I saw Paul McCartney the other night. Live! On stage! Brilliant. Genius. And very very energetic – the guy played for 3 hours straight, only stopping to chat, bow and change instruments. The consummate showman, he didn’t even have a sip of water. Extraordinary.
Of course, seeing a Beatle (live! on stage!) you’d expect nothing less. Sure there were moments of Macca solo stuff that kind of left me cold. Not the Wings stuff – I’m a huge fan and the Live and Let Die pyrotechnic extravanganza was pretty spectacular. But who knew Sir Paul had an alter-ego called “The Fireman”? (and…erm…after hearing The Fireman’s song, who cared?) Not I. Still, he was unreal, even his UK football-hooligan song that sounded like a bar-mitzvah dance kind of appealed when you’re watching PMcC live! On Stage!
Except we were kind of watching the screen.
See, we went in a box. Up, up, up we went in our VIP elevator. There we were, 4 of us in a box built for many more. We had privacy, we had Erin the hostess bringing us food and drinks. And we had vertigo. We were up high in the privacy of our guilded cage. And waaaaaaay down below were the people. Far from the madding crowd indeed.
Worst. Seats. Ever.
It was a far cry from the old days of concert going for me. When I was younger my Grandfather had what we all called “connections”. Who they were and how they worked didn’t matter. We’d ask and, aside from a Neil Young/Neil Diamond mix-up, he delivered: a couple of seats somewhere in the first few rows on the floor.
Aaaah floors. We stood on our floor-seats for The Clash, the scary folks behind us holding our 15-year old selves up while the crowd heaved in front of us. We sat in the second row for David Bowie while all around us men in drag hollered their appreciation. And I know Steve Winwood winked at my friend and me when we were in our third row floor seats. From Donnie & Marie to Genesis, it was all about the floors.
As long as it wasn’t general admission. From the age of 14 we were free to go, unaccompanied, to any concert we wanted. As long as we had seats. Reserved seats. Beware the general admission ticket. They were dangerous. They were filled with freaks and punks and – gasp – stoners!!! I was never – ever – allowed to go to the general admission concerts.
But I did.
I spent most of the Who’s (first) farewell concert on the floor. Literally. All I saw were legs and shoes. Gen admission mixed with smoke inhalation had exhausted me -not that I’d ever admit it. So I sat down to catch my breath. In the end, it wasn’t worth it. I got busted and grounded and couldn’t go downtown to stalk the band at their hotel. My pals saw John Entwistle. I wept in my bedroom thinking of Boris the Spider. Sure he wasn’t our first choice but still… (Many years later, I saw Roger Daltrey at the premiere of Tommy:The Musical in London. And yeah, I got so overwhelmed I welled up, but that’s another story.)
Still, my general admission days were over.
Until I reached London. I was free to go and do and see whoever I wanted. But there was a catch: no connections. Zero. You want house seats at the theatre or a reservation at the best restos in town? I could use my boss’ name and get ’em any day of the week. But for concerts, I was Gen Pop.
And was I ever. It started with The Pogues. I was dragged to see them after forcing my pal to see Blood Brothers on stage in the West End.Â I didn’t really know who they were, but I did know Joe Strummer (RIP) was singing leads while Shane McGowan dried out in prison. We arrived at Brixton Academy and wormed our way to the front. My pal suggested – firmly – that we head towards the back. But I wasn’t listening. I was already deep into my fantasy of Joe Strummer spotting me in the front row, bringing me backstage to wait for him and…well, you get the picture. Celtic punk be damned. So as my pal headed to the bar at back, I was thrust against the bars at the front. It was so intense I couldn’t breathe. As the crowds went wild, I stopped breathing. Luckily I made eye contact with the nice bouncer who encouraged the drunks behind me to heave me up and over the gates. Total Room 101. Being hoisted over the fence, my ass up in the air as I was folded over the guardrail – top half down, bottom half flailing wildly, all the while hating Joe Strummer and trying not to cry. Ended up with my earrings ripped out of my ears and an enormous grid-shaped bruise across my entire stomach. I was lucky I didn’t break a rib.
But not lucky enough to avoid Gen Pop the next time around. No, that took seeing Radiohead, The Cranberries and REM at Milton Keynes. On a sweltering summer day where booze was allowed in, but water was not. Don’t ask. Needless to say, by the time REM took the stage with “What’s the Frequency Kenneth” my feet weren’t touching the unreserved, general admission floor. I bobbed, involuntarily, towards the front, frantically looking for my then boyfriend. He thought I was dancing. I wasn’t. He gave me the thumbs-up. I screamed as I headed towards Michael Stipe. As I was passed from hand-to-hand in mosh pit fashion, the crowd stamped and cheered “R-E-M. R-E-M.” And I chanted too: RE-SERVED SEATS. RE-SERVED SEATS. Once again, I reached the front where the kind bouncer saw the terror in my eyes. Up and over I went, to dry out with the rest of the losers in the health tent.
So maybe our 6th level corporate box seats weren’t so bad after all.
U2 is coming back to town next July. See you on the floor.