U2 Sphere opening night(s)

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Sphere is a magnificent and immense marvel, not only due to its immersive visual technology but also its sound system, comprised of thousands of strategically installed speakers hidden within the walls, ceiling, and various concealed locations. It functions as a movie theater, the steepest and most advanced globally, with the added capability of hosting concerts. U2, renowned for their history of pioneering concert technological innovation, pushing boundaries in live performances, and unwavering dedication to their art, is the ideal band to inaugurate this incredible venue.

We were sincerely thankful to be the first witnesses to a brand-new space for musicians and filmmakers to elevate their art on such a grand scale. U2, as a band, embodies grandeur in their music, philanthropy, gestures, aspirations, occasional delusions, and live tours. The band was well-rehearsed, and Bono’s vocals remained exceptionally powerful, controlled, and emotionally charged. His harmonies with The Edge have reached the pinnacle of professionalism, showcasing the musical synergy between these two bandmates and friends of 47 years. While Larry Mullen Jr. continues to recover and was dearly missed, his temporary replacement, Bram van den Berg, made significant contributions, locking in the rhythms seamlessly with Adam Clayton.

As expected, U2’s utilization of their new technological toy was tasteful and extraordinarily prophetic. The band’s show was predominantly focused on addressing urgent climate change and biodiversity issues resulting from increased human development, tragically leading to the loss of animal life and more. Certain moments during the show saw the screen employed minimally, in keeping with U2’s approach of monitoring dynamics not just in their live performance but also in their production — displaying their always ultra-expert level of artistry. They are, unequivocally, the best at what they do. When Sphere was employed to its fullest visually and sonically, the effect was nothing short of spellbinding, with dynamic, volume-controlled sound and pieces of instruments and solos blaring from all directions. The opening weekend’s shows made for a successful launch, leaving us eagerly anticipating how the show will evolve over time. (You can find online a comprehensive list of celebrities who attended on opening night, most notably including Paul McCartney, Snoop Dogg, several devoted [“real”] fans, and some rather perplexing faces.)

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📺 A film about opening night (September 29, 2023), including the full “Love Is Blindness” WATCH
📺 “Zoo Station” and “The Fly” from night two (September 30, 2023)
WATCH

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Hundreds of thousands of speakers allowed us to hear the band like never before. The intentional mono-centered mix revealed the subtle nuances in Bono’s whispers and screams, capturing the full sensitive range of his vocals. The Edge’s guitar manipulations rang with crystalline clarity, and Adam’s bass tone provides a powerful, gritty foundation, rich with depth, resonance, and rumble. The latter thanks to seat haptics in the upper levels that vibrated during some deep moments. The bass rarely cuts through in the typical arena or stadium rock show. In U2’s world, Sphere is otherworldly.

U2’s longstanding camaraderie and interplay were on full display during the opening shows at Sphere. Their synchronization, honed over decades of brotherhood, provided a solid foundation for the shows, which came after a lengthy hiatus from the road (which started right before the pandemic). Designing the first show for such a unique and unprecedented venue must have been no easy feat, given the challenges presented by Sphere’s extraordinary capabilities. The band, together with Willie Williams and his team, expertly harnessed the immersive technology, not merely as a novelty, but as a seamless enhancement to their music and message. Their chemistry and shared vision resulted in an awe-inspiring experience for everyone present. Imagining them crafting a brand new show without focusing on Achtung Baby or another anniversary opens up endless possibilities. They thrive on pushing the boundaries.

Situated in the highly touristed Las Vegas Strip, Sphere attracts a slightly different crowd compared to the typical dedicated fanbase that U2 enjoys, and has nurtured, worldwide. On occasion, I overheard remarks like, “Who is this Larry Mullen guy?,” “What’s ‘Achtung Baby?’,” or “I just heard of U2 (!)” We also observed some archetypal Vegas bros spilling beer on one another and their companions, often failing to remain quiet even during the climactic and tender moments of “Where The Streets Have No Name” and “Love Rescue Me.” Still, thousands of well-versed fans traveled thousands of miles for this momentous weekend. And the band delivered.

We can’t wait to go back for more U2:UV Achtung Baby Live At Sphere. Which band will be next?!