The MSG Sphere Las Vegas opened its doors for the first time this weekend with a concert by U2 featuring visuals by designer Es Devlin, artist John Gerrard and more on a 15,000-square-metre wrap-around screen.
Designed by architecture studio Populous and completed in July, the entertainment venue is billed as the world’s largest spherical structure, with its entire exterior and most of its interior covered in giant LED screens.
The screen inside the Sphere stands at just over 76 metres tall and wraps more than 180 degrees around the viewer to create an immersive spectacle.
Rock band U2’s inaugural performance – the first as part of an ongoing residency at the Sphere – saw this all-encompassing screen taken over by visual artworks exploring the venue’s unique context in Las Vegas, Nevada, chosen in collaboration with set designer Devlin.
“The band, their long-standing creative director Willie Williams and I conceived the project as a group art show,” Devlin explained.
At perhaps the most dramatic point in the set, chronicled in a video that has racked up over 13 million views on video platform TikTok, the entire screen was taken over by a computer-simulated image of the sun rising above the Nevada desert.
A white flag billowed at its centre as part of an artwork by Irish artist Gerrard.
Artist Marco Brambilla contributed a video collage showing real and AI-generated versions of Elvis Presley, whose life leading up to his untimely death in 1977 was famously dominated by his seven-year Las Vegas residency.
To close the show, Devlin created a bespoke artwork called Nevada Ark, which saw illustrations of Nevada’s 250 most endangered species crowding the 15,000-square-metre screen.
“Every time we learn the name of a species we make a room for it in the memory palace of our minds, and 18,000 people will emerge each night knowing the names of more species than they did before they arrived at the Sphere,” she told Dezeen.
U2 performed on a stage that resembles a giant light-up turntable, based on a design by Brian Eno and realised by British architecture studio Stufish, which previously collaborated with Devlin on U2’s Experience + Innocence tour.
The music itself was transmitted via nearly 160,000 speakers, hidden behind the LED screen with its 268,435,456 pixels – equivalent to 72 HD televisions.
Videos of the inaugural performance went viral on social media, garnering more than 100 million views on Tiktok over the span of a few days. Reviewers spoke about “a venue whose whole purpose is to blow every mind that enters“, which “sometimes out-pomped and out-spectacled” the band itself.
Elsewhere, efforts to build an MSG Sphere in London are proving less successful, with UK housing secretary Michael Gove placing the project on hold. Last year, 852 objections were submitted in opposition to its construction.
The video is by Es Devlin and the photos are courtesy of Stufish unless otherwise stated.
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