Just the other day, I came across an envelope that was stuffed full of old concert tickets. Now faded and some tattered, we had at one time proudly displayed these tickets in a huge frame, likely on a wall next to a Pac Man in one of Todd’s game rooms.
If there was a big name coming to town anywhere near where we lived, we were going. It didn’t matter if the artist was a rocker, or a blues guy, or a funky mix of both, our musical tastes have always been a bit eclectic so we were up for most anything. As ‘80s kids, we mostly rejected the music of our own generation in favor of the stuff that came before us in the ‘60s and ‘70s. So, when we met as young adults, realized we had shared musical tastes and started making our own money, all of it was spent on the best concert tickets we could find.
Back in the day, (yea, I am old enough to say that) you actually had to show up in person or sit on the phone to get tickets for the good shows. Long before online purchasing, you waited “in line,” sometimes for hours at venues like Ticketmaster. I remember waiting for that 10:00 A.M. witching hour when tickets went on sale and you would call at that precise moment, maybe a second or two beforehand, to try to get your call in the queue. Such was the case for the 1998 Fleetwood Mac tour that came around to Tampa. Normally, I was a dedicated employee. But on that day, I pulled boss rank and waited on the phone a full hour to end up with a front row view of Stevie and Lindsey belting out the ballads. We had just lost my mom a few months prior, so this concert was both melancholy and a necessary distraction from our grief.
I remember Todd surprising me often with front-row tickets to many of the greats. He had this “hot spot” in the now defunct Desoto Mall in Bradenton where sometimes he could manage to get the very best seats to amazing concerts the night of the show. He would call me at work to say, “I’ll be home at 6, get dressed up, we’re going somewhere.” This is how it went down with the Melissa Etheridge show. Her “Yes I Am” album had just come out and we were devouring it on our new CD player. I remember at the end of an amazing concert, the lights came on and Melissa and the crowd sang “Give Peace a Chance,” a collaboration that seemed so sweet and timely.
Yes, we have seen many of the greats including Etta James, The Who, Stones, Elton John, Billy Joel, Eric Clapton, DMB, Rod Stewart, and dozens more. But, the best concert I have ever seen happened at the Van Wezel where the great B.B. King brought the house down. For the B.B. King concert, Todd and I had purchased tickets for his parents and my dad to all go together. We had just gotten our first puppy, were in our first home, and it was Christmas time so you would think everyone would be happy. As it turns out, my dad was peeved that we hired a babysitter to watch the new puppy, something he found so ridiculous he lamented on it the entire drive there. And, also, my soon to be mother-in-law and I were at odds, a foretelling situation that thankfully, has mostly subsided in the latter years. But, on that night, I was literally stuck between a rock and a hard place, seated snugly between both, if you know what I mean.
The opening act was ho-hum, but the minute B.B.’s expert fingers made contact with those magical guitar strings on his beloved “Lucille,” I learned what a concert was actually about. It was to escape the literal thoughts in your brain in favor of the natural tendencies your heart and body have when a great artist like B.B. is in your presence. You forget about the nonsense and let your heart hear and feel the notes that only B.B. King could deliver. When we left the Van Wezel that night my dad, though not normally apologetic, was quite reticent about his earlier behavior. With great authority I told him he was forgiven. There was a larger guy in the house that night, B.B. King, who not only took me away from the sullen place I was in, but lifted me to a higher level of being. I can still feel those first notes of “The Thrill is Gone” making contact with my internal organs down to the soles of my feet, even now, nearly 20 years later. It was impactful and a memory I treasure. I will always consider the late, great, B.B. King to be my all-time best concert experience.
Photo courtesy of B.B. King Facebook page.