.
Whether Atomic City becomes another all-time classic U2 anthem remains to be seen, at the moment all eyes are on U2:UV Achtung Baby Live at the Sphere where one can only imagine Bono putting in extra effort while singing If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.
“In the end, this is about trying to make a connection with our audience. That’s what this is about. Trying to make the worst seat in the house the best seat in the house. Whether it was jumping into the crowd, whether it was climbing speaker stacks, whether it was early forays into video, this was all just an attempt to get closer to our audience,” said Bono.
U2’s latest album is Songs of Surrender, which came out in March. It contains remakes of 40 U2 songs with largely acoustic arrangements. The effort is primarily for U2 fans, who can look at some of the classics in a new light. The songs have been painstakingly reconsidered and some even received different lyrics, like moving from present tense to past tense in Red Hill Mining Town, clarifying that Bad is about drug addiction and rewriting Walk On to refer to the war in Ukraine. The new versions are meant for an intimate crowd and most of the arrangements rely on acoustic guitar or piano, like MTV’s old Unplugged shows.