weather icon Partly Cloudy

Looking back on U2’s performances in Las Vegas

Updated May 10, 2018 - 1:45 pm

“Hold your breath” the post instructs breathlessly.

Said command can be found on U2’s website.

It’s part of the announcement for a new augmented reality app meant to be downloaded prior to attending a show on the band’s recently launched “Experience + Innocence Tour.”

“Inside the venue, before the band arrives on stage, hold your breath for a specially curated AR scene-setter — triggered by the 100-foot-long LED wall running the length of the arena floor. Then check out the opening song,” the news release reads.

Tour after tour, U2 has labored to set the rock band bar for cutting-edge concert stage productions, the aforementioned app being the group’s latest innovation.

With U2 returning to town for a pair of shows this weekend, let’s take a look back at all of the group’s Vegas tour stops and what made each outing special (excluding a one-off appearance at the iHeartRadio music festival in 2016).

Outing: Joshua Tree Tour

Vegas date: April 12, 1987, Thomas & Mack Center

U2’s post-show ride for the group’s Vegas debut: a vehicle normally used for transporting soiled undergarments.

That’s right, U2 departed its first local show in a laundry van, having recruited look-alikes to leave the venue in a limousine, distracting fans so that the band could head downtown and shoot the iconic video for “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” on Fremont Street.

The show came five days after “Joshua Tree” hit No. 1 for the first time on the Billboard album chart, and the Irish rockers were on the verge of becoming the biggest band in the world.

Still, the Vegas date, which drew a good crowd of 8,637 fans (out of a total capacity of 9,700), was the only arena date of the tour’s two U.S. legs not to sell out.

Outing: Zoo TV Tour

Vegas date: Nov. 12, 1992, Sam Boyd Silver Bowl

If the boob tube really was the opiate of the masses — as socially conscious rap troupe The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy contended on “Television, the Drug of a Nation,” the track that was played prior to U2 taking the stage — this production was akin to an addict’s overdose.

A cheeky commentary on the desensitizing powers of excessive modern media consumption, the tour was posited on sensory overload: The production employed 180 crew members, boasted a million-watt sound system weighing 30 tons, required a full-fledged television control room to coordinate all the visuals on the 36 video screens and even had full-sized cars dangling from the rafters.

The outing remains iconic: Rolling Stone listed Zoo TV among the 50 Greatest Concerts of the Last 50 Years.

The band drew a crowd of 27,774 here, a substantial number considering the city’s smaller market size back then, but it was still well short of the show’s 37,011 capacity.

This would be the last time that a Vegas U2 show had unsold seats.

Outing: Popmart Tour

Vegas date: April 25, 1997, Sam Boyd Stadium

What did the 12-foot-wide olive say to the 40-foot lemon-shaped disco ball?

Trick question!

Prefabricated fruits are known for being tight-lipped. Besides, what words could really do the aforementioned stage props justice?

Well, perhaps “ ‘Spinal Tap’-ish” when it comes to the latter, as U2 got stuck in the motorized contraption, which delivered the musicians to the stage for their encore, on multiple occasions, including the tour-opening Vegas stop.

Costing a cool $100 million to produce, the Popmart Tour was even more over-the-top than the band’s previous outing, with a gigantic arch towering above the stage and a gargantuan video screen bigger than the three-dozen Zoo TV screens combined.

The crowd of 36,742 marked the band’s first sold-out Vegas gig.

Outing: Elevation Tour

Vegas date: Nov. 18, 2001, Thomas & Mack Center

Outing: Vertigo Tour

Vegas date: Nov. 4-5, 2005, MGM Grand Garden

Having decisively won the stadium rock arms race that pitted U2 against … U2, the band scaled things down significantly on its next two treks.

Focusing on arenas rather than stadiums — at least in the U.S. — the goal here was to make big rooms feel small with large catwalks that encircled a portion of the crowd on the floor and a more visceral, in-your-face vibe that harkened back to the band’s first tours.

During the Elevation gig, the band set the attendance record at the Thomas & Mack Center by drawing 17,771 fans.

Four years later, U2 lured a combined crowd of 31,863 to a pair of sold-out shows at the MGM Grand Garden.

So while the venues may have been smaller, the box office receipts remained outsize.

Outing: U2 360° Tour

Vegas date: Oct. 23, 2009, Sam Boyd Stadium

It looked like a giant version of one of those metal pincher thingies from a claw-crane arcade game had descended upon Sam Boyd Stadium to gobble up Bill Clinton and Paris Hilton.

Yes, both the former president and current reality show afterthought were in the house when U2 played its biggest Vegas show yet in front of a sold-out crowd of 42,213.

The tour’s “spaceship-on-four-legs” stage design was so massive and elaborate that it required daily production costs of $750,000 and upward of three days to dissemble.

It paid off: The trek remains the top-grossing tour of all time, having made more than $730 million.

“Shout for joy if you get the chance,” Bono told the Sam Boyd crowd during the show.

His accountant surely did.

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
EDC Las Vegas makes festivalgoers feel like family

Upon immersing oneself in the festival’s friendly fanaticism for three days, the question arises: Just what makes EDC elicit such a passionate response from many of its 450,000-plus annual “headliners”?