This U2 General Admission (GA) Guide has been updated for the U2: UV opening weekend in Las Vegas. I attended the opening weekend of the U2:UV residency at the Sphere and documented what to expect. And yes, the venue does respect the fan-led GA line and look at our numbers in order to assign numbered venue wristbands.
Ever since I began seeing U2 concerts during the Elevation Tour, I have preferred watching the band from GA. For those unfamiliar with GA – it is a concert ticket on the floor that is first-come-first-serve. But the GA is more than just a ticket. Because it is first-come-first-serve, there is the inevitable situation where dedicated fans queue (line) up early, in order to secure a good place on the floor near the stage. Some cities have fans line up over night, while others wait for days. Indeed, a community of fans have arisen out of these U2 queues. As such, norms, understandings, and expectations have developed over time by fans on what to expect when we line up for general admission. I should stress that these are not my rules or anybody else’s set rules, this is a collection of observations I’ve noticed in 90+ GA lines I’ve seen around the world throughout Europe, North America, Australia/New Zealand, and South America.
This is my “Guide” to the U2 General Admission Queue. While I outline several aspects of general admission, I do highlight some of the ‘not-so-pleasant’ things of queuing up. But in the end, it is important to remember that seeing a U2 show through GA is an amazing experience all together – for the fellow fans you meet, the music we hear, and the tribal community that gathers.
Table of Contents:
- Time to Arrive in the Queue
- The Check-In and Number System
- Morning of the Queue
- Back-to-back shows and the GA
- Saving Spots in the Queue
- Fanclub Membership Line Does Not Exist
- Security Checks
- What happens when doors open at 6PM?
- What is it like on the Floor
- Where is the best spot on the floor to see U2?
- What if I arrive in the GA much later?
- Pitfalls of the GA
- Conclusion: GA Adds to the U2 Concert Experience
Thinking back on all the U2 concerts I’ve been to (the vast majority of which were through the GA) I thought it would be fun to post a ‘Guide to the U2 GA Queue’. This page is not for everyone and is really intended for those who plan on queuing up early – for whatever reason they so choose. Maybe because they want to get to the front or ensure they will end up on the floor. I’ve received a few questions about this topic and felt a special page was warranted.
I find the whole GA queue to be more than just trying to get to the front or in the pit. I find the GA line to be a great U2 community experience, and a wonderful way to make new friends. These are friends I’ve remained in touch with since Elevation, Vertigo, 360°, iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE, and Joshua Tree tours, as well as the U2:UV residency. This may explain why out of all of the shows I will see during a U2 tour, all will be through GA. For me, there’s no other way but GA!
Q: What time should I show up to the queue?
A: It depends on where you want to be on the floor and type of show. To be clear, you don’t have to line up, if you feel it’s not that important to be near the front, and prefer to hang out in the back or sides. It’s still an an amazing show where ever you are in the Sphere.
If you do want to get near the front, important to note this is just a rough estimate and vary between concerts. For example, lines will start earlier and be longer for the opening and closing shows, and weekend concerts. Lines may be smaller for mid-week shows.
I advise people to visit the venue at least 1-2 days before the concert to see what’s going on with the queue.
- 1-2 Days Before the Show
- If you want to maximize your chances for being in the first or second rows, look out for the queue 1-2 days in advance.
- This is how the ‘GA Crazies’, ‘GA Hardcores’, or what I prefer to call, the ‘GA International Traveling Contingent’ often do. So if you want to join or get ahead of them, keep your eye on the GA 1-2 days in advance.
- Why do I like going close to the front? I’m not too tall and like to have a clear view of the stage. I also like taking photos, so being along the rail makes photography easier.
- Morning of the Show
- I estimate you would be third row or so.
- Afternoon of the Show
- You may be five rows off the rail.
- 6PM to Showtime
- While the GA floor is rather narrow, with most of the space near Bono and Edge clustered with fans, there is plenty of dancing space on the wide ends of the GA floor, particularly on Adam’s side.
Because the Sphere stated that there would be no camping or queues, a “check-in” system has been adopted by fans, which has been used since 2009, and common-place since 2015 around North America, Australia/New Zealand, and parts of Europe and Great Britain.
