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Top 10 observations from a U2 concert at Sphere in Las Vegas

20 November 2023

U2 at Sphere Las Vegas

U2 at Sphere Las Vegas

My first U2 concert was in 1992. It was St. Patrick’s Day at the hallowed Boston Garden and, as you can probably imagine, an Irish band playing in an Irish city on the most Irish of days, made for an unforgettable evening of rock ‘n’ roll and revelry.

Fast forward 31 years and I’m in awe once again watching the ageless Bono and the Boys do their thing. Except, this time, the venue change is as stark as the mesmerizing 160,000-square-foot wrap-around screen before my eyes. Yes, instead of the creaky seats, slightly uneven floors and nostalgic charm of the Garden, I’m in Las Vegas standing inside the $2.3 billion futuristic wonder that is Sphere, singing and swooning along with 20,000 fellow U2 fanatics.

It’s impossible to overstate the spellbinding nature of Sphere, the 366-foot-tall, 516-foot-wide orbicular structure tucked behind The Venetian Las Vegas that has changed the face of the Strip and redefined the live entertainment experience.

The construction of the Madison Square Garden Company's Sphere began in 2018, originally estimated at a cost of $1.2 billion. However, after five years, a global pandemic, and an additional $1.1 billion in expenses, Sphere opened in September with U2 as its first headline residency. The legendary band has so far performed 17 sold-out shows titled “U2:UV Achtung Baby Live At Sphere,” featuring a complete rendition of their classic 1991 album.

I was fortunate to attend the sixth U2 show at Sphere in October and it’s a night that will be ingrained into my memory for years to come, just like that St. Patrick’s Day party at the old Garden in ’92.

Following a 30-day break due to the F1 madness in Las Vegas, U2 will light up the Sphere once again in December for eight more shows, with 11 additional dates in January and February recently announced . For those planning to make the voyage to Sin City for this truly extraordinary experience, here are 10 observations I took home from my first – and certainly not last – experience at Sphere.

10. The Exosphere
The list of iconic landmarks on the vibrant Las Vegas Strip is aplenty – Bellagio Fountains, the space needle atop The STRAT Hotel, Casino and SkyPod, the High Roller observation wheel, the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas.

Sphere can now safely be added to this esteemed list.

Sphere is downright staggering the first time you see it and/or get close to it. For comparison, it’s more than twice the height of the dome at Epcot in Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The outside is called the “Exosphere” and the 580,000-square-foot fully-programmable exterior is the largest LED screen on earth, according to Sphere Entertainment. It consists of approximately 1.2 million LED pucks, spaced eight inches apart, with each puck containing 48 individual LED semiconductor devices called diodes. Each diode is capable of displaying 256 million different colors.

The folks behind the scenes at Sphere aren’t afraid of using all of them considering the entertaining collection of light shows that have lit up the Strip since Sphere said “Hello, World” on the 4th of July with a brilliant fireworks and stars and stripes animation.

“The Exosphere is more than a screen or a billboard — it is living architecture, and unlike anything that exists anywhere in the world,” said Guy Barnett, senior vice president of brand strategy and creative development of Sphere Entertainment.

Last week during the F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix, Sphere got into the spirit of things and stole the show, as it did during Halloween Weekend, as well:

9. Parking and rideshare
We’ll get to the cost of tickets and other related expenses below, but you guessed it, a night at Sphere isn’t cheap.

Parking at Sphere can run anywhere from $47 to $120. In a strategic move, both The Venetian and Wynn Las Vegas started charging for parking for guests and non-guests back in August.

Valet parking is available via Ticketmaster and the cost ranges from $72 on weekdays to $125 on weekends. To avoid parking fees, you can take the Las Vegas Monorail and get off at The LINQ Hotel + Experience or Harrah's Las Vegas Casino & Hotel stop and walk over. There is also a rideshare pick up and drop off for Sphere at the corner of Sands Avenue and Koval Lane and while the Sphere staff did a nice job of directing traffic, it was a congested mess both before and after the concert the night I was in attendance.

Your best bet, in my mind, for rideshare is to get dropped off near the LINQ Promenade and make the short walk over to Sphere. Better yet, if you are driving, park for free at Tuscany Suites and Casino, or have your ride share drop you off here. Time it right and hit up the half-price happy hour (4 p.m. to 7 p.m.), order a giant martini at Piazza Lounge inside Tuscany and then make the easy, half-mile walk to the Sphere, a straight shot down Koval Lane.

