FEATURE — Chances are you’ve heard about, seen or been sent a viral video of the outside of MSG’s massive, multi-billion-dollar Sphere in Las Vegas. If you’ve flown in or out of Las Vegas or driven anywhere on the east side of the Strip, you probably caught a glimpse of the eye-popping 355-foot-tall, 516-foot-wide LED-covered structure. However, if you haven’t been inside to see what $2.3 billion, 1.2 million LED pucks and 64,000 printed circuit boards look like, here’s your guide on what to expect once you’re inside to see “U2:UV Achtung Baby Live at Sphere.”

Getting there

Free parking is possible on non-show nights, when you can use the Canal Shoppes at the Venetian/Palazzo parking garage directly west of the Sphere, but on a show night, expect to pay $25-$30 to park there.

You can, of course, rideshare to and from or park at other lots and walk, but considering the proximity and convenience of entering from the Venetian Resort and Canal Shoppes, I recommend paying the $30 for convenience in and out.

Merch, food and getting to your seat

U2 live in concert at the Sphere, Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 13, 2023 | Photo by J.B. Linder, St. George News

I see a lot of live music each year, and the quality of the “merch” section is part of the fun. I found the selection to be well-stocked and a nice variety. Merch tip: I found the merch lines to be shortest the farther you are from the main entrance and the higher up you go on the mezzanine levels.

The food selection and quality is really unique and fun. I don’t drink, but it was clear they have above-average bars and drink choices. The food and snacks were great and felt more like what you’d find at a sporting event than a concert – and that’s a good thing.

I think it might have been the best stadium popcorn I’ve ever had, and this was confirmed by several around me. Plus, a nice assortment of snacks and goodies. I may have even spent a few more bucks on a light-up commemorative Sphere-shaped cup. Yes, I was excited.

I never felt really crowded, and getting to our seats was easy and clear. There are plenty of entrances and a full staff communicating instructions at every point. Several levels space the crowd out enough that figuring out where to go and arriving there is straightforward, considering 18,000 people are being fit into a giant, spherical ball.

First impressions inside 

The experience of stepping into the Sphere for me was stunning, overwhelming and awesome! The sheer size and scale almost takes your breath away. In a world of planes, stadiums and spaces built for stuffing as many people as possible inside, it only takes a few steps down the aisle to feel the extra width and additional space provided by this venue.

The magic continued as I got to my seat and found even more space. If you’ve been to a concert, sat on the aisle seat and found yourself forced to stand every time someone wants to get out, you’ve felt my pain. Much to my surprise, these cupholder-equipped seats allowed me to stay seated to allow someone to pass by.

While I will say the aisles, seats and setup for viewing is top-notch, because some of the rows behind me had overhang issues, we had to deal with near-constant people moving from their seats and taking up camp in the middle of the aisle the entire show.   

Seating – this matters!

What section and row are your seats? These are questions you normally ask for proximity to the band and sidelines. At the Sphere, this is very important, but for different reasons than a regular concert. I was only a few rows in front of the overhang between sections 100 and 200 for the first show, but anyone behind us got an entirely different show and wasn’t able to see the screen’s full capacity.

U2 live in concert at the Sphere, Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 13, 2023 | Photo by J.B. Linder, St. George News

We were in section 110, row 22 for our first show. The rows in the 100 sections start at 12, so we were 10 rows behind general admission. Awesome view of the band, but I would have paid hundreds more to be six-to-eight rows closer or in the 200 level’s middle sections. Yes, it makes that big of a difference.

The overhang in section 100 is really the only miss in the venue, but it’s a massive miss. Remember this is a football field-tall spherical masterpiece, and seats past row 24 or 25 only access about 15% of it. I really believe these seats should be priced at a steep discount for how different of an experience you receive.

For my second viewing of the U2 show, I sat in section 304, which was a totally different experience. My suggestion is to sacrifice proximity to the band, which you still see plenty of, for taking in the visual experience in its entirety by being as close to the middle as possible and in sections 200, 300 or 400.

The higher up you go, the more spherical and enormous the experience becomes. The seating in the 200-400 sections did feel tighter than the 100 section, and I might add that if you have a fear of heights, the 300-400 sections might be intimidating.

If you’re in general admission, this is where I would stand. If you’re sitting outside of general admission, I would sit in the circled 200 sections.

See video sample of the concert venue. Article continues below.

There’s nothing like this on Earth

I have been to some of the best concert venues in the world, indoor and outdoor, and there’s nothing like this on Earth. Despite all the negativity surrounding the cost and the venue leading up to its opening, I would say convincingly that it has changed the game of music and entertainment. There are moments that blow you away and leave you unable to compare it to anything you’ve ever seen or heard.

I’ve been to way too many shows the last few years that leave your head pounding from poor sound, heavy bass and bad mixes. In a day and age where most major concerts are held inside venues built for sports first, the acoustics of the Sphere are impressive. Think surround sound where you hear backup vocals, drums and guitar as if it’s being played around you, not just in front of you. It’s rare to hear the drums crisp and thundering but not overpowering, a guitar clean and truly electric, and lead vocals that actually lead.

Screen? Check. Sound? Check. Rock star band? Check.

I’ve seen U2 live in concert nearly 10 times, including five different tours. As bona fide rock stars, U2 knows a thing or two about stage presence and entertaining the crowd. It’s worth noting that the title of the tour is “Achtung Baby,” their eighth studio album. What this also means is that U2 plays the album in its entirety.

U2 live in concert at the Sphere, Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 13, 2023 | Photo by J.B. Linder, St. George News

Some believe this is their best album ever, but find a fan in Dublin or Los Angeles and chances are they’ll have their own rankings. For me, I still remember the day I bought this album and heard the Edge making the guitar sound like a mix of music, warning and art in the opening track, “Zoo Station.”

For fans of the last two decades, you’ll find three or four songs toward the second half of the show that don’t rock the walls like most stadium tours, but it was a bit of a welcome change of pace as you almost feel like you need to catch your breath, rest your eyes and gear up for the big finish.

Some will argue there are a few holes in the setlist as a result of them sticking to playing “Achtung Baby” in its entirety, but they do play six or seven other hits, and at the end of the day, how many bands can play an entire album and have 18,000 people captivated for all of it? Side note: In the second show I attended, they changed the setlist, and since there were nearly two months between shows, it felt different, including some screen and stage add-ons.

The scary part

The scary part for whoever follows U2 onstage at the Sphere is the ability for the venue to swallow any band up who isn’t on their game. Whoever comes next will need the setlist and stage chops to not just rock, but to play off the magnitude of the Sphere without taking offense to sharing attention with a 23-story screen right behind them.

There are times early on where the screen truly steals the show. That isn’t a discredit to U2, but instead a result of how unique and special the venue is. I have to imagine the learning curve for U2 and anyone behind them is steep and challenging, but after one show, I can easily say that the game of music and entertainment has been changed forever.

For a lack of better words, there’s nothing like this; in fact, there isn’t even a close second to compare. The Sphere is part concert, part video spectacle and all must-see. Even if you’ve watched videos and read reviews, nothing will prepare you for what awaits you inside this entertainment masterpiece called the Sphere.

Tickets for the final month of shows through March 2 are on sale now to the general public.

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