How the Check-In System Works:
Usually, venues allow a few people to manage the queue by collecting names in a book and writing numbers on people’s hands. These are self-appointed fans, not ones chosen by U2 management or the venue, who started the queue themselves and put together “rules”. Fans arriving thereafter are put a list and given numbers on their hands via a marker, and asked to return at periodic times to check-in (e.g. 9AM, 5PM the day before; and 6AM show day). If you don’t show up at any of the check-in times, you are crossed off the list. The morning of the show, there’s a ‘roll-call’ for everyone to be there in person (i.e. they go down the list to make sure you are there at the time). In Las Vegas, this has tended to be at 6:00AM on show day. If people were not in person or there during check-in times and during the final roll-call, they were taken off the queue list and are not able to re-join the queue and would have to go to the back of the line. This was effective during Las Vegas (360 Tour) (see below), where security cooperated completely, and actually kicked late-comers out. Since then, security have been largely hands off, but on the morning of the show, they recognized the queue since it helped manage large crowds upon entry from a safety perspective.
Some fans like this system because it allows them to do some sightseeing in the city they are visiting or get additional rest during the day. For others, this was a despised system because it’s a self-appointed system by those who decide to start the queue themselves and tell others to follow their rules. These fans find this system abhorrent because line runners are incentivized to start the ‘line’ a lot earlier than necessary and get to benefit from a fairly slack system, as opposed to real camping. It also privileges’ those ‘in-the-know’. With that said, I can’t imagine 200 people all showing up at 8AM on-the-dot and expect a line to form nicely to get a venue wristband. I’ve seen U2 in Italy (2005) where there was no queue or numbering, and it was just a rush into the venue, and almost being pushed down the stairs at the San Siro to get to the pitch. I didn’t feel safe.
In any event, the venue ends up recognizing and respecting the GA line. I saw fans try to cut this queue, only for Sphere security to weed them out and put them at the back of the line.
4) Morning of the Queue
Q: What happens when we check-in at 6AM, morning of the show?
A: We queue up at 6AM and get in order. The line organizers will go down the queue, check numbers and see that you are there. If you’re not there, they cross your name off the list. By 7:30-7:45AM, venue security start to organize themselves. By 8AM, they let us enter through the initial gates and check our numbers to make sure we’re in order. Yes, that’s right, venue security respects the GA line and are grateful that it’s well organized and not chaos that they have to deal with.
We are then led to the ticket scanning system just inside the Sphere, where they scan us “in” to make sure we have legitimate GA tickets.
Next, we proceed to the official venue numbered wristband station, where venue staff place a wristband on us.
After, the venue scan us “out” so that we can use the ticket later tonight to get back “in” at concert time. A
5) Back-to-back shows and the GA
Q: What do I do if I am attending back-to-back GAs?
A: If you are up for a marathon of GAs and have the stamina, I would recommend after the first show, immediately go back to where the queue was being organized the day before. The ‘GA Crazies’ will leave after the last encore of the first show in order to get a good number for night two (don’t ask me why they do that, kinda perplexes me, to be honest).
It is possible that find queue organizers there giving out numbers for the following night. Conversations of who will start organizing the next night usually takes place on the day of the first show. In Vancouver 2017, it was agreed upon that the organizers for night 2 would be those who had seats or didn’t have tickets for night 1. Once the GA line for night 1 entered the venue, the organizers for night 2 would then start taking names and giving numbers for night 2. I’ve heard of some bad stories of the queue being organized by GAers while they were in the GA of night 1. This was completely unfair because it advantaged those already at the front of the GA for night 1 – so a decision was made in some cities so that those who weren’t in the GA for night 1 would be the organizers for night 2.
When I attended the Mexico City shows during the 360 Tour, it was back-to-back-to-back GAs. It was awfully tough on the body, but a great chance to get to know the fans from Mexico. I now look back at those times with a lot of pride because of the endurance and the fun I had with the people I camped out with.
Of course, you do not need to get another number if you don’t want to be near the front. Because the Sphere is an amazing venue – visually and acoustically – I’ve have friends who chose to not get numbers the next night and enter the GA closer to show time, and enjoy the show at the rear of the GA.
6) Saving Spots in the Queue
Q: Can I get the queue early and save spots for my friends who will arrive later?
A: No…. well kinda. Even if you bought a pair, three, or four GA tickets together (but not everyone is there yet), line organizers will insist the whole group is together to get on the list. This is largely because when it’s time for entry, the venue needs to scan everyone together.
