in which we give the drummer some.


This was written at the time of the initial announcement and although I later changed my mind, I stand by the initial thoughts. Read more U2 here.

U2 just announced that they are going to be performing Achtung Baby at the much-rumored, finally-confirmed borg of a venue in Las Vegas known as The Sphere. As much as I am down to try whatever this is because we have a history, I love the spectacle of U2, and there are few albums more personally significant to me than Achtung Baby. Great. But then we were informed:

The announcement comes with confirmation that Larry will take time out to undergo and recuperate from surgery in 2023. These Las Vegas shows will see Larry and the band welcome drummer Bram van den Berg who will be sitting in to join Bono, The Edge and Adam onstage at the Sphere.

Bono, The Edge and Adam said, "It's going to take all we've got to approach the Sphere without our bandmate in the drum seat, but Larry has joined us in welcoming Bram van den Berg who is a force in his own right.

Well, that is a different story.

I do not have any interest in seeing U2 without Larry Mullen Jr. I just do not. It’s not like Larry is my all time favorite, it isn’t about whether they can’t get a competent drummer to fill in, it’s that they are one of the few remaining bands where no one has died or flounced off or had to retire because they were physically no longer able to do it, and I believe there there will be a difference in the whole vibe and I do not want to deal with that.

I do not want to see a U2 without Larry. I do not, especially when he is still with us. I am very content with never having a memory of seeing U2 where it isn’t the entire band. I am absolutely ready to sit this one out and draw this line in the sand right here. I didn’t think about it until I read it and my immediate response was no I am not doing that, and then the Tetris game in my mind clicked into place about wanting my memories of U2 being… U2, not Bono, Edge, Adam and… some guy on drums who is not LMJ.

I am remembering that I saw U2 without Bono and instead with some guy from New Jersey on lead vocals but that felt different. It was for charity. It was World AIDS day. It was … a U2-adjacent art project but it wasn’t U2. It wasn’t trying to be U2! That is the difference I think. I am now considering not thinking of this as a U2 show and as a U2-affiliated art project and that sat a little better with me so maybe I’ll get there? I don’t know, though.

I didn’t see ZooTV because I was living in the Middle East but we had MTV by then and it was on in the background with the sound off if I was home. So I saw all of the coverage and had read all of the press and it wasn’t like I had no idea. I finally got to see it when my sister Tracey got married (she does not read this but her son does, hey Zach) and since I had to pay for my own plane ticket from Tel Aviv to NYC, I was going via London and I was going to see U2. I was working in the music business and we represented Island and I requested tickets. Before you get too excited remember that this was at old Wembley Stadium so, like, your option was basically on the pitch or in the stands but you were still miles away (it’s not like my connection got me amazing seats or whatever). It was glorious and literally life-changing. Not long after those shows I packed up my life and moved back to the States.

BUT THAT IS NOT WHY I AM OKAY WITH NOT GOING. That is actually irrelevant.

I would also like to offer that if you have never seen U2 and think THIS IS YOUR CHANCE I want to argue that you might want to consider that you’d rather not see an incomplete band. This is hard, because I can’t say “you’ll get another chance.” You’d have to have some kind of …lofty principles that you’d be willing to sacrifice any chance of seeing someone whose music is important to you and let’s face it, most of us are not that exaggeratedly principled, at least I am not. It’s like older friends who had the chance to see Elvis at the end when everyone knew what he was and wasn’t, half of them are glad they did and a third wish they hadn’t and two of them are both of those things.

This is not me trying to tell you that you are wrong if you want to go. We are serious people here at jukebograduate, we are people for whom rock and roll means something. We are just talking here and we speak the same language and this is a real and serious consideration that i feel like most if not all of you will read this and think, ‘not my thing, but i respect that’.

It’s also very literally not I AM A BETTER FAN. Every U2 fan I personally am acquainted with will go to this if they can and I will tell them bon voyage and spend at least 90 minutes on the phone afterwards so they can tell me all about it. it’s just -- I had this VISCERAL reaction to the announcement and I suddenly realized I had an opinion.

I understand, also, that no one in the band wanted this outcome. I don’t think they are being punitive or throwing out Larry (as IF that could happen). It’s just that we are where we are in 2023. And I hate that the most. We are here in this world where everything is product and a consumable and so they have to do this, the product is more important than someone’s life and health and they can’t just walk away, because money and scheduling. I mean, it could happen, it’s not their fault that COVID delayed everything, but at a certain point when an enterprise is that large you lose the agility to just pivot and reschedule and move everything around and the music business is already enough of a mess regarding capacity and space and venues and touring personnel that I am not surprised that some suit held up a contract and pointed to the relevant clauses (I have no idea if that’s what happened, it’s called artistic license, look it up). The music business is not going to get smaller or less commercial. It is $1000 for GA tickets to Bruce Springsteen. It is every concert costing $300 -- if you can get a ticket. If you can get a ticket you will never be sure that you did the best you could or if they just took you for a sucker based on your reload pattern and the amount of times you typed TAYLOR SWIFT into the Ticketmaster.com search bar. I could barely sell my Springsteen tickets for Houston, I unloaded one pair to someone on Twitter who had never seen him and I gave her a discount, the other perfectly good ticket behind the stage that I would have been totally happen as a clam to sit in once upon a time, it will likely not sell because every other ticket in that section and in lower rows than mine is going for $40 on StubHub. (THAT IS ANOTHER NEWSLETTER.)

But: In this monetized synergized synthesized CGI ChatGPT Verified Fan Live Nation Fillmore Bottomless Soda Platinum Seat Experience world, what is still sacred is our personal relationship with music. They try so hard to monetize that and they can’t because its intangible, it’s invisible, it’s how your heart feels at a concert or the elation of listening to a song in the car with the volume all the way up, it is that song or that lyric or that record. This thing is still sacred. This thing is still meaningful. And for me, right now, I am drawing a line in the sand and saying I am not doing this.

(and who am I kidding, none of us are getting tickets anyway, and no one who does will be able to afford to sit anywhere worthwhile)