U2’s performance at the Grammys showed off the highlights at the Sphere, but didn’t highlight ‘Atomic City’ enough.
When U2 was announced as a performer at the Grammys, it was exciting for fans of the band. They would be broadcasting a performance of their latest single, “Atomic City,” from the Sphere — what could go wrong?
While not horrendous, the performance left some to be desired (no pun intended). Their performance at the 2018 Grammys was a massive step up.
That’s largely because it was a real performance. U2’s latest Grammys appearance was less of a performance and more of an ad for the Sphere.
What went down
U2’s Grammys performance began with an exterior shot of the Sphere. The band was then projected onto the screens from the outside — this was done digitally, as the resolution isn’t that crisp. Before long, we’re thrust inside of the venue, with drone shots of sold-out crowds and the band follow.
For those who’ve never seen U2 at the Sphere, this must have been dazzling. For those who have seen the show, they’ll notice the inconsistencies. The opening shots look like they were taken from the “Atomic City” music video. And the interior shots showcase nearly ever song but the one they were supposed to be performing.
“Zoo Station,” “The Fly,” “Even Better Than the Real Thing,” “With or Without You,” and “Mysterious Ways” are just some of the songs shown in the video. At the beginning of the second verse, it does appear that they shot some footage inside of the venue.
At least the music was live. As it did sound like Bono was actually singing throughout the performance. U2Songs noted that the band was going to record their performances from the Sphere shows from January 26 and 27.
They sounded tight, which is half the battle. “Atomic City” is another example of a U2 song that sounds better in a live setting.
Complaining about the video footage may sound like a nitpick, but it gets worse thanks to who won the award U2 presented.
And the nominees are…
After The Edge’s wah-wah-filled guitar solo, the band stops playing. Bono then greets the Grammys — taking off his Fly shades for the moment — and introduces the Best Pop Vocal Album nominees. Taylor Swift ultimately won the award for her album Midnights.
If nothing else, the “Atomic City” performance felt like a trailer for a Broadway show. It showed the highlights of the show while playing the greatest hits from it. Even worse, it felt like an ad for the new venue.
What could have been is what’s most disappointing. U2’s Sphere show is a spectacle, and some of the imagery in the displayed songs are worth the price of admission. But “Atomic City” itself is a critical part of the show and a spectacle in its own right.
As “Elevation” ends with a snippet of “My Way,” the band kicks right into “Atomic City.” Adam Clayton’s bass kicks the song into gear and the Las Vegas strip is displayed on the screens. Considering the song is named after Las Vegas, it would have made more sense to show this on the screen.
But any bit of U2 in the mainstream is good. It was great to see the guys on national TV once again. Still, their performance at the Grammys in 2018 was magical. “Get Out of Your Own Way” in front of the Statue of Liberty was timely and highlighted a great song from Songs of Experience.