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Sphere in Las Vegas redefines live music and moviegoing experiences

People arrive during the opening night of the Sphere, Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, in Las Vegas.
John Locher
People arrive during the opening night of the Sphere, Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, in Las Vegas.

The Sphere is open — and it’s been the talk of the planet.

On July 4, the world’s biggest spherical building turned on its exterior LED screen and rock band U2 christened the venue on Sept. 29.

Since then, it’s become the must-see, must-attend attraction in Las Vegas, and the high prices for U2 tickets bear that out.

But the Sphere isn’t just for concerts.

It debuted The Sphere Experience last weekend. That comes with a 50-minute movie by acclaimed filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. Big crowds are coming for that as well.

Our resident music fanatic and movie buff Mike Prevatt has seen U2 and The Sphere Experience. And here are some of the thoughts he shared about them — and The Sphere — with host Joe Schoenmann.

Man vs. machine? The venue was the star. U2 is considered one of the great live arena acts and ... you just can't stop looking at everything else. I wasn't looking at the band that much. And you know, the band is used to larger-than-life visuals. This is not like their first rodeo in like being potentially eaten up by everything around them. And they still feel kind of like — I won't say they're playing second fiddle to the [venue], but there are times that you forget that [the musicians are] there because you're just soaking up this vibe... As for the band itself, [it's] still pretty good. They're not quite what they used to be. The performance might not be as strong as it was for Zoo TV [in 1992]. But they're still delivering a pretty solid show and they're holding their own against everything that's going on around them. It's this marriage of the music and the visuals, this classic album (Achtung Baby) they're playing, the hits that they end up playing towards the end ... I think the total package really does work.

A takeaway moment during Postcards From Earth, Darren Aronofsky's new film exclusively for The Sphere: "There's a scene where there's a big storm. ... And the seats rumble — like, really rumble. They don't move, but they rumble. They're haptic. And you also get this sort of blast of air coming at you from the front. I had a hat on [and] for a minute, my instinct was to put my hand on top of it because it's a pretty good gust. And it's a great effect."

The Sphere's secret weapon: An incredible sound system: "So this venue has 167,000 individual speakers. And they're able to target individual seats. ... When I was at the concert 10 days ago — like I kind of normally do — I first [left] the earplugs out for the first song or two, just to see what it sounds like. And I did not put my earplugs back in for the [rest of the] show because it just sounded comfortable and perfect. And what was really remarkable: no ringing of the ears later that night when I went to bed or when I woke up in the morning. That is a marvel of technology in my world because I am totally used to just having my ears blown out, or having to rely on these earplugs. In this venue, I didn't have to do that."

How the $2.2-billion-dollar venue will make money beyond entertainment and convention events: "The real money will be the advertising [on] this exosphere that we've all been taking pictures of and video of since July 4, and it is going to be a money-churning machine once companies and entities say, we want to be visible not only everywhere in the center of the city, but to the people flying in and flying out of [Harry Reid Airport]. And you've got Formula One next month, you've got the Super Bowl in February — can you imagine the prices to broadcast and advertise your brand, or whatever it is you want, on that thing? While those events where hundreds of thousands people are in town, those [ads are] gonna be in the millions. ... As for when it's going to be solvent, Channel 13 spoke to a financial analyst and he said because of the appeal of this venue, and the versatility of it, he could see it breaking even as soon as three years.

Addendum: Per the on-air question about ADA seating, Sphere offers wheelchair-accessible, semi-ambulatory and companion seats.

Guest: Mike Prevatt, multimedia producer, Nevada Public Radio

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.
Mike has been a producer for State of Nevada since 2019. He produces — and occasionally hosts — segments covering entertainment, gaming & tourism, sports, health, Nevada’s marijuana industry, and other areas of Nevada life.
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