8. Scoring tickets
Tickets – not including the 23 suites – for U2 shows at Sphere in Las Vegas start at $140 and run as high as $550 with 60% of tickets under $300.

All in all, these prices are relatively cheap when you consider the mortgage-like payments people make to see Taylor Swift these days (and I speak from experience here having a teenage daughter who is a hard-core “Swifty”).

But, let’s face it, scoring face-value tickets is rare, so that leaves you dealing in the black market. My strategy, and one that I have heard from others that has worked effectively, is to play the waiting game.

Ticket resellers will have a “starting at” rate of around $500 days before and the day of a concert date, but as the day grows long and you inch closer to the starting time, those prices start to drop significantly. On the night I was trying to land tickets, there were options for just over $200 in the 100 and 200 sections about 90 minutes before show time. Time it right and be patient and you should be able to avoid paying that steep $500 price tag.

7. Getting in and getting out
For a new venue of this size, I was quite impressed with the organization and crowd flow, both entering Sphere and getting out. There are staff members everywhere and they were super friendly and well-informed. They were even waving and thanking everyone for coming on the way out.

If you park at or are walking from The Venetian, there is a clearly marked route to follow with a cross bridge that goes directly to Sphere, complete with express bar carts along the way, serving U2-themed drinks that will run you $18.50, such as Achtung Old Fashioned (Jameson Irish Whiskey, Mr Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur, Irish Stout Old Fashioned Syrup, Bitters) or Mysterious Ways (Patron Silver Tequila, Strawberry-infused Aperol, Lillet Rose, Lime Dragon Fruit).

For those with general admission/floor tickets, make sure you follow the signs correctly as there is a completely different entrance for that section.

Sphere is a bag-free facility. Nothing larger than six inches by six inches by two inches is allowed in and everything is subject to be searched. There are signs posted at the entrances alerting guests that they use facial recognition technology and by entering you are giving consent for them to scan you. Re-entry is not permitted.

6. Arrive early
My best advice here is to not wait until the last minute to head into the concert. It does take some time to get into the venue and through security and you might as well get in early enough to walk around and experience the entire spectacle.

They say Disney World is the “Happiest Place on Earth” but the atmosphere walking into a U2 concert at Sphere is about as jovial as it gets. Everyone has a perma-smile plastered across their face as they walk around, head on a swivel, in amazement.

As soon as you enter the main lobby, you know right away that this venue is ultra-modern as hologram avatars, halos and intricate lighting and ceiling displays surround you.

There is no opening act, but DJ Paulie Lovejoy spins tunes that are ideal for the U2 demographic from 7:30 p.m. right up until show time on the general admission floor as he moves through the crowd.

5. Seating options
There are 17,000 seats inside Sphere and with the standing room area in front of the stage, capacity can reach 20,000.

There are four levels and the 400 section is extremely steep with narrow aisles and stairways. If you are afraid of heights (or if you over indulged at the Tuscany’s martini happy hour), it’s probably best to avoid this level. About 10,000 of the seats at Sphere are “immersive” with a special sound system that allows guests to “feel” sound vibrate. They also use scents and light wind pressure to “complete the 4D experience.”

One would think that in a venue like Sphere there is not bad seat in the house, but that’s not the case, so beware when purchasing tickets.

In the 100 sections, the first row is actually Row 12 and there is an overhang that obstructs the view of the top portion of the sky, beginning around Row 20 and higher. I spoke to a few very upset folks whose tickets in the upper rows of the 100 sections did not say “obstructed view,” yet they could not see the entire screen. Suffice it to say, they were not happy to have dished out big money and not be able to experience Sphere in its fullest.

4. Concessions
Sphere is a cashless venue and only accepts credits cards or mobile payment, including Google Pay and Apple Pay. Reverse ATMs, which convert cash into a debit card, are also available and located near the escalators on levels 2, 4 and 6.

Other than a bottled water or fountain soda ($7), you aren’t going to get anything for less than 15 bucks. Domestic beers ($18), premium beers ($19) and wine ($20) are pricey and cocktails start at $15 for a single with premium liquor, but rise to as much as $38 for a double with “ultra” liquor.

