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U2 Rocks the Sphere: A Look at Their Record-Breaking Residency by the Numbers

U2’s residency at the Las Vegas Sphere isn’t just a concert series; it’s a grand spectacle. When the Irish rockers were announced as the venue’s first act, there was a mix of surprise and anticipation. Can U2, seasoned veterans of the stage, live up to the hype of this state-of-the-art, multi-billion dollar venue? The answer, as evidenced by the sold-out shows and rave reviews, is a resounding yes.

Here’s a deep dive into U2’s groundbreaking residency at the Sphere, packed with fascinating figures:

A Screen Unlike Any Other

Stepping into the Sphere, the first thing that takes your breath away is the sheer size of the venue’s wrap-around screen. At a staggering 160,000 square feet, it’s the world’s largest LED screen with a crystal-clear 16K resolution. U2 takes full advantage of this technological marvel, creating otherworldly visuals that perfectly complement their powerful performances.

Months of Meticulous Planning

The creation of this show wasn’t a last-minute endeavor. U2’s longtime production designer, Willie Williams, collaborates with a team of artists for a full 18 months to craft the captivating visuals displayed on the Sphere’s massive screen. Climate change, consumerism, and humanity’s connection with nature emerge as central themes, with the stage design kept deliberately simple to allow the dazzling visuals to take center stage. Interestingly, the stage itself mirrors a record player, inspired by a Brian Eno art piece called “Turntable.”

A Residency That Keeps Growing

Initially, only five shows were announced for the residency. However, ticket demand skyrockets, prompting U2 to add more dates. Kicking off on September 29th, 2023, the residency quickly garners critical acclaim. After a successful run of 25 shows in 2023, U2 extends their stay with another 15 dates in 2024, concluding with a spectacular finale scheduled for March 2nd.

Surround Sound on Steroids

The Sphere already boasts an impressive sound system with over 1,500 permanently installed speakers strategically placed throughout the venue. However, U2 isn’t content with just good sound; they want incredible sound. To achieve this, they up the ante (as they say in Vegas) by adding 300 mobile speaker modules. This brings the total speaker count to a staggering 1,886, ensuring an immersive audio experience for every audience member.

Selling Out Every Show

U2’s Sphere residency is a commercial juggernaut. Virtually every show sells out, with tickets fetching two to three times their face value on the resale market. The band also offers unique promotions, including discounted tickets for Las Vegas college students and special VIP packages that benefit the (RED) charity, co-founded by Bono to fight HIV/AIDS.

A Hefty Payday (But Not Quite Clear How Hefty)

The exact amount U2 earns from the residency remains somewhat shrouded in secrecy. However, estimates suggest a hefty sum. Reportedly, James Dolan, head of MSG, pays the band a cool $10 million for the residency. This figure is on top of the estimated $4 million per show U2 reportedly receives from Live Nation. Adding these numbers up suggests a total payout of around $170 million, though the band undoubtedly has significant expenses to cover for their own crew and collaborators.

A Diverse Setlist with a Few Surprises

Considering the meticulously planned visuals, U2 has limited room for improvisation during the shows. Despite this, they manage to keep things fresh by incorporating deeper cuts from their vast catalogue and even throwing in the occasional cover. In total, U2 performs 38 different songs throughout the residency, averaging a dynamic 22-song setlist per night. This includes standout moments like their performance of “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” on December 15th and a special dedication to Shane MacGowan with a cover of The Pogues’ “A Rainy Night in Soho.”

A Quarter-Billion Dollar Spectacle

While the final numbers haven’t been crunched yet, estimates predict a staggering total revenue exceeding $256 million for U2’s Sphere residency. This success story benefits both the band and the Sphere’s parent company, whose stock price jumped a remarkable 17.3% following the residency’s launch.

One Man, One DJ Set

Interestingly, U2 only has one opening act throughout

the entire residency: Paul Lovejoy, known by his stage name Pauli “The PSM” Lovejoy. This UK-born drummer, DJ, and producer is best known for his work with the virtual band Gorillaz, helmed by Blur’s Damon Albarn. Each night, Lovejoy kicks off the party with an eclectic DJ set, spinning tunes from a specially retrofitted 1980s East German car! “This wasn’t exactly on my bingo card for 2023,” Lovejoy admits, “but opening for U2 in this incredible space? It’s a dream come true.”

A Celebration of Nevada’s Endangered Species

U2’s encore features a visually stunning segment called “Nevada’s Ark,” designed by artist Es Devlin. This powerful display focuses on the state’s 26 endangered species. The visuals depict the Nevada desert miraculously filling with water, revealing a floating orb. Inside the orb, the endangered species are showcased, first in muted tones, then gradually regaining their vibrant colors. This moving visual accompanies U2’s closing performance of “With or Without You” and “Beautiful Day,” leaving a lasting impact on the audience.

U2’s residency at the Sphere isn’t just a concert series; it’s a groundbreaking fusion of music, technology, and social commentary. The record-breaking numbers speak for themselves, solidifying this residency’s place in music history. With the residency culminating on March 2nd, 2024, only time will tell what the final figures will be, but one thing is certain: U2 has rocked the Sphere in a way that will be remembered for years to come.

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