A Very U2 Christmas, 2023 Edition

(Note: Links are in bold text.) It’s time for the annual installment of A Very U2 Christmas, where we recap and reflect on where the members of U2 have shown up during this year’s holiday season. In 2021, it was all about Sing 2. In 2022, it was all about Surrender. And in 2023, it’s all about…you know it…the Sphere! Bono, Edge and Adam have been in their Las Vegas residency since late September, took a break throughout much of November, and then played shows until December 16. There’s not much I can say about it that hasn’t already been said. As anyone who has attended even one show can attest, U2:UV Achtung Baby Live is a spectacular, immersive experience commanded by 3/4 of the greatest live band on planet earth (plus 1/4 Flying Dutchman). At the bottom of the page, you’ll see where you can listen to our archived U2:UV audio of 15 full shows so far.

Like every tour that came before it, the U2:UV Las Vegas residency has been full of fun opportunities for the fan community to analyze and hypothesize. Once we all figured out the setlist formula, registered our individual opinions on Lady Gaga’s surprise appearance, and memorized this era’s Bonoisms – from “Elvis cathedral,” to “Are we ready to get married,” to “It might have something to do with the male ego” – it was time to start making predictions about when the granddaddy of U2 Christmas songs might enter the set. 

U2 Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) at the Sphere 

It was anticipated that the song would be played at some point in December, but the band waited until December 15, gently tacking it onto the end of Still Haven’t Found (I make no apologies for using superfan vernacular song titles!). While there was immediate collective excitement, many fans described the arrangement as “toned down,” “subdued” and the like. Despite Larry’s absence and Adam only plucking a bit near the end of the song, this was the closest thing to a full band performance of Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) since December 20, 1987, minus the three times it was played as a snippet in December 2005 during Vertigo. Other performances of the song in 2011, 2018 and 2020 were all led by Bono and other Irish musicians while Christmas Eve busking in Dublin, or with Edge on RTE television (as always, many thanks to U2Gigs for their meticulous documentation). There’s one more development regarding this song, though: The Christmas Queen herself, Darlene Love, has declared that U2’s 1987 cover of the song she made famous in 1963 is her favorite. Speaking on the podcast Behind the Table, the 82-year-old singer said, “It has a special meaning to me because it’s totally different from what everybody else did.” Love added, “It was a U2 Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). That’s what made it so great.” 

U2 Christmas Fan Parties in Las Vegas 

On December 14, hundreds of U2 fans spanning across four different continents met up at fan events across Las Vegas. The festivities kicked off inside the Zoo Station exhibit at the Venetian, where U2.com’s Zootopia members brought some holiday cheer. Sherry Lawrence, who many know as a former staff writer for AtU2.com, shared a recap of the event. “Fans signed a holiday banner to send a satellite of love to all of those at Sphere wishing them love, joy, hope, health and renewal,” she said. “Gifts were exchanged, party games were had, and many photos were taken to celebrate the holidays inside the Venetian’s space dedicated to the U2:UV run.” Santa Adam made an appearance at the party in the form of a cardboard cutout, with a hilarious note attached that said, “Please do not move the bassist. He is sensitive.” The note is signed, “Betty Dalton” (brilliant!), and Adam’s brother Sebastian Clayton was photographed posing with it. Thanks to AdamsKimono on Instagram for sharing!

Later that evening, the party shifted over to the Hard Rock Café Las Vegas, where hundreds more gathered for the U2Mas Party, which benefited the African Well Fund. Velvet Rebel spun tunes, sing-a-longs were had, and the U2 fan community donated over $2,000 to bring clean water wells to Africa. Many fans donated raffle prizes for the cause, and the Hard Rock Café graciously donated the space. There was a special raffle where 10 lucky attendees won copies of the Atomic City 7-inch vinyl single. Fans from Germany, Mexico, Canada, Peru, Argentina, Australia, Ireland, and all across the United States walked out with U2 swag. Many thanks to Jason Lent (AKA Velvet Rebel) and Sherry for recapping these awesome events; you can follow Sherry here, and follow Velvet Rebel here, both on Twitter/X. If you plan to attend any U2 shows at the Sphere in 2024, you can enjoy the special Sips of Surrender happy hour menu drinks at Hard Rock Café Vegas from 2 PM to 5 PM. 

