If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know that I got tickets to see Prince on Saturday night, totally spur of the moment, outstanding 8th row seats with an amazing view, regularly $200, available day of for $67. Apparently this happens a lot with big shows, where a block of tickets is reserved for guests or promos and isn’t used, so the seats are sold off cheap. This would be good to know for future shows, except that I am fairly certain that I won’t be going to another stadium show any time soon.
Let me remind you, dear readers, of some facts. Sheryl = agoraphobic. Also, misanthropic curmudgeon. I don’t deal with other people very well, and particularly not in large groups. I work from home so as to avoid crowded buses, etc, etc. So with the exception of one very foolish decision to attend Lollapalooza in 1990, I haven’t been to a stadium rock concert since 1987. Literally. The Cult at the Halifax Metro Centre. And I was so stoned that my girl Sharon and I, in an attempt to get to the front of the stage, crawled on our bellies, military-style, under four rows of seats. So there’s not even a real point of comparison.
Most of the bands I like are not big enough to warrant a venue with 14,000 seats. On average, the venues are usually under a 2,000 person capacity and, through years of attending concerts, I have staked out a “safe spot” in each – that is, a spot that has a reasonable view of the stage but some free space for dancing, sounds good (it’s usually near the sound board) and has close proximity to an exit should I feel a panic attack coming on and need to flee. Using this strategy, I manage to deal with sold out general admission venues, and live to tell about it. You’ll never find me pressed in amongst the stinking masses at the front of the stage, but I’ll be at the back, near the bar, enjoying the show.
Using this theory, I should have been fine on Saturday night. My seat with the fantastic view was also on a blocked aisle – I even had room to dance, and it was my space with no tall guy with a big head blocking my view, or super-bouncy people jumping on my toes.
Yet the stadium experience just freaked me out too much. The vast number of cougars, dressed to kill and reeking of perfume turned me off immediately. Their reaction to Prince’s gyrations onstage was disconcerting. Anticipating that we might be yelling or singing along, we buy a bottle of pop, only to have the guy at the concession stand remove the top, lest we use it as a projectile. Okaaaay.
Once seated, in time for the 8pm time on the ticket, the security person tells us the show won’t start until 8:30. Alrighty then. The area where our seats are smells like urine, and the floor is sticky. We try not to think about it. Finally, at closer to 9pm, after we’ve cooled our heels, Prince arrives onstage through a trapdoor. The crowd goes insane. When the song is done, he leaves through the same trap door. And then comes back again, via his little Prince elevator. The crowd goes insane – again. This “Prince goes up, Prince goes down” thing is a recurring theme that gets more and more tedious as the night goes on.
Also tedious, the security people. I’m not sure who decided there were to be no photos of the show taken by the audience, but you just try and keep 14,000 people from whipping out their phones. Go ahead, try it. What this meant was that, instead of being available for actual security concerns (such as, why does it stink so badly of really sour pot in here??) the security people spent the whole evening running up and down the aisles, and pushing down the rows, to yell at people taking photos. Being on the aisle, every time someone in my row tried to sneak out their camera, a little woman in a grey blazer and a silver headband came pushing past me to shake her finger disapprovingly at them.
All of this would have been mere annoyances had it not been for the fact that I was just really not getting into the performance. I only went in the first place because so many people over the years had told me what a fantastic show Prince puts on. And I guess, if you’re into the flash of stadium shows with the light displays and confetti cannons, it might have been considered fantastic, but to me it all felt contrived, pretentious and really cliched. I was never a big Prince fan to begin with (and I loathed him back in the 80s), so I was kind of hoping that the supposed fantastic live show would win me over. But once the man started writhing around onstage, I remembered how creepy I had always thought he was.
By then we had hit the encores and it was all just too much. Despite the great seats and the mental safety zone of having my own space, the noise of the crowd, the view of tens of thousands of screaming people just made the space feel as if it was closing in on me. We fled, Greg displeased slightly but also annoyed with the crowd.
I’m not sure why this show affected me so badly. Whether it was because I just didn’t dig the performance, or was freaked out by the size and noise of the crowd, or because I kept comparing it to the Ray Davies show we had been to the night before, I cannot say. But Prince made me downright miserable.
I know all concerts can’t be great ones, and performers can’t always connect with every person in the audience – and I’ve certainly been to bad concerts before – by bands I liked more than Prince. But the next time someone tries to convince me to go to a stadium concert because the artist puts on a “fantastic” show, I’ll definitely think twice.