The last few… oh, let’s say centuries have been difficult for ol’ mankind. We had that virus, that other virus, a few more viruses. A few decades of forgettable Simpsons episodes. Now a small number of people who dedicated their lives to making everything worse have successfully made it all bad enough that we’re probably on our way out, but there’s still one blinding ball of light shining the path toward whatever time humanity has left. A testament to all of our hubris and our brilliance and our stupidity and our majesty, shining the desert like God’s golfball stuck in a sand trap, but built by us and worshipped by us as the thing that has finally allowed us to surpass our creator and look back at them with a big, ugly eyeball projected 366 feet high.
So yeah, we’re talking about The Sphere in Las Vegas, which officially opened this weekend with the first show of U2’s “UV Achtung Baby” residency—an event that the critics in attendance have generally regarded as the greatest thing our species has ever accomplished. And why shouldn’t it be? Why should our legacy be anything but death and these trunkless legs of stone posing as a concert venue? At least it’ll mean we can go out with some goddamn spectacle. That’s all we ever wanted or needed.
Rolling Stone called the debut Sphere show a “quantum leap forward for concerts,” both in terms of the “ludicrous scope” of the gigantic domed venue (which is basically just an enormous screen wrapped around the inside of a bowl) and in terms of the surprisingly good acoustics of the place. The Guardian said that U2 brought a “hitherto-unimagined degree of grandiosity” with the show, which is exactly the kind of flowery phrasing that this thing demands.
That review, which gave the show five stars, even noted that it was so “dazzling” that future rock bands that perform at The Sphere might not even be able to live up to U2’s spectacle with whatever new spectacle they come up with. Meanwhile, here’s what The Telegraph had to say in another five-star write-up:
Imagine the best visuals and sound you have ever seen and heard, toss it up with some CGI world building that makes Avatar look quaint, throw in some brain-scrambling illusions that would bedazzle David Copperfield then blast it all out with the fourth-wall smashing passion that has driven the Irish rock band since their punky origins.
“The best visuals and sound you have ever seen and heard”—not “at a rock concert,” not “in a sphere.” Ever. It outranks the sweet laughter of your child. It outranks that cat that says “well, hi” in an accent. It’s the best visuals and sound you have ever seen and heard!
Oh, and don’t think that we’re being the weird ones for thinking about how this lines up with humanity’s decline. Variety breaks down every moment of the whole saga in a gushing piece that mentions that one of the only sequences that actually acknowledges the outside world (as opposed to a fantastical, artsy U2 dreamscape) shows the city around The Sphere as it’s replaced by an endless desert, and it’s all apparently very thrilling and mind-blowing.
It all sounds like hyperbole, but at a certain point, can’t hyperbole just cross over into being the accepted fact? If everyone who has been in this dome thinks it’s the greatest thing ever constructed, who’s to say that they’re not the sane ones and everybody outside The Sphere is simply unaware of just how life-changing the thing is. And if that’s the case, then there really can’t be anything better for us to leave behind as a marker for some future civilization that says “we were here, and we built this fucking crazy thing.” It just would’ve been nice if it were associated with a cooler band than U2....