This isn’t a hard rule, however. I have seen and heard workarounds.
One instance, I saw the U2Valencia group of friends enter separately, despite having all the tickets on one phone. The person nearer to the front scanned in, passed his phone to one of the security guards (see video of him below) (who they must have befriended earlier, likely spoke Spanish, and asked for a favour), and then that security guard ran back and passed the phone to the rest of the U2Valencia group to scan in later.
I’ve heard that a person got in with the Ticket that was on their Google or Apple Wallet ticket; and then a friend or group of friends logged into that person’s Ticketmaster account on their phone, bring up the tickets on the Ticketmaster App (which uses a scan, not NFC reader like the Google or Apple wallet ticket), and got in separately. I can’t verify this, but if someone was successful, let me know.
7) Fanclub Membership Line
Q: Will there be special access for U2.com members?
A: No. There is no special line for U2.com members. The last time this happened was 2005!
Q: What is security check like? What is allowed and not allowed?
A: At the Sphere, security check is pretty simple. You first have your phone scanned for the ticket. You then proceed through body scanners that seek metal objects. If you have a bag, it can’t be larger than 6″x6″x2″. If you have a bag, they will look through it. If it’s larger than the stated size, I’ve heard them throw out the bag! Yet at the same time, I’ve heard slightly larger bags get through. I didn’t risk it, and went in bag free, with just my phone and camera in hand.
This is taken from the Sphere Website:Sphere is a “no bag” facility, meaning that large bags and backpacks are not permitted inside the venue. Sphere does not provide an area to check bags, coats or any other personal belongings.
Exceptions to this policy include small clutches, purses, and fanny packs that are no larger than approximately 6 in. x 6 in. x 2 in., as well as diaper bags and bags required for medical items.
Please note that all bags are subject to additional screening and inspection, either by visual or x-ray technology. If you or someone in your party has additional needs, please contact Guest Relations at email@example.com or 725-258-6724, Monday through Friday between 6:00 am and 5:00 pm PT, and Saturday and Sunday between 7:00 am and 5:00 pm PT.
Generally speaking, point-and-shoot cameras are alright. Seems to be more trickier to get cameras with detachable lenses in. I haven’t seen any issue so far with people bringing in small signs to wave to U2. What are very unlikely to bring in are large dSLR cameras.
For any items you are uncertain if these can be allowed inside, I highly recommend approaching security in the morning of what is allowed and not allowed. It helps to look for the head of security because they have better knowledge of venue policy. Remember, if you want to get through security check quickly, carry all that you can’t leave behind!
Q: What happens just prior to doors opening?
A: At the time when wristbands are issued, venue staff tell you to return to the venue by 5PM to start re-lining up. Before gaining entry to line up at the East VIP Gate, security will check the number of your wristband 10 people at a time, and make sure you are entering by numbered order. No wristband no entry. VIP GA ticket holders enter through the West VIP Gate.
Q: Do you run or walk once the doors are open?
A: Security will strongly insist you walk, but in most cases fans ‘fast-walked’. It will be well worth it to practice your speed-walking skills. Security threatens to send people back if they find you running. As you can see from the video below, the floor is very narrow, yet quite wide.
Q: Can I bring signs or flags into the show?
A: Likely. I have friends who have brought in blank sheets of paper, light pieces of cardboard, and markers. Once they got to the floor, they would write their messages and hope to show Bono during the concert. Sometimes the band acknowledges them, and sometimes not. I think it’s all for fun, so long as it doesn’t block the view of those behind you. When we were at the Vegas show, we made a sign for Fergie (of the Black Eyed Peas) who were the opening act. Fergie saw the sign, and sang to us for a bit. That was a lot of fun. Other times, people would write messages for U2, and Bono would incorporate at it into their songs or speeches. This doesn’t always happen, but can be special if it does during the concert.
With respect to flags, some venue security are more picky. At the Vancouver and New York shows during the iNNOCENCE+eXPERIENCE tour, venue security refused the entry of banners and flags. At Madison Square Garden (awful security), one fan was upset because her national flag was banned entry, with the security guard saying that, “Bono said he didn’t want flags at the show.” Laughable and dishonest, but we are at the mercy of security. Best to ask them well ahead of time to avoid this confrontation. Always check the venue website or call them two weeks ahead of time to ask about what is permitted and what isn’t allowed.
