I have been waiting my whole adult life to see my favorite album of all time – Achtung Baby – performed in it’s entirety. Since this became “a thing” I hoped and hoped U2 would do it one day. After they toured with Joshua Tree and played the whole album, I was 99% sure they’d do the same for the AB anniversary. I kept up my u2.com membership ONLY to be able to get tickets to some future AB tour. Covid hit, the anniversary passed, but I held onto hope it would just be delayed. And then came….The Sphere.
That giant technological marvel that can only be at home in Las Vegas. And who better to open the Sphere than U2, playing Achtung Baby in full. I died a little. I panicked a lot about getting tickets. And I celebrated when I scored GA tickets through the fan presale for Oct 11th. Fast forward months, and finally finally the day arrives, when LeighAnne and I get to see our fav album.
I was nervous, I was hopeful, I didn’t know what to expect.
Gone are the days where we queue outside all day. Sorry, did I say day? Fans have been lining up for these shows DAYS in advance. To be honest, I don’t really understand why. Part of this show experience is THE SPHEEERE. If you are at rail for this show, basically, you are just at another U2 show. Would it be great, of course. But having seen it now, you really don’t want to be that close. The Sphere is MASSIVE. It looks big from the outside, but just kind of a normal big. Inside is cavernous. And the point of playing at the Sphere is the surrounding show. At rail at this show, you are either NOT seeing everything that is happening, or you are and now you have a broken neck LOL.
So we got there fairly “late”, had to deal with the ONE SINGLE ENTRANCE and line, and then took spots as far back as you can get in the GA section. The opener was a DJ…..I don’t have a lot of respect for DJs anymore because mostly, they are playing a playlist. No skill necessary. It was FINE, but honestly no different that the usual music bands play before they go on. Maybe it was louder, lol. The DJ did have a cool platform he was “performing” on – a neon outlined Trabbant car, which, as we found out, drove from one end of the Sphere to the other. THANK GOD, we had gotten up off the floor before the car started moving towards us, it would have been bad LOL.
Time for the main event. Achtung Y’all!!!
Even Better Than the Real Thing
One (With Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” snippet)
Until the End of the World
Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World
All I Want Is You (With Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” snippet)
Angel of Harlem (With Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone snippet)
Love Rescue Me
Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
Love Is Blindness
Elevation (with “My Way” snippet)
Where the Streets Have No Name
With or Without You
I mean, I KNEW what we were gonna get, but it doesn’t make it less !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! God, so good. As seen in the setlist, they did not perform the tracks in order, and took a break “from the heaviness” as Bono said, with a small Rattle and Hum set.
Looking at other set lists, they have changed up the middle set a few times, but I am glad for what we got. Other nights they played Pride (no thank you, I never need to hear that song again), and MLK (honestly, I’m so unfamiliar with it, I don’t care), and I still haven’t found…. (again, pass). I will always take Desire and Angel of Harlem over any of those other options.
So let’s talk about the Sphere. It’s ridiculous. Going in I took 2 Dramamine, just cuz, I know I don’t do good with screen movement anymore (like, simulator rides). I’m going to say that was a good idea. I was mostly fine. Only 1 song was bothersome (Even Better Than The Real Thing) and it’s because there were things moving down, then other things moving up, and it didn’t make me sick, but it might have without the pills. I had to look at the floor a lot during that one, just to get my bearings. The most impressive visual effect came during The Fly. The screen fills with alpha numerics, which travel up to the top of the sphere. Then they come down! I mean…..it’s like a square ceiling is falling down onto your head, and now the sphere “has walls” and you feel like you are in a regular square room. It was BONKERS. There wasn’t a lot of crazy effects like that, just other kinds of projections and imagery that was really cool.
Although I was dying for my fav song, Love is Blindness, the absolute highlight is Acrobat. Dear. Lord. What an incredible song, and incredible guitar, and incredible power. It’s always been a favorite of mine, but I almost forgot how awesome it was going to be because of dying for Love is Blindness (which also DID NOT DISAPPOINT!) Acrobat may be the best live song I’ve ever seen. It is for sure up there in the top 5 with NIN’s Reptile and….not sure, I haven’t really thought of this before LOL. Surely, other NIN songs lol. I said to LeighAnne I would go to this show again purely for Acrobat…………………..(foreshadowing!)
The encore is joyous, with classics and fun “must play” songs. I’m not sure anyone counts Elevation or Vertigo as their most favorite songs, but the are so fun live. The new song, Atomic City is solid, though I haven’t listened to the studio version cuz I was going into this show spoiler free.
Some of the sphere effects I really liked were fairly simple. Embers falling from the sky during Wild Horses were lovely. Bugs on the “screen” during Love is Blindness gave you a weird claustrophobic feeling that goes with the song. The simplicity of a desert landscape and white smoke flag of Streets. It was all very well done.
And that was that. I said I would go again, and there was another show Friday but I was being responsible. Until I wasn’t anymore. I kept checking for ticket drops, just to see if there were any. I wasn’t really going to go again. Until everyone peer pressured me into it, and a text from LeighAnne to go made me cry in a bar. So at 6pm show day, I bought a seat in the 200 level, the level people say is really the best seats to have for full sphere appreciation.
The setlist was the same for this show, except they swapped So Cruel and Acrobat, which I think worked better. The flow from Acrobat to So Cruel to Ultraviolet was lovely. Here’s one thing about having seats – THERE IS STUFF HAPPENING ON THE LITERAL STAGE. The Rattle and Hum set, and the 2nd part of Achtung Baby has less/no effects on the sphere. SO I THOUGHT. From GA, it seems like a regular concert, with regular lighting effects. But from above, the stage is lit up, it has effects projected on it, including images of the band playing (see also, my video of Acrobat). You don’t realize that at all from on the floor. For Trying to Throw your arms Around the World this time, there was imagery of a large balloon with a real life rope coming from it which Bono holds as he walks around the stage. I’m not sure why the Wednesday show did not have this imagery, maybe the rope thing wasn’t working. It was cute (for lack of a better adjective). I also saw reference in another review of some kind of “ladder” which made appearances in previous shows, but not either of mine.
The perspective from the seats feels more immersive than the floor. It feels more like you are inside the effects. That doesn’t mean better, just different. It’s as impressive on the floor as the seat.
Enough about visuals, how’s the sound? Well there are like 160k speakers, so it sounds pretty damn good LOL. (“The sound system comprises 1,600 X1 speakers that are installed behind the LED panels, along with 300 mobile modules, for a total of 167,000 speaker drivers.” whatever that means…..) I’d say the sound was slightly better from the seat, but not enough to make a huge difference. I only say that because when Bono spoke during the 1st show, I couldn’t quite understand what he was saying sometimes, and from the seat he was clear as day.
Do I want to go again? Yes. Have I looked for more tickets and flights to Vegas? No, I’m being responsible LOL. I am going to bank on a full AB tour after this, with Larry back drumming like they toured for Joshua Tree. I just can’t imagine after all the planning, and learning these songs again, that they would only be doing the 25 Sphere shows.