raffle prizes

Raffle prizes at U2Mas Party, Hard Rock Café Las Vegas (credit: Jason Lent) 

U2 Christmas Art by Achtoon Baby 

One of the coolest highlights of U2 Christmas 2023 comes courtesy of Kelly Eddington, the amazing watercolor artist behind AchtoonBaby. Kelly launched her AchtoonBaby cartoons in 2002 for the former AtU2.com, and continues to create the art for her own site to this day with her collaborator and best friend PJ DeGenaro, who contributes articles, essays and poems to the site. This year, Kelly adapted some of her favorite U2 paintings from the past decade by giving them a Christmas twist — and it started with a request from Sherry Lawrence, who asked Kelly for any preexisting U2 holiday paintings she could use for the aforementioned parties. “Because I didn’t have anything recent,” Kelly said, “I adapted some of my favorite U2 paintings from the past decade to look Christmasy.” Kelly’s U2 Christmas paintings feature a fun variety of saturated colors (mostly red, orange, yellow and blue). “Ideas for four Christmas alterations came to me in a rush,” she said. Each of Kelly’s U2 Christmas paintings are below, and she shared with us the inspiration behind their holiday alterations. 

U2 Christmas Painting – Bono 

“I think Bono was probably first, as I’d just painted him in October. That microphone of his was screaming to be turned into a big candy cane, and his gleeful, open mouth was just right.” 

bono with candy cane microphone

(Credit/Copyright: Kelly Eddington)

U2 Christmas Painting – Adam

“It was a no-brainer to add a white beard and a Santa hat to Adam’s fluffy white hair from 2015.” 

U2 adam clayton as santa claus

(Credit/Copyright: Kelly Eddington)

U2 Christmas Painting – Edge

“My joyous 2017 Edge is a favorite of my readers, and the blue that dominates that painting suggested ice and snow. I belong to a small cluster of fans who sometimes refer to Edge as the ‘pagan god of winter.’ It’s a long story, but just look at him.) It wasn’t hard to add a snowy overlay to the picture; as always, Edge was the easiest of the four to work with.”

U2 the edge winter

(Credit/Copyright: Kelly Eddington)

U2 Christmas Painting – Larry

“My watercolor of Larry drumming from 2018 is hands-down my best and most difficult painting of him. The colors in that one seem to glow, and I thought adding a string of multicolored lights wouldn’t be the hardest thing in the world.”

(Credit/Copyright: Kelly Eddington)

Kelly also shared about her process. “I spent a day painting the alterations for Bono, Adam, and Larry. Then I scanned them, digitally separated each image from the watercolor paper, and dropped them onto my paintings. After fiddling around with each image until I was happy, I sent them over to Sherry, saying, ‘Do with them what you will!’ In addition to being part of Sherry’s party banner, the paintings have circulated on social media throughout the U2 community this holiday season. Although she calls AchtoonBaby “the U2 art project that attempts to be amusing,” Kelly is a full-time watercolor artist; you can buy prints of her U2 paintings here, and check out her full body of work at KellyEddington.com. Also over the holiday season, Kelly and PJ were interviewed by Kevin Shannon for his fun, new Zoo PodCast show! Here’s where you can listen on Spotify

U2:UV Sphere Audio Recordings 

Speaking of listening, Zoo Station Radio has archived 15 shows of U2:UV Sphere audio so far. Find the show you’re looking for on the U2:UV Achtung Baby audio page.

And that’s a wrap on U2 Christmas 2023! The band will be back in the Atomic City from January 26 through March 2, ready for bright light. Let them dive into your eyes, and blah blah blah. 

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U2 community builder, actualist, sometimes full of anger and grieving. Contact: IG @brookwf, X @U2radiobrook.

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