A mysterious spherical structure has been increasingly rising on the horizon of Las Vegas’ desert playground over the last several years. Teasing visitors in recent months with its LED screen that is shaped like a globe, it is most distractingly a blinking eyeball.
In late August this year, Sphere Entertainment announced that Refik Anadol, an internationally renowned media artist, will become the first artist to display his works on the fully programmable LED exterior of Sphere in Las Vegas.
Commercially, it probably wouldn’t have worked so far if there was no system in place. Last June, it announced the launch of Sphere Studios which will exclusively create all multi-sensory live entertainment experiences for Sphere.
Consequently after the Refik Anadol announcement, Aura the Robot – a humanoid robot – was launched to serve as its front-of-house greeting guests and answering questions.
For Las Vegas, this is a test run of an epic new attraction that should bring tourists to the city for years to come.
And for the live music industry, it is a chance to see if large-scale concerts could work outside of the stadiums and arenas. Built as an entertainment venue of the future, it made its public debut in early October with two concerts by U2.
In the words of Bono, Sphere visuals “is like a distortion pedal for the mind”.
The venue’s inaugural offering is called “U2: UV Achtung Baby Live at Sphere,” a series of 25 concerts built around the Irish band’s landmark 1991 album “Achtung Baby” and running through mid-December. Most of the shows are sold out, despite prices of $400-$500 for the best seats.
Bono, The Edge and Adam said, “U2 hasn’t played live since December 2019 and we need to get back on stage and see the faces of our fans again. And what a unique stage they’re building for us out there in the desert… We’re the right band, ACHTUNG BABY the right album, and Sphere the right venue to take the live experience of music to the next level… That’s what U2’s been trying to do all along with our satellite stages and video installations, most memorably on the ZOO TV Tour, which ended in Tokyo 30 years ago this Fall.”
Sphere also debuted “Postcard From Earth”, an exclusive film by Hollywood director Darren Aronofsky. “It’s a learning process because the technology is new,” Aronofsky said in the report. “Delivering a half-petabyte movie — that’s 500,000 gigabytes — that uses more than 160,000 speakers is mind-boggling.”
So how could Asia LIVE music promoter and venue digest the opening of the Sphere?
- The world’s largest LED screen can display stunning visuals in 16K resolution. The screen can also change its shape and texture to create different effects.
- The state-of-the-art audio system uses beam-forming and wave field synthesis technologies to deliver high-quality sound to every seat in the venue. In this way, the spatial sound effects can make the audience feel like they are inside the music
- The 4D physical effects, which include haptic feedback, scent, wind, temperature, and vibration; it create a multisensory experience for the audience
- The exterior LED display, which covers 580,000 square feet of the sphere’s surface and can transform it into different objects or scenes. The display can also be used for advertising or promoting events happening inside the sphere
The future of enhanced LIVE music worldwide inspired by Sphere Las Vegas
To elevate live music experiences, Sphere is already inspiring other venues and cities to adopt similar technologies and concepts.
Artists can now experiment with different genres, formats, and styles using the sphere’s capabilities.
The Sphere Las Vegas is a game-changing project that will redefine what live music can be. It is a positive direction for the live music industry because it will create unforgettable experiences for both artists and audiences, and push the boundaries of creativity and technology in the music world.
Are these plans all an expensive gamble? It remains to be seen whether other artists can make such creative use of its unique space. But the venue is off to a promising start. If they can keep it up, we may be witnessing the future of live performance.
Go big, go expensive
Billed with a USD$2.3 billion venture, Sphere is living up to the hype, especially for the live music industry that was forced to lay dormant during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Describing the Sphere concert experience is a challenge because there’s nothing quite like it. Some describe it as a little like being in a giant planetarium, a juiced-up IMAX theater or maybe VR without the headset.
Built by Madison Square Garden Entertainment, Sphere is being billed as the world’s largest spherical structure. At 366 feet tall and 516 feet wide, the partially hollow arena could fit the entire Statue of Liberty, or according to MSG official website – 18,000 seats.
Sphere Entertainment has also announced plans to build another Sphere in London, pending necessary approvals.
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