Rookie of the Year
The band U2 plays on a tiny stage just inside the gigantic circular wall of the Sphere, a huge flock of birds projected on its side.

Atomic City: U2 Go Nuclear at the Sphere

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #172. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.


A tongue-in-cheek but also painfully earnest look at pop culture and anything else that deserves to be ridiculed while at the same time regarded with the utmost respect. It is written by Matt Marrone and emailed to Stu Horvath and David Shimomura, who add any typos or factual errors that might appear within.


I recently texted this to one of my oldest and dearest friends:

I will never forget that show. I’ll be in assisted living with no idea who my children are, and I’ll still be talking about U2 at the Sphere.

As I showed photos and videos of the concert at the gym a few days later, I went one step further on the assisted living analogy:

“If my grown-up kids walk in, I’ll look at them, confused, and ask: ‘Do I know you from the Sphere?’”

Yes, late last year, I flew to Las Vegas, won $176 on a Willy Wonka slot machine at the Venetian, and saw “U2:UV” at the Sphere, which was both a blast from the past and a rocket ride into the future. I’ve had Achtung Baby practically on repeat ever since, an album I only fully appreciate now, more than 30 years after I first heard it. I’ve also spent the winter traipsing around in a U2-at-the-Sphere beanie hat I bought on Etsy. If I lived in Las Vegas, I wouldn’t be writing this column at all, because I’d be at the show. Again. (And then again.)

In some ways, the Oompa-Loompas dancing and singing at me as bonus Wonka bars opened and my winnings spun ever upward on the souped-up slot-machine screen was the perfect opening act for U2 at the Sphere. Something old and nostalgic (classic Willy Wonka!), something new and thrilling (me actually winning at a casino!). 

The spherical wall behind the tiny blip of the stage supporting U2 is ablaze with an impossible amount of starry red lights.

Something old and nostalgic: The Edge’s ringing guitar as it opens “Where the Streets Have No Name” (albeit in the best quality sound I’ve ever heard at a live concert venue, especially of this size). 

Something new and thrilling: The towering screen behind the band slowly lights up as a red sun rises in the East, illuminating a desert landscape and a flag made of billowing smoke. The 21st Century Spaceship: Earth opens up to sand and brush stretching out to the distant hills and horizon. The word epic feels inadequate. In the brief video clip I took, I can be heard simply saying, “Shit.”

If you don’t like U2, you’re not alone, of course. For me, they were always playing second fiddle to my beloved R.E.M., especially when I used to scrap with my girlfriend in high school over which world-conquering rock band was better. 

All these years later, though, one thing is undeniable: U2 fans are insanely lucky. Decades after their prime, they’re still relevant. R.E.M. broke up 13 years ago, and U2 is, right now, in the midst of a residency opening a mind-blowing venue with a show so good I didn’t give a second thought to flying across the country to see it. 

In fact, it was the best decision I made last year. Maybe my best decision in several. At any rate, when I’m old and barely able to see through my own dim hazy past, I plan to remember this decision and smile. 

Maybe, I’ll remember my decision to have kids, too.


Matt Marrone is a senior MLB editor at He has been Unwinnable’s reigning Rookie of the Year since 2011. You can follow him on Twitter @thebigm.


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