U2 Drummer Larry Mullen to Skip 2023 Tours to Deal with “Physical” Issues, Not Leaving the Band

After 46 years and 26 tours with U2, drummer Larry Mullen is reportedly going to sit out any touring the band may undertake in 2023 to deal with some physical issues.

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“I really enjoy playing and I enjoy the process of playing and being in the company of creative people,” said Mullen in a recent interview with Geoff Edgers of The Washington Post, the drummer’s first interview in seven years. “I don’t care if that’s big or small. 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. Like next year, I won’t be performing live … I don’t know what the band’s plan is. There’s talk of all kinds of things.”

The drummer expressed his deep commitment to the band, which he joined in 1976 when he was just 14 years old, and confirmed that he would sit out any touring on the band’s schedule in 2023 to give himself some time to heal. “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,” shared Mullen. “So I’d like to take some time, which I will do to get myself healed.”

During their conversation, Mullen also shared that the dynamics within U2 have shifted over the years to more of a “benevolent dictatorship,” which prompted some speculation from fans online that the drummer may be leaving the band.

“You only do this if you’re having the best time, and not everyone is going to make it because the price is so high,” added Mullen. “So I think the challenge is for more generosity. More openness to the process. I am autonomous and I value my autonomy. I don’t sing from the same hymn sheet. I don’t pray to the same version of God. So everyone has their limits.”

Edgers shared additional portions of his interview with Mullen, which were not included in his final published story on a Twitter thread to diffuse any rumors of the drummer leaving the band, and added that he did not ask him about any specific physical or medical conditions.

“He volunteered them,” said Edgers of Mullen’s shared physical issues. He added that the two also talked about how sad it was to watch Phil Collins, in a frail state, performing on the final Genesis tour.

“He said that he had been told, in the past, to rest or get work done and take time off,” added Edgers. “Instead, he pushed himself to perform. … He wants to fix his issues because he wants to drum again. He never said he was leaving U2 or retiring.”

U2 are nearly finished with their 16th album, Songs of Ascent, which follows Songs of Innocence in 2014 and its follow-up Songs of Experience, released in 2017. The band is also working on another collection of songs, Surrender, named after frontman Bono’s recent memoir—and the title of the band’s 1983 War track—which will include 40 stripped-down versions of classic U2 songs.

On Dec. 4, the band, along with actor George Clooney, Gladys Knight, Amy Grant, and Cuban composer-conductor Tania León, was honored at the 45th annual Kennedy Center Honors at the National Arts Center in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

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