COLUMN: Tickets


I know some of you are going to think I’m out of my mind, and maybe I am. I bought tickets to see the Rolling Stones. Yes, the guys who are in their late 70s and early 80s; the guys whose faces have more wrinkles than a cotton shirt left in the dryer; the guys whose tour is sponsored by AARP – I’m going to see those guys. When their new song came out, which is great by the way, I forwarded the video to a lifelong friend of mine who’s a big Stones fan. My message at the bottom of the email said four words: anytime, anywhere, any price. I kept true to my word. They’re coming and we’re going.

If you haven’t bought tickets for a concert lately, you are going to be in for a shock. Ticket prices for premium artists haven’t just gone through the roof; they’ve gone beyond the stratosphere. In the case of the Stones, they know their fans who paid five bucks for tickets 50 years ago can now afford to pay a hundred times that much. Nostalgia ain’t cheap, folks.

However, the way I look at it is, if they ever tour again, I probably won’t be able to climb the stadium stairs, and they probably won’t know where they are. This will be the fifth time for me to see them in concert, so I’m calling it a “last in a lifetime opportunity.”

The first time I saw the Rolling Stones I was 12 years old. They were co-headlining with The Beach Boys at Legion Field in Birmingham. My mother dropped me and a friend off in the front of the stadium, then said she would be back to pick us up in few hours. Nowadays, if a parent did that, DHR would get involved. Although the primary reason I went was to see The Beach Boys, I became an instant Stones fan when I heard their high energy rock ‘n’ roll sound. I was also mesmerized watching the lead singer strut on stage like a rooster on amphetamines. Jagger, I believe his name was.

We bought our tickets at the stadium for five bucks. The presale price was $4.50, and despite that huge 50-cent price savings, my mom opted for convenience, so we paid the upcharge. That was then. Now, you have to have the Ticketmaster app on your phone. And be prepared. If you’re lucky enough to get a presale code, which may take dozens of tries, you pick your seats out, then hope you’ve put the in the correct credit card number. If all goes well, soon the tickets magically pop up on your iPhone.

Personally, I hate that we are deprived of having an actual ticket. For so many of us who grew up in that era, keeping that stub was a reminder, a status symbol that we would admire on our mirror for months following the concert. I know a lot of people probably threw them away – I’ve heard stories of thousands of Woodstock tickets lying in the mud in upstate New York.

That certainly won’t happen anymore – it’s all paperless. You pull up your ticket on your phone, they scan the barcode with a laser gun that looks like it belongs to Captain Kirk, and then, in you go – after you pass through security. I don’t know about you, but every time they scan my ticket, I get a bit nervous. I admit I have still have a problem fully trusting the new ticket technology because once a week I check Ticketmaster to make sure my tickets are still there.

I don’t even recall if they were selling merchandise back then – oh, that’s the wrong term. Nowadays it’s just called “merch” – a highly profitable component of any concert. Case in point: a perfectly good $15 T-shirt will cost you at least $50. (And in 20 years when my kids are cleaning out my closet, one of them will grab it and sell it for $500 online). There were no $14 beers for sale either – in fact, no alcohol was available at all. Most of the, um, “mood enhancers” were more organic, and brought in discreetly.

Of course, in the early years, concerts didn’t have lasers, and smoke, and fireworks, and giant stages, and huge inflatables and such. On that particular night, there were no frills – just incredible music that featured The Beach Boys, a group at the height of their formidable powers, and a band beginning a march to the throne of rock – The Rolling Stones.

So, I told my wife: Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary, Happy Hanukkah, Valentine’s, Easter and Groundhog Day. We’re going to see Mick and the boys in June.

If the tickets are still on my phone.

Joe Hobby is a barbecue-loving comedian from Alabama who wrote for Jay Leno for many years. Find more of Joe’s stories on his blog: Follow him on Facebook at Joe Hobby Comedian-Writer.