The 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 the 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.)
At first experience, the Sphere is not without its drawbacks. Situated in Las Vegas, it attracts a different crowd compared to the typical dedicated fan base that U2 enjoys 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 moments of “Where The Streets Have No Name.” Still, thousands of well-versed fans traveled thousands of miles for this momentous weekend.
The Sphere, and crowd itself, had a few issues. The energy levels in the upper tiers were lacking, with many attendees remaining seated. Those areas, particularly in the 300-400 sections, while offering impressive views of the screen, are quite distant from the stage. As someone on the floor, I felt a disconnection from those people, and at times, so did Bono. For those in these upper levels, you will have a direct downward (and small) view of the stage but still enjoy an immersive and outstanding video and audio experience.
There is also a design decision that has already posed issues for the Sphere. Beneath level 200, approximately 15 rows of 100-level seats, starting around row 16, are obstructed by an overhang, resulting in a diminished and quite limited Sphere experience. (It’s important to be aware of this before attending!)
We can’t wait to go back.