Q: What if I need to leave to go to the washroom or buy food? Will I lose my spot?
A: If you need to leave to use the washroom or buys something, wait about 10 minutes after you get into the GA, before it gets too full. Make sure your friend(s) holds your spot, and choose a path out of your spot from which you can follow back in. If you have no friends with you, introduce yourself to others near you, and make buddies with them. You want people to remember you on your way out, so when you come back, they won’t think you’re cutting them. I’ve had no problems leaving my spot and come back, because I needed to use the washroom or get water at the Sphere. My friends and fellow U2 fans held my spot, and I did the same for them.
Q: What is it like at the front? Is it rough?
A: Unlike concert festivals which are the only comparisons I can draw from, U2 crowds are generally easy going and respectful. I’ve been able to enjoy the front with relative ease. The only times I found it tough in 2005 were in NY, Dublin I, and Honolulu, where ‘important’ people pushed their way to the front. Even for U2 360°the crowds in Poland and Croatia were not pushy. All other times, I thought there was general respect and a sense of harmony amongst us, and I look forward to sharing a ‘magnificent’ time with fellow U2 fans.
At the Sphere, credit to the Venue Security for kicking out drunk and obnoxious fans who were bothering fans at the front. Do not hesitate to call for help from Security, if you find yourself being pushed around by others who had a few too many (expensive) drinks.
Q: When you are along the rails, is the stage too high?
A: The stage is quite low, but the band further away since they tend to be on the “record” part of the “turntable” stage.
11) Where is the best spot to see U2 on the floor?
Q: Where is the best spot to see U2 on the floor?
A: Anywhere in the Sphere.
12) What if I arrive in the GA much later? I don’t really want to line up all day, but still enjoy the show!
Answering this question primarily comes down to expectations. Whether you choose to line up or not, one is not better than the other, but rather indicative of what people choose to do and expect to get in return.
The Sphere is a concert venue like no other. I do believe no matter where you are on the floor or in the seats, your mind will be blown away by the production and the music. You will have a great time – just need to calibrate your expectations.
When people queue up early, they have an expectation to be up close to the band, have a rail to lean on, and enjoy the music. They accept that there will be exhaustion, dehydration, and some frustration as part of this process, but believe that these sacrifices will trade-off with some benefits.
For those who come later or an hour or so before the show, they expect to be well rested and understand that they will be further back on the field. On the 360° Tour, I had friends arrive late afternoon to the queue and ended up two or three rows behind the outer circle b-stage. Having been through the pains of lining up at a previous U2 concert, this time around, they preferred to come late, feel refreshed, and accepted that they were going to be further back. They ended up being amazed because they ended up not that far back, which exceeded their expectations.
I’ve been at the back of a stadium GA before and didn’t mind it because my expectations were tempered. For the 1st show in São Paulo, Brazil for the 360° Tour, I arrived the morning of the concert. My friends and I met up and came to the Estadio Morumbi at 9am and there were already about 10,000 people in line ahead of us. We resigned ourselves to the inevitability that we’d be at the back of the GA, but we were okay with that. In the end, the fact that Zooropa first appeared on the tour in Brazil thrilled us. That alone made the concert special and not because of where we were relative to the stage.
Being at the back of the GA also has its advantages:
- It’s not as crowded
- The sound is at its best at the soundboard
- You can easily access the beer garden, souvenir stand, and washrooms easily
- You’ll get to see U2’s sound guru – Joe O’Herlihy – who has been with U2 since the start. He’s very approachable!
With all this said, I still like lining up early, because it gives me a chance to connect with long-distant U2 friends who travel and see the band like I do. I also like being near the front because I enjoy concert photography. But that’s my expectation and desire. Others who prefer to come later will hear the same amazing music and equally enjoy the company of friends as much as I do.
13) Pitfalls of the GA
Q: GA sounds too good to be true, it can’t be all fun and games?!
A: You’re right; it isn’t always the greatest of experiences in the GA. Exhaustion can sink in after multiple GAs, or you may run into U2 fans who are rude or have a degree of self-entitlement in being at the front .