One of the best tips I can give is to not wait in the long lines at the first concession stand you see when you walk in. The higher you go up, the shorter the lines and I also found smaller bars, just inside the doors to enter the 200 sections near the restrooms, with no wait.

3. The acoustics
Partnering with 3D audio technology giant HOLOPLOT, Sphere Studios created Sphere Immersive Sound, which it claims to be “the world's largest, fully integrated concert-grade audio system that revolutionizes immersive audio experiences” delivering providing “crystal-clear, individualized sound to every seat.”

The sound system consists of 1,600 permanently installed and 300 mobile HOLOPLOT X1 Matrix Array loudspeaker modules and includes a total of 167,000 individually amplified speakers.

Honestly, I really have no idea what all of that means, but I’m here to tell you the acoustics at Sphere are most certainly much different and more intense than any venue I’ve experienced. A friend of mine described it correctly as if all of the noise coming from the people sitting around you is drowned out and all you can hear is the music. And it’s as crystal clear as one can imagine.

Here’s another way to explain it, from James Dolan, Executive Chairman and CEO, MSG Entertainment, “Because of the technology we’re using, everything that you hear is intentional. Not causal. Meaning that once you hear it, you’ll know it yourselves.”

2. The visuals
While the sound quality at Sphere is truly remarkable, it's the mesmerizing visuals that elevate this concert experience, making it uniquely unforgettable. I’m not one to routinely pull out my iPhone and start videoing things at concerts and other events. I’m much more of a “I’m-going-to-take-it-all-in-with-my-own-eyes” kind of guy, but I must admit it was difficult not to record what was going on around me for most of the night.

There were the captivating kaleidoscope images during “Ultra Violet (Light My Way),” a deluge of multi-colored characters flashing and creating the illusion of a cube-shaped space as the band played “Fly,” and a meteor shower during ”Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses.”

U2’s catchy new release “Atomic City,” which was digitally released on the same day the Sphere residency launched, has multiple references to Las Vegas and was accompanied at the concert by a surreal visual of the Strip that makes you feel like you are outside the building looking at the real thing, rather than a screen.

The video sequence for “Even Better Than the Real Thing” features AI-generated Elvis’s. The King is also honored when the melody “End Of The World” began with a short version of “Love Me Tender.”

While each and every one of these eye-catching visuals will blow your mind, there were two that were my favorite and they both came during the six-song encore. For “Beautiful Day,” a digital scene titled, “Nevada Ark” boasts a hypnotic display of Nevada's endangered species splashing across the LED screen.

The iconic anthem “Where The Streets Have No Name” begins with a chilling pink and orange sunrise over a desert sky with a smoking flag in the center that looks so real that you swear it’s giving off heat. The sunrise magically turns into day light as the echoing and dramatic guitar intro builds to a crescendo before Bono starts belting out the vocals – “I want to run . . . I want to hide” – as the crowd goes into an absolute tizzy, the loudest of the entire evening.

Truly like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

1. U2
Attending a concert at Sphere was instantly a bucket list item for me, but the fact that it was U2 on stage made it an absolute no-brainer. Led by Bono, the ultimate showman, Sphere and U2 are a perfect marriage.

U2 is performing at Sphere without founding member and drummer Larry Mullen Jr., due to back surgery, and while Bono made special note of his absent bandmate, he did mention the perfect replacement was Dutch drummer, Bram van den Berg, who, for sure, filled in seamlessly.

U2 took the stage at 8:40 p.m., opening with “Zoo Station,” and played for two dizzying and entertaining hours. Bono, who admitted he was recovering from a cough/cold, although it was not apparent from his vocals, interacted with the crowd between most songs, talking about life, kids and current events (while not actually mentioning the issue conflict between Israel and Palestine that began days earlier).

Playing “Beautiful Day” as the final song pretty much captured the essence of the entire evening. Bono and The Edge truly seemed like they didn’t want to leave as the 20,000 in attendance cheered them boisterously during the final bow. The legendary pair walked off the stage, arms draped around each other and disappeared slowly down the stairs, but not before delivering a truly extraordinary evening of visuals, emotions and music in a new venue that was seemingly built for them to christen.
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor. He also manages new business ventures for Casino City.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor. He also manages new business ventures for Casino City.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:!/casinocityGT