photo: Jeremy Skillen
So The Sphere is open and U2 have had their first weekend within it. Anything that can be seen looks as mind blowing as we imagined it would be. U2 ahead of the game. There is nothing new there.
Indeed if they are celebrating Achtung Baby, that the entire first third of the gig concentrates on, then it had to take us somewhere new. The difference between U2 at the end of 1989 when they finished the decade with a residency at the Point Theatre in Dublin and what happened on the Zoo TV tour in 1992 was seismic.
I remember being privileged, because Janice stood for hours to get surprise tickets, to be in Earl’s Court when Zoo Station stuttered to a start and the TV screens flickered and lit up all over the stage. It was a visual bombardment. Where to look? It was full of surprise. The future!
So, to celebrate 30 years of that there was only one way - go even bigger. Do Zoo TV as it could be done 2023. Surprise again. Open yet another door to the future.
So, as I wrote in an earlier blog I can understand U2 wanting to explore the potential of this new Sphere, once they had discovered it. With the visual member of U2, Willie Williams, these guys have always been about pioneering all the possibilities of the live concert. “We would be mad not to”, was Bono’s response to the discovery.
And so this weekend I have watched as friends have been and seen it. I myself have watched whatever videos I could find. It has to be said that small short phone video footage has not be very successful at sharing the magnitude of the Sphere’s artistic impact but they give hints and clues.
And it all looks mind blowing, stretching what can be achieved. If The Beatles made the studio an instrument in 1966 then U2 have made the theatre an instrument too. As I have been saying for years, U2 live is theatrical and cinematic as well as musical.
This is art on the cutting edge of now. U2 win again in pushing their imaginations forward. The adventurers have taken us somewhere new. A band in their 60s on the cusp of now.
“Are you going?” I have been asked a good few times this past week. I had never even thought about it. As soon as it was announced I felt that The Sphere was too far away from me. I mean Las Vegas is an £1000 flight. For one gig? I didn’t even consider it.
Then this past week I have heard off so many friends going from all corners of America and even here in Ireland. I am so excited for them. I actually thought about it. Then I checked a ticket price. $400 for the cheap seats! After the £1000 flight? Come on. Rock concerts have been pushing prices too high. For quite a while but this is extortionate.
It was then that I realised that U2 have every right to push the envelope of what their music can achieve. It is great that they have hit the baseball out of the park. However, the Sphere has caused a crucial movement in the rock music fault lines. This artistic earthquake has broken the fan base in two, maybe three. Maybe £100 was already to much for many fans.
Now there are those who can afford to see U2 and those who could never financially dream of it. The Sphere is for the rich and those willing to delve into savings or have their trip of a lifetime.
A band who go back to the miracle of Joey Ramone and The Clash are so far removed from the values of punk rock that I can no longer be the fan who can see them live. I am among a huge percentage of the fan base who cannot afford to go to a live show.
This is not an opinion. This is just a fact. When The Beatles pushed the musical envelope in 1967, Strawberry Fields and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band could still be bought by the ordinary fan. With The Sphere the ordinary U2 fan are left looking at phone videos and wishing.
My opinion or surmise in conclusion is written with some sadness. I would like to see U2. They have locked me out by my lack of wealth. U2 have always been wrapped up with commerce and never hidden the fact that their work is a business but there has also been a spiritual communal aspect. With the Sphere that seems well and truly lost.
So, well done. You guys reinvented it yet again. I’ll have to come to terms with never getting to see it, feeling a little un-needed, left behind because I am not wealthy.