From its early days riffing in the post-punk scene to belting out anthemic rock hits and embarking on experimental musical odysseys, Irish rock band U2 has consistently orchestrated a symphony of diverse sounds. Classics like “With or Without You,” “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Beautiful Day” have become melodic landmarks that harmonize with the band’s original fan base and new generations of listeners.
But U2’s applause doesn’t stop at the music sheet; it extends to virtuoso live performances. The band’s global tours have set new standards in the music industry for their grandeur and innovative use of technology. With each tour, U2’s commitment to creating unforgettable concert experiences deepens the group’s connection with fans.
Now, three decades after the launch of the iconic album “Achtung Baby,” U2 has once more claimed the spotlight. Instead of embarking on a global tour, however, the band has taken center stage in the city of Las Vegas, specifically at the Sphere, newly constructed at a reported cost of $2.3 billion. U2 is set to perform a total of 36 concerts at the Sphere at the Venetian, a schedule extending until 2024.
U2 is said to have been granted a $10 million contribution that paved the way for the concerts’ production from James Dolan, renowned for his involvement with Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks, in addition to the band’s fee of $4 million per night.
The Sphere is a venue with a capacity for 17,500 people, located within a massive spherical structure towering 366 feet in height and stretching 516 feet in width in a corner of Las Vegas and has been compared to a giant emoji with changing expressions.
Those who have witnessed one of their performances at this venue can likely understand the band’s decision to perform there. But has the combination of U2’s artistry and the Sphere’s innovation pushed the boundaries so far that their live experience now surpasses traditional concerts? The question comes as many might have had the opportunity to attend Money 20/20 recently and witness a performance in person.
Upon entering the seating area of the Sphere, the audience’s attention is reportedly immediately drawn to graphics displayed on the prominent video screens designed to create the impression of being under a night sky, with an occasional dove soaring across the virtual “opening.”
The speakers blend seamlessly into the structure itself, making them inconspicuous, as the entire building functions as a speaker. This not only guarantees immersive audio clarity but also aims to provide unparalleled sound balance. This means that if Bono wishes to address the audience in a conversational tone, everyone can hear him clearly. Reports also suggest that the venue enhances the collective audience response, with singalongs reverberating more powerfully than they would in a conventional arena setting.
The visuals that accompany the songs encompass a fusion of tailor-made video graphics and live band footage. What distinguishes this experience from ordinary venues is the high resolution, which allows attendees to see intricate details, including Bono’s forehead wrinkles.
Additionally, the cameras employed to film the band are streamlined and operated remotely, eliminating the need for bulky cranes that could obstruct views during guitar solos.
“This project proposed that entertainment was going to change forever,” said ICRAVE founder and CEO Lionel Ohayon, who conceived the interiors and lighting of the Sphere, aiming to craft a unique visitor experience.
“We wanted to start the experience in the buildup to arrival, we wanted to pull the proscenium to the front door, as soon as you walk in you walk into the experience of Sphere. We didn’t just want people to walk through the space, but to inhabit it.”
In another perspective, John Benson wrote in Cleveland.com, “Going into Sphere is like entering a U2 church with isolated audio clips from the album playing in the background.”
Caryn Rose, reporting for NPR, said, “They’ve set the bar delightfully high, and whether you like U2 or are still mad they put an album on your phone, you’ve got to respect them for their endless willingness to be ridiculous in public.”