, attached to 2024-04-18

Review by Fondue

Fondue Long-winded in-person review coming... now!

Awed and Grinning in Sin City

This will primarily be about the experience, and a few rando tips rather than the music itself. Dot net does a better job at that than I would anyway!

At 6.15pm, my two show-pals and I stroll through the casino floor of the Palazzo and arrive at the “holding room,” a mid-size convention/meeting space attached to the long sky bridge walkway to the Sphere. We were amidst a happy, excited and maybe even nervous crowd lined up and anxiously awaiting the doors to open, rumored to do so at approximately 6.30.

A full hour later, we’re still in a dense and getting-a-bit-warm line on the skybridge, but we can see the ticket/security checkpoint ahead. I’m not sure what other entrances are available to get in, but this one? It sucked hot ass. First tip - put your tickets in your mobile wallet and tap. Every person who tried to scan the digital barcode option on ticketmaster stood there, frustratingly trying to properly line up their phone. And not like rando olds who don’t know how to do it - this line is full of concert vets.

Once finally inside, we find ourselves in the cool blue interior of the Sphere. Meditative ambient music plays, and the deep blue is punctuated with red donut-like circular design elements that were hard not to smile at. We had a good 30-40m before the band hit the stage, but eagerly went to check out our surprisingly comfy 100-level seats.

Walking in alone is almost overwhelming. An epically massive, seamless screen slowly changes hue, dancing around the color wheel. A small, tight, unlit stage sits in the center, flanked by six black pillars of standard stage lights. And it was almost all the way to quiet! People were talking, but their conversation doesn’t carry the way it does in most arenas.

Our seats are a few rows under the overhang, bringing us to tip 2 - if you can be choosy about your seat, it looked to me like the 200s and up, or at least not under the overhang, are the place to be. GA is right in front of the stage (duh) but there’s no way you can take that joint in from there. The lower level 100s certainly had a baller view, but your head will be on a swivel. We walked around a bit in awe, like most people were doing, until settling in our seats. I couldn’t help but take pics even of the solid color wall and empty stage, it was just that impressive.

The screen turns to a dull blue, and several roars went up from the crowd, bringing us to our feet. The third roar was the real one. No dramatic light drop, just our four un-caped heroes walking out on stage from the back steps. The energy and anticipation was as thick as the fog Scooby and Shaggy used to cut donuts out of. Gigantic columns of animated pillars rise up from all sides of the screen we’re off with, of course, “Everything’s Right.” It sure as shit was. Tip 2.5 - if you’re even a few rows under the overhang on level 100, you’re not seeing between 1/3rd and half of the screen and ceiling of the sphere. It’s still fuuuuuucking impressive.

The columns morphed, moved, receded and grew, slowly turning, and seeming like they were reflecting the actual lights on the stage. Soon enough you’re looking at visuals rather than the band. They move and morph slow, as did all visual graphics throughout the night. I would guess this is purposeful. Moving any faster and you’re probably gonna get sea sick. Tip 3 - if you focus on the band while the massive peripherals are moving, it actually does give you a sense that you’re moving too. Kinda weird, but there’s no horizon to focus on so it makes sense. When I felt it, I’d look back at the visuals and the room stopped feeling like it was moving with or without me.

The visuals are tranquil and a little trippy overall. It was a mix of animation and some layered photography. The landscape photos didn’t work as well for me, but idk what kind of crazy-ass resolution you’d have to have on an image to make it work up there. The entire first set felt pretty chill, like the band was vibing off the imagery the same way we were.

We get a mid-set Maze, and I find my first real complaint with the venue. There are speakers everywhere. Apparently also haptic chairs, but my ass didn’t sit in it to find out if it was also on the vibe. The audio is called “immersive sound,” which probably has to do with the unique shape of the venue, but I started to notice that some instruments were panned to different speakers, and it changed throughout the night. Sometimes it was drum/bass heavy, other times overwhelmingly Page with little mix of anyone else. During the Maze solo, where Page and Trey exchange licks, Trey’s audio completely disappears. I can see him shredding, but not hear a note. Only Page and Fish. The audio quality has crazy clairty and crispiness, but this mix… thing/issue… happens several times throughout the night. The worst offender was Antelope. I’d go so far as to say this mix thing nearly ruined the best part of the jam. And as we walked out, I heard others who sat in different sections say the same thing.

Weird mix aside, that place feels like it was built for Phish. The visuals danced in time with the jams, augmenting in ways we’ve never seen before. I’m a vet of 150 shows, and left slack-jawed at the experience. The sheer joy of seeing the barn on the screen during Farmhouse, where it felt like Phish was playing in it’s front yard. The undulating orbs during Sand, the live visuals of band members falling to pieces and cascading around the screen, the trippy morphing shapes, color bars, kaleidoscopic images, and even the (IMO a lil lame) shape-changing cars during Tweezer were just flat out awesome. I really try not to whip out my phone during shows, but I was constantly trying to capture it to send to friends who didn’t get as lucky with tickets. It was like every song brought a “what are they gonna do now” feeling which we're used to with the music, but now also with the marriage to the screen.

No one knew what this was going to be last night, and now we all have at least an idea. I think the next run here, and maybe even by Sunday on this run, they’re going to have way more things ironed out, and I can’t even guess at how many ideas will spring up for animations and screen experiences for future shows.

All things considered, even with my somewhat limited view, I’d call this an A to A+ experience. If this is your band, this venue experience should go on the bucket list in my opinion.

Visuals: A
Sound quality: A to A+ Crisp, clear and the right volume most of the time.
Feeling when you’re in there: A+ It’s like a comfy high-tech wrap-around Hampton on designer drugs
Excitement for each song: A+ musically and visually
Comfort / space around us: B+, seats aren’t too close. They’re actually made for American-sized asses, and we had enough space to still dance a lil.
Audio Mix: Can’t go higher than a C, which is a damn shame given the clarity and quality. Maze, Mike’s and Lope all had significant panning audio issues often at the worst/peakiest moments.
Ticketing/Security/Entry: F- They can and have to do better, it was dogshit. Hand-scanners alone would have helped. Even the car line at Magnaball was less painful.
Exit: B+, seemed like more ways out than in, and despite being in the herd, it was way better than leaving a venue like MSG.
Gambling and cavorting in Vegas with exited phans after: Come on. Easy A.

Good luck to all trying to find a ticket, and a hearty high-five to everyone who is going.


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