The new way of watching live music? – U2’s performance at the Las Vegas Sphere

Bella Crawshaw

Have you ever wondered about the possibilities of live music? With the opening of the new Las Vegas Sphere, the venue is pushing the visual boundaries of live performance, recently seen at U2’s opening concert for their tour. In this article, Impact’s Bella Crawshaw details the unique, visual specialties of the Sphere, U2’s incredible opening performance to their tour and the concerns for other locations building similar venues.  

The legendary Irish rock band U2 are making their grand return to Las Vegas. The band last visited the city as part of the ‘Experience + Innocence Tour’ in 2018, which was in support of their albums ‘Songs of Experience’ and ‘Songs of Innocence’. The band played a total of two nights in the city at the T-Mobile Arena. With over four decades of performing behind them and multiple Grammys, the band stormed the stage at the Sphere on the 29th September 2023, the newest Las Vegas venue, and the home of the band for the next few months.

U2 have planned over two dozen performances to take place at the Sphere, as part of their ‘U2:UV Achtung Baby Live At The Sphere’ tour. The hit album ‘Achtung Baby’ was originally released in 1991 and includes some fan favourite songs such as One, Mysterious Ways, Until The End Of The World and my personal favourite Zoo Station. Although this tour is centred around the ‘Achtung Baby’ album, the band will also be playing some amazing songs from the albums ‘Rattle And Hum’ and ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’. If you’re a big fan of the single With Or Without You, don’t worry, they’ll be playing that as well.

it allows images to be projected from every angle

Not only was this event the opening show for the band’s new tour, but also the grand opening of the venue. The futuristic capabilities of the Sphere were debuted to the public all around the world, leaving people in shock. The cost to make the Sphere was around two billion dollars, and standing at 336 feet tall, and 516 feet wide, it makes it the biggest spherical structure in the world. Completed with the 1.2 million LED lights making up the 580,000 square foot wraparound floor-to-ceiling screens, it allows images to be projected from every angle. The never seen before screen has prompted fans to joke that it is “the only concert where the nose-bleed seats are the best”.

The sound quality is perfected by the 160,000 speakers throughout the venue, ensuring fans are enveloped and absorbed in a blanket of sound. There is nothing better than being utterly enclosed by the music, feeling the beat inside your chest and the vibrations in your blood. To make the experience even more immersive the venue has 4D effects added to mimic the wind or control the temperature inside. If you thought it couldn’t get better, it can…

Whether that’s the rumble of thunder, buzz of bees or pouring of rain, you’ll be able to feel it through your seat

Over half the seats are part of a haptic system that is linked up to the screen and vibrates with the effects shown on it, allowing members of the audience to be absorbed by the musical experience. Whether that’s the rumble of thunder, buzz of bees or pouring of rain, you’ll be able to feel it through your seat. The amazing effects the Sphere provides has completely revolutionised the fan experience, taking you from just watching a performance to being transported inside of it.

The band performed for 2 hours to 18,000 fans and a couple of A-list celebrities as well. Some of the famous faces included Oprah, Matt Damon and the one and only Paul McCartney, who even got a personal shout out, “Macca is in the house tonight”, after U2 played Love Me Do from the Beatles’ album ‘Please Please Me’, released in 1963. The whole crowd was in awe as they watched the beautiful visuals capture the essence of each song perfectly. The show began by the screen displaying a plain cement wall which slowly cracked away to allow a bright light to peak through, turning into a lit up cross. As it grew, so did the anticipation of the crowd, excitedly awaiting what’s next to come. When they played Beautiful Day from their 2000 album ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’, the Sphere was filled with wonderful imagery of snakes, birds, and colourful butterflies. The screens were even used to display the band for the fans at the back of the venue. It’s safe to say that the new venue has got the seal of approval by lead vocalist Bono as he exclaimed “what a fancy pad” during the show.

The Senior Vice President of brand strategy and creative development at Sphere Entertainment, Guy Barnett, points out the “possibilities… to create compelling and impactful stories to connect with audiences in new ways”. One of the next events to be hosted at the Sphere is a screening of Postcard From Earth, a documentary by Darren Aronofsky. The wacky and robotic atmosphere created by the venue is the perfect place to show the equally wacky sci-fi documentary.

Maybe Las Vegas is the only place on earth where the flashy and garish architecture can fit into the skyline?

There are already plans to make a similar sphere in East London, but not everyone is happy about it. The local residents raise valid concerns about the light pollution it will cause. Spokeswoman, Lindesay Mace, told CBS it is the “offensive nature of the building” that the Stop MSG Sphere group is fighting against. Maybe Las Vegas is the only place on earth where the flashy and garish architecture can fit into the skyline? There are also concerns about how it could increase road accidents, caused by cars stopping to take in the unusual images projected by the outside of the building.

To conclude, the Sphere represents the evolution of live entertainment, a project that completely immerses the audience – but at its hefty price, light pollution, and complete obscenity, is it worth it? That is for you, the reader, to decide…

Bella Crawshaw 

Featured image courtesy of Ameer Basheer via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.

In-article images and video courtesy of @u2 via instagram.com. No changes made to these images and video.

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