I’ve also had to deal with really hot days, where there was no shade (i.e. June 30, 2009 Camp Nou – Barcelona). There would be days where it would rain nonstop (i.e. June 24, 2005 Croke Park – Dublin). There are ways to prepare for such climates, but your patience can wear thin quickly. I also found myself frustrated by people cutting the line, despite the fact that I spent the whole day there. In spite of my protestations, there was nothing I could do. Fairness, it seemed, was not universal. Other fans had described to me of a not-so-pleasant camping out experience at the Chorzow, Poland queue, where there were really drunk fans being loud and obnoxious at night, which made it a sleepless queuing experience.
This is unsurprising, but I’ve noticed that there is a direct correlation between the state of weather and the mood of the crowd. For example, we experienced heavy downpour the morning of The Joshua Tree Tour opener in Vancouver (which we knew was coming because the forecasts were pretty consistent leading up to that day), and I encountered a few irate and annoyed fans in the queue. Once the rain let up, skies opened, and sun rays beaming down on us by lunch time, I saw a lot more happier people in the line. All I can say is be prepared for the weather conditions, don’t be surprised, and feel free to temporary leave the queue if needed.
Another phenomenon I encountered during past tours was that being at the front of a queue does not necessarily guarantee a good spot on the floor because of mechanical or human errors. For example, the tickets wouldn’t scan properly at Dublin 3 or at Chorzow (360° Tour), which would result in gates locking up and disallowing you to pass. I know for some female fans, particularly at Wembley Stadium, there was a shortage of female security guards to search female fans, so they were held up. Some venues will have multiple entry points, which increases anxiety and uncertainty of where you will end up on the floor. Many fans had described to me of the Paris shows, where some gates opened up early than others. This resulted in frustrating some fans that felt this to be unfair and arbitrary. Having been through this myself, one can easily feel irritated and upset. At the Sphere, the GA is very narrow, yet wide. It’s not full for the entire show. So you can find lots of space at the back or sides, and still be in total amazement of the visuals, music, and show. I just think there’s a different vibe on the floor compared to being in seats. I love being around fans who stand, sing their hearts out, and let out their full emotions. Maybe it’s because we see the band so close, or are self-selected because the GA invites a certain type of fan?
14) Conclusion: GA Adds to the U2 Concert Experience
Well, I hope you found this post informative, if not entertaining. Despite these negatives, I still maintain the GA queue to be a beneficial and fun experience. A valuable lesson I learned was that ‘anything can happen’ in the GA experience and that we should not raise our expectations of always getting the spot we imagine ourselves having. Because we get to the queue early enough, we will all get onto the floor, and have a great spot where ever we may end up. Most U2 fans would love to see the shows we see, let alone the close proximity we have to the band. Most of us who have had the privilege to be in the pit will agree that the atmosphere is electric and any bad experiences from earlier in the day are washed away by the torrential music of U2.
While the U2 queue can be tiring and at times trying (i.e. North end Dublin kids making fun of U2 and throwing fruit and eggs at us outside of Croke Park), I think we can look back and remember all the great times. I can earnestly look back at all my experiences in the queue – good and bad – and remember how much fun it was to meet everyone, listen in on the sound checks, feel the rush of getting into the venue early, enjoying the concert with the same fans I shared the queue with during the entire day, and getting various setlists at the end of the night. I vividly recall meeting new friends, sharing our love for U2’s music, talking about our backgrounds, and explaining where our travels have taken us. In the end, the U2 queue is more than trying to make it to the front; it really is a place where different people of varying backgrounds can find a common ground, with the hope of having long lasting memories.
The GA in Vancouver during the iNNOCENCE+eXPERIENCE tour was memorable for me, as it was two days before my wedding (the next day, I skipped the second Vancouver show to make it for my wedding rehearsal). Fans in the queue were incredibly kind to sign a banner with messages of support and well-wishes for our marriage. It was the kindest act I’ve ever experienced in the queue. I admittedly teared up – physically and emotionally exhausted – but humbled at the thought and consideration of everyone. This alone made the GA worthwhile (thanks to Jonathan for filming this).
If you have any other tips or experience worth mentioning, or questions that need addressing, feel free to leave a message in comments below. I’ll try to promptly respond to your questions. We’re all here to help each other. I look forward to seeing you all in the queue. For me, there’s no other way but GA!