U2 drummer having surgery, band unlikely to tour in 2023

Band has been rumored to tour and launch a Vegas residency

U2 drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. needs surgery in order to keep playing, and says any shows the band may play in 2023 will likely be without him. The Washington Post reported the news on Monday (Nov 28th) after the foursome chatted about their Kennedy Center Honors induction this weekend.

Neither a direct quote from Mullen, Jr. nor surgery details were shared in the article itself, but reporter Geoff Edgers says Mullen, Jr. “now struggles with the physical toll of a lifetime of pounding.” The drummer is also described as “blunt” in his first interview in seven years. Edgers also says “if the band plays live in 2023 it will probably be without him, as he needs surgery to continue playing — and [Mullen, Jr.] admits the dynamics in the band are not the same as they were decades ago.”

Hours after the article was published, Edgers clarified Mullen, Jr.‘s comments on Twitter, revealing the injuries Larry has suffered and quotes from their chat.

“I really miss the audiences. I miss that interaction even though I’m sitting behind a drum kit… My body is not what it used to be physically,” Mullen, Jr. states. “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.”

Edgers explains that “Larry has issues with his neck and elbows. We talked about how sad it was to watch Phil Collins so frail and damaged performing on the last Genesis tour. Larry is not, as he put it, ‘Happy clappy.’ He likes a bit of tension. He never said he was leaving U2 or retiring.”

Mullen, Jr. is dealing with physical ailments many drummers obtain after years of heavy playing.

“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,” Mullen, Jr. adds. “So I’d like to take some time, which I will do to get myself healed. And I really enjoy playing and I enjoy the process of playing and being in the company of creative people. I enjoy that. I don’t care if that’s big or small. It’s a bit like the sprout looking for water.”

The news may disappoint many fans who were hoping to see the legendary group on tour for the first time since The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 and 2019. The band is long rumored to be launching a tour and possibly opening the MSG Sphere at The Venetian in Las Vegas with a residency in 2023. It would be surprising if the band were to tour or perform regularly without one of its founding members, something that’s only happened once during the band’s 46 year history. U2 is one of the very few acts that’s consisted of the original lineup of Mullen, Jr., frontman Bono, guitarist The Edge and bassist Adam Clayton from the start.

In an earlier report, Bono teased the residency at the high-tech MSG Sphere that is rumored to consist of a series of non consecutive dates over several months in late 2023.

“I hope it would be ready. 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. It is the most extraordinary — If it comes off, it’s grand madness by one hundred. It will center around Achtung Baby, which we feel we need to really honor. But it will also, but we have to have the new songs out don’t we?” he asks.

The Washington Post also confirms U2 has multiple albums in the pipeline, although there’s no new concrete information from our previous report that Bono and The Edge were planning to shelve their long-awaited Songs of Ascent album in favor of an “unreasonable guitar music” rock album.

“You have to hurry up The Edge. He’s still mixing our first album, that’s the thing. He’s a perfectionist. We’re writing these songs. We’re demoing them. But we’ve different albums, we have this very reflective album called Songs of Ascent. It’s nearly finished. But it’s just not…” Bono says.

“I would say [Songs of Ascent] is about 70% there. It’s just not right for us. We only want to put out music when we’re ready to take the music to our audience live. We’re not ready.”

The band has also reworked 40 older U2 songs recreated during the lockdown that are set to be released together sometime next year. The stripped-down versions coincide with the release of Bono’s new memoir, Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story.

Last night, Bono wrapped a 14 city book tour that played to North America and Europe. The Broadway-style production rocker recited stories of his life that featured a mix of reworked U2 songs and storytelling enhanced with animated visuals and simple set pieces and a three-piece ensemble.

Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites. Email: info@themusicuniverse.com