Friday, July 22, 2011

Paying to Play: How I Met Alec Baldwin and Chevy Chase on the Same Night

View from the 18th row before the show
This is something going on in sports for as long as I can remember – the idea that you pay a premium for better seats.  This is true at any stadium or sporting event and recently has become the norm at concert events.  But it wasn’t always that way.
Back in the day, concerts were sold at a first come, first serve basis.  If you were among the first to get through to Ticketmaster on the phone or were first on line at a retail outlet, you got the best seats.  You could get seats on the floor and even in the first row this way.  Because of this phenomenon, scalpers made a living getting on line at a Ticketmaster outlet and purchasing tens of sets of tickets at once.  Then, they would list them in the classified section of a newspaper at a 100-200% markup.
I am not sure if the artists or Ticketmaster caught on to this, but they started to section off the best seats and sell them at a premium.  Now in order to get front row seats, you must pay a premium, which can range from 100% - 1500% more than the other seats. 
While this really stinks for most of us mortals that can’t afford a $2,000 per seat price tag for front row seats, it does encourage celebrities to attend shows as members of the audience.  And, if you are lucky enough to get anywhere near the $2K seats, you can rub elbows with them.
Alec Baldwin and I before the concert
At the Paul McCartney concert at Yankee Stadium, tickets ranged from as low as $50 to as high as $2000.  With a generous grant from a close friend of mine, I was able to secure seats for $650, which put me on the floor in the 18th row, center stage.  While the “package” didn’t provide much more than a fantastic location (the front row seat package gave you admission to the sound check and a VIP reception before the show), what it did do was put me in the same section as the people that paid top prices for tickets.  These people included NYC Mayor Bloomberg, actors Alec Baldwin and Chevy Chase and Paul McCartney’s son.

Meeting Chevy Chase before the concert
My guess is that folks like this feel more comfortable seeing the concert from the seats (as opposed to from backstage) because they are with a very select group of fans.  I got to speak to both Alec and Chevy and got photos with them.  Both were receptive to meeting a fan and taking photos.  My wife spoke briefly to McCartney’s son, who was also very polite.  While I never got to speak to Mayor Bloomberg, I observed him conversing with a lot of the fans that were at the show.  He had a huge security team with him, all in suits with ear pieces that roamed the entire section for most of the show. 
My wife and I meeting Alec Baldwin
The moral of the story is this: even if you can’t afford the really expensive seats, if you can secure seats near the prime sections, you will increase your chances of meeting a celebrity.  Plus, you will have a fantastic view of the show.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Knight at the Cathedral

Paul McCartney carries an American flag at his Yankee Stadium concert on July 15, 2011.
Friday night (July 15th) I went with my wife and two friends to Yankee Stadium to see Paul McCartney.  I find it very interesting that big musicians – particularly non-American ones – choose to play in baseball stadiums.
Historically, Paul McCartney is significant in regard to playing at baseball stadiums in New York.   The Beatles opened their second world tour at Shea Stadium in the summer of 1965.  It was the first time a concert was played at a major league stadium and it broke both attendance and revenue records on that single stop.   It was so successful that the Beatles did an encore performance at Shea the following summer.
When Billy Joel did his “Last Play at Shea” in 2008, Paul McCartney came out to help close the concert to thunderous applause.  There was an amazing feeling knowing that I was watching one of the legendary Beatles close down the stadium.
While I loved the concert at Yankee Stadium last week, I felt it contrasted from Billy Joel’s at Shea Stadium.  Joel is a native New Yorker, and has grown up in and around the tri-state area.  He knows the game and knows the culture of the fans.  He chose his music well – as well as his special guests, including Tony Bennett , a fellow  New Yorker who sang New York State of Mind, and Garth Brooks, who had a brief stint playing for the San Diego Padres, and came out in a Mets uniform.  These guys know the culture of the game and of the fans.  I don’t know if McCartney did.

McCartney on stage at Yankee Stadium.

While McCartney’s concert, energy, voice and staging were second to none, there was one big thing he missed – he was at Yankee Stadium.  And he just didn’t do his homework on that.  Yes, he hit on the obvious when he stated, “Who is this Derek Jeter guy?  Someone told me he has more hits than me!”  I will admit that was witty and well timed. 
However, twice during the concert 55,000 or so fans started a roll call, chanting “Paul McCartney!” just like they do for Yankee players during the first inning of any given game at the stadium.  The problem is, Sir Paul had that dumbfounded English look on his face – he had no idea what the crowd was doing and made no acknowledgement to the fans for the distinct honor.  I don’t fault him – he is a Brit, and how would he know?  But then again, shouldn’t you know your audience?
My wife immediately tweeted to Nick Swisher, and requested that he school McCartney on proper protocol.  As a distinguished member of rock royalty in a baseball cathedral, you are expected to know protocol and act accordingly.  This is where Sir Paul fell short.  My advice to him is this: find out about the culture of your venue before you play there.  Here’s hoping he does before he hits the very classic, very historic Wrigley Field on August 1st.