U2 at the Sphere


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U2's performance at The Sphere in Las Vegas marked the beginning of a new era in live entertainment, where the extraordinary seamlessly merged with the everyday. Las Vegas, a city known for its artificial glamour accessible to all, has a knack for blurring the lines between reality and illusion. It's a place where a Fisher-Price playset can seem more authentic than reality itself, despite being a hub for renowned performers spanning superstar DJs, cheeky magicians, and true vocal heroes.

On that Friday night, the iconic Bono took center stage, tantalizingly close to the audience, creating an uncanny sense of accessibility in this cutting-edge venue. U2 embarked on a 25-show residency titled "U2:UV Achtung Baby Live at Sphere," scheduled to run throughout the year. The choice of U2, a band renowned for their grandiose aesthetic and futuristic communication, perfectly complemented the hyperstimulating atmosphere of Sphere.

For two hours, Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Bram van den Berg (substituting for Larry Mullen Jr.) engaged in a captivating struggle with a venue as obsessed with magnificence, pomp, and spectacle as U2 itself. The setting was lavish, and the performances often colossal. However, despite the vividness of the spectacle, there was a sense of incompleteness at times, swinging between moments of intimacy and grandiosity, occasionally wandering aimlessly.

The concert heavily featured U2's 1991 album "Achtung Baby," a record that marked a shift towards more ambitious and unexpected sounds. While songs like "Mysterious Ways" showcased Bono and The Edge's vibrant vocal harmonies and fervent commitment, others, like "One" and "Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses," felt tentative and less invested than usual.

The performance hit its peak towards the end, with tracks like "Where the Streets Have No Name," "With or Without You," and "Beautiful Day." Here, U2's use of the venue was most effective, transforming the space into a bright, immersive experience that connected the band with its audience.

Throughout the show, Sphere's technological prowess was on full display, from mobile spotlights to a roaming drone. U2's performance was not just a concert but a soundtrack for Sphere's technological wizardry, highlighting its potential and quirks. Sphere itself, a brainchild of James Dolan, a New York sports and real estate magnate, boasts a futuristic design with its entire exterior covered by an ever-changing LED screen.

The concert venue, however, presented unique challenges. In some instances, the space created a sense of distance between the band and the audience, akin to a corporate convention gig. Unlike stadium shows where low enthusiasm can be masked, here, there was nowhere to hide.