The Future of Concerts is. . .Spherical?

Ellie Turchetta ’25 in Arts | November 10, 2023

          Going to a concert is an experience like no other. From the loudspeakers and bright lights to seeing your favorite artist in the flesh, the concert atmosphere is electric. Many concert venues in the US and around the world, such as Red Rocks, Madison Square Garden, and the Hollywood Bowl, are famous for hosting the most famous artists. But Las Vegas may have just one-upped all these concert spaces with an all-new, revolutionary venue: the Sphere. 

           The Sphere, which opened on September 29, seats nearly 20,000 people and is a revolutionary space for its one-of-a-kind audio and visual effects. Inside the Sphere, concertgoers will find a 16k resolution LED wrap-around screen, speakers with wave synthesis technology, and seats with 4D physical effects. The Madison Square Garden Company announced this $2 billion project in 2018, which contains 1.2 million hockey puck-sized LED lights that can work together to display 256 million colors. As if this is not enough to amaze the public, the outside of the Sphere is made up of LEDs that can display any image, whether it’s the earth, the moon, or a blinking eye. 

           On September 30, the Irish rock band U2 played the first concert at the Sphere, the first show of their 25-show residency. U2’s concert consisted of mind-blowing visuals, making use of the thousands of LEDs on the ceiling. According to a New York Times reviewer, the lead singer was having a little bit of trouble singing because of Vegas’ dryness, but the band’s use of their backdrop was more than enough to make the concert enjoyable. 

           With the opening of this groundbreaking invention, we can only begin to ask ourselves this question: how important is a venue to the concert experience? With thousands of concert venues across the country, only a few have become household names. What makes the famous venues different from the rest?
 The Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado is one of America's few famous venues. Built into a beautiful rock structure with a huge rock angled vertically towards the stage, Red Rocks can hold almost 10,000 people. In 1999, it was nominated for the best small venue in America for the 11th time. While an artist playing at this venue might sound no different than at another venue, the outdoorsy atmosphere at such a beautiful space only 10 miles from Denver creates a whole different ambiance. Just imagine the photos you could take!

           All the way on the east coast, about 1800 miles away, is the famous Madison Square Garden, known more affectionately as the Garden or MSG. Home of the New York Rangers and the New York Knicks, MSG is famous for not only hosting crazy sports games but also amazing concerts. MSG has hosted a total of 2,557 concerts, making it the most high-profile concert venue in New York City. Even better, MSG sits right next to Penn Station, making it extremely convenient to travel to a concert by train. While MSG might not seem all that different from any other concert place at first glance, the venue’s longevity gives it its boost. Fittingly mottoed “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” the Garden has been around since 1879 and will be around to host concerts and sports events for decades to come. For artists, playing at MSG is seen as a huge milestone, almost synonymous with “making it” in the music industry. Even better than just playing at MSG is selling out MSG; once an artist does that, they know their fan base is dedicated and can go on to play more tour dates or even do stadium tours.   

           Overall, venues ranging in size across the US all have completely different things to offer. Red Rocks has its beautiful atmosphere, MSG has its iconic reputation, and as the latest addition, the Sphere has dazzling technology to transform the concert experience. And while the artist certainly is the draw of the concert, the venues have more influence than people might think. A venue can create a special ambiance for a concert and allow an artist to create the environment and effects they envision their music will be perceived best in. The more famous venues add credibility to an artist’s popularity and serve as a milestone for artists in their musical careers to work towards and build on. Even though the venue is often overlooked, its impact on a concert is greater than people think.