Bruce Springsteen was in town two weeks ago. Kansas City Star sports columnist Vahe Gregorian wrote a fun piece about his devotion to The Boss and his connection to a number of his songs dating back to Vahe’s high school days. Gregorian confessed that has seen 40 Springsteen concerts.
Some readers, perhaps, read the column with envy. After all, Gregorian’s daytime job is one where he earns access to the top sporting events, many that are sold out, becomes acquainted with the best athletes, some of whom may become his friends. And then has a 30-year experience with a music icon.
My reaction was different. No thanks.
Maybe it’s just me, but live concerts in large venues with thousands of enthused fans who are drunk, high or both and then prone to twirling on my Converse shoes does not appeal to me. I saw Spicoli in “Fast Times in Ridgemont High.” I don’t need to sit behind him at a concert. I know this may shock you, but some concert goers could benefit from a long shower and a visit to Great Clips.
This is not a knock on The Boss or his fans. In the summer of 1984, I bought his “Born in the USA” album and played it nonstop. His “Tunnel of Love” album was playing in my living room when I got dressed for my wedding on Oct. 17, 1987. Whenever I hear “Brilliant Disguise,” the butterflies still flutter in my stomach.
The Star’s review of the concert was effusive. But do I regret not being there? Not in the least.
Yes, there was a time long ago when I enjoyed a live concert. Back when I was, like, 17. I took a date to the Kansas State Fair and watched Seals and Crofts in October 1976. They played “Diamond Girl,” which peaked in 1974 but finally hit western Kansas radios years later. My date and I were sitting on bleachers near the top of the state fair grandstand. My date’s name is long forgotten; but that song is burned in my brain in perpetuity. As a freshman at KU, I saw the Beach Boys in Allen Fieldhouse backed up by Jay Ferguson. Every time I hear “Thunder Island” on Sirius XM radio’s “’70s on 7,” I think about that day. The concert and song merged together and made it more than a melody. It was a life experience.
A couple years ago I took our daughter to Taylor Swift at the Sprint Center. It was, overall, a positive experience with few of the headaches I mention above.
But big crowds, blaring speakers and crowded bathrooms just aren’t my thing.
Phones are a new addition to my list of concert negatives. People waving their camera phone around to capture bad video and then share it with the world is another example of the ‘me first’ mentality we see all too often. I’ve read where people now have replaced the phone with the iPad. Selfie sticks are compounding the problem. Organizers at concerts are now banning them. Shockingly, no one cares what the rules are. One commentator had this to say about the photo effect: “Those concertgoers are blocking those around them for what? A couple out-of-focus pictures or a jumbled mosaic of unintelligible pixels and a song that is basically unrecognizable.” Yep.
About 10 years ago, I had a co-worker who went to Sandstone. The dude behind him decided he didn’t need a bathroom to relieve himself. He created one in Row PPP.
I have other issues. Someone decided warmup bands need to start late, and then require another 30 minutes to break down the set while people fork over 30 bucks for a drink and T-shirt. Parking suddenly became a profit center. I read where earlier this year Madonna made fans wait for three hours before her show started in Atlanta. This happened again a couple weeks later. This is a habit of hers, one reporter noted. The Boss wouldn’t do this, no doubt. But I don’t have this kind of patience. Waiting in line for coffee annoys me.
Tim Finn is The Star’s entertainment reporter. I asked him about late starts. “It depends on the venue, show and band. Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen started barely a few minutes past 7:30 p.m. at the Uptown recently. The Springsteen tickets said 7:30, but people were still coming in the arena at that time, so they waited until a little past 8.”
I have a buddy who is devoted to band called The String Cheese Incident. We were classmates at KU and then he moved to Seattle. He’s a good guy, a fun guy, and dare I say — a normal guy. But he’s one of those concert guys — so I asked him why he likes String Cheese. The band, I mean. “They are called ‘incidents, not concerts’ ” he told me. “Saw my first incident in 1998. Going to my 16th in July.”
Somewhere out there is a high school kid telling his mom “I’m going to take in String Cheese tonight. Don’t worry mom. It’s not a concert. Just an incident.” She likely nods and says, “Be careful. Remember your lactose problem!”
Maybe I’m starting to sound like a grumpy old man. I would debate the point, but my nap is calling.
Matthew Keenan writes the first and third Wednesday of the month. Reach him at email@example.com.