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MSG boss in ‘serious talks’ over second Sphere

Madison Square Garden (MSG) boss James Dolan is reported to be in “serious talks” to build a second Sphere venue – this time in the United Arab Emirates.

According to the New York Post, Dolan is in discussions with Abu Dhabi investors about building a replica of the $2.3 billion, 20,000-cap Las Vegas Sphere, which would become MSG’s first property outside of the US.

“These are serious talks with Abu Dhabi. They keep going back and forth,” a source told The Post.

A Sphere spokesperson declined to comment on the report, which noted that the UAE capital has emerged as a frontrunner after negotiations apparently stalled with Saudi Arabia and South Korea.

The UAE’s second most populous city after Dubai, Abu Dhabi gained the 18,000-cap Etihad Arena in 2021, which has upcoming shows with the likes of Andre Rieu and Scorpions.

Wireless Festival, meanwhile, attracted 25,000 fans to Etihad Park on Yas Island for its Abu Dhabi debut in March, while November’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix’s Yasalam After-Race Concerts starred Foo Fighters, Shania Twain, Tiësto, Chris Brown and Ava Max.

The brainchild of Dolan, the futuristic Sphere features a 160,000 sq. foot LED display inside the main venue, which wraps up, over and around the audience for a fully immersive experience in cutting-edge 16K x 16K resolution. The concept launched in Las Vegas at the end of September with the 40-night U2:UV Achtung Baby Live At Sphere residency, which runs until March 2024.

American rock band Phish are the next major act to be confirmed and will deliver a four-show run from 18-21 April, while the Post reported last month that Beyoncé was in talks over a potential residency, with Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney and Lady Gaga also rumoured to be in consideration.

Sphere Entertainment said it was focusing on the “many forward-thinking cities that are eager to bring this technology to their communities”

Speaking to Variety earlier this year, MSG executive chair and CEO Dolan said it was “definitely a big part of the business plan, to build more Spheres all over the world”. “And by the way, different-size ones too – probably not much bigger than the one in Vegas, but we’ve actually gone through already architectural drawings and designs for smaller Spheres for smaller markets,” he added.

However, Sphere Entertainment said last month that it was focusing on the “many forward-thinking cities… eager to bring this technology to their communities” after its long-held plans for a 21,500-cap London spin-off were refused.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan rejected the proposals on the basis they “would result in an unacceptable negative impact on local residents”, but levelling-up secretary Michael Gove has since ordered a six-week pause as he considers whether to call in the application for the development.

In a broadside at Khan, a Sphere spokesperson alleged “the entire five-year planning process was hijacked by the Mayor and his bogus last-minute report”.

“Londoners should be dismayed that they are not going to benefit from this groundbreaking project, and others looking to invest in London should certainly be wary,” continued the statement. “Moreso, everyone should be alarmed by how easily the government’s established process was tossed aside by one politically motivated official.

“Mr Gove’s action, although commendable, still appears to us to be more of the same, and we cannot continue to participate in a process that can be so easily undermined by political winds. As we said previously, we will focus on the many forward-thinking cities.”

 


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Star-studded kick-off event set for F1 Las Vegas

The inaugural Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix will kick off with a star-studded showcase, featuring artists including J Balvin, Journey, Keith Urban, and Steve Aoki.

Set for Wednesday, 15 November, the jam-packed event will precede the first-ever Vegas GP weekend. The opening ceremony will span seven stages and include performances from will.i.am, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Bishop Briggs, Swedish House Mafia, along with appearances by the Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil.

“It was important for us to create an opening ceremony that balances the spirit of Las Vegas with the global excitement that Formula 1 and these incredible drivers bring to each host city,” says Renee Wilm, Las Vegas Grand Prix, Inc. CEO.

The opening ceremony is expected to garner 30,000 attendees, will be broadcast nationally, and will be streamed globally on F1’s YouTube channel. An estimated 300,000 people will attend the maiden three-day event in Nevada.

“We are proud to be able to work with the very best in the entertainment production space”

“We are proud to be able to work with the very best in the entertainment production space to offer one of the most diverse line-ups of beloved musical superstars, which will officially launch the race week festivities,” says Wilm.

The Wednesday celebration adds to the F1 weekend’s entertainment lineup, with performances from Mark Ronson, Kylie Minogue, Nile Rogers & Chic, and Major Lazer to take place at the T-Mobile Zone at Sphere. The track will encircle the new 18,600-cap MSG venue, which will have a dedicated fan zone during the event weekend.

Breaking from the traditional weekend calendar, the race will take place on the evening of Saturday (18 November) instead of the Sunday. The third race held in the US this year, following races in Miami and Austin, the Las Vegas GP will transform the iconic Las Vegas Boulevard into a high-impact race course.

Expected to be “one of the biggest sporting events of the year”, according to F1, the flurry of entertainment corresponds with a new venue boom in Sin City.

The $2.3bn Sphere, which opened in September, will see U2 play 11 more dates during their U2:UV Achtung Baby residency. Additionally, the new luxury resort Fontainebleau will launch its intimate 3,600-cap BleauLive Theatre with two nights from Post Malone later this year.

 


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Ticket requests for U2 Sphere residency top 1m

U2 have added a further five dates to their U2:UV Achtung Baby Live At Sphere residency after receiving more than one million ticket requests for the shows.

The run will launch Madison Square Garden (MSG) Entertainment’s 17,500-seat/20,000-cap Sphere at The Venetian in Las Vegas venue in September.

The Irish group initially announced five nights from 29-30 September and 5, 7-8 October, before confirming an additional seven (11, 13-14, 18, 20-21 and 25 October). Now, Sphere Entertainment and Live Nation have revealed five more dates – 27-28 October and 1, 3-4 November – bringing the total number of concerts to 17.

Tickets start at US$140 (€127) and will reflect all-in pricing. Promoters say the larger capacity allows for 60% of tickets to be priced under $300, while there will also be a limited number of premium priced tickets per show.

Based around U2’s classic 1991 album Achtung Baby, the series will be the band’s first live shows since The Joshua Tree 30th anniversary stadium tour, which was seen by 3.28 million fans worldwide from 2017-19 and grossed US$390.8 million.

The $2.18 billion Sphere is a “next-generation entertainment medium” that promises to “redefine the future of live entertainment”. It will introduce the first 16K screen that wraps up, around, and behind the audience, and also boasts Sphere Immersive Sound and 4D technologies.

“There’s nothing else like it in the world and won’t be for many, many years”

“The idea behind U2 is always to make the worst seat in the house the best seat in the house,” Bono told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe. “This changes the whole dynamic on that. Most music venues [bigger than theatres] are sports venues. They’re built for sports, they’re not built for music. They’re not built for art. So this building was built for immersive experience in cinema and performance. You can’t come here for an ice hockey game.”

“The sound has been designed as a priority from the beginning,” added The Edge. “There’s nothing else like it in the world and won’t be for many, many years. I think the truth is that depending where you are in the venue, you will get your own very unique show.”

The pair also commented on the possibility of their residency expanding further still.

“I don’t know,” said Bono. “We’ll have to see if we like this. We’ll have to see if our audience love this. I think it’s going to be hard to get us out of here. We’re not touring Achtung Baby anyway. With The Joshua Tree, we took that album around the world. This will only be here.”

“Don’t forget it’s 18,000 to 20,000 people a night so you’re not going to be doing 100 shows,” noted The Edge. “I mean, it’s impossible.”

Last week, MSG announced “Sphere Experiences” as part of its opening programming at MSG Sphere at The Venetian in Las Vegas. The concept will launch this October with a “first-of-its-kind” immersive production Postcard from Earth.

 


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