Back in Blighty, Gabriella and I learnt how to be efficient concert-goers. We prefer to buy general admission tickets and stand on the pitch, rather than have specified seats, even though getting a good spot is a bit hit-and-miss. It works well if you’re prepared to queue.
In Britain, we had sussed what time we had to start queuing to get the best spots in the general admission area. We knew how to manage our liquid intake so that we wouldn’t have to vacate those best spots to relieve ourselves. We were ready with picnic meals and comfy shoes and entertainment for the time we were waiting in line. Maybe we were a little anal, but we always had a terrific view of the performing artists, whether we were seeing P!nk, Robbie Williams or the Capital FM Summer Ball.
Last week, we went to our first concert in America and saw Imagine Dragons at the 17,500 capacity SAP Center arena in San Jose. Traffic delayed us getting to the arena as early as we’d have liked and we were slightly concerned that we were going to be way, way back on the pitch.
We were in for a surprise. The arena car park not only had spaces available, but was completely deserted. After parking, we couldn’t see the crowd of people that usually signifies the general admission mob, so we wandered over to an entrance to find out where we should be. We discovered that the motley bunch of 19 people loitering there was the sum total of our queue. In Britain, we’d have had to queue from 2pm, not 5pm, to be that close to the front. (For Wimbledon or Olympics tickets, people camp out in a queue with sleeping bags and little gas stoves for days.)
Once inside the building, we were prepared for the obligatory mad dash to the stage, but to our astonishment, people ahead of us ambled over to the fast food stalls instead. And even though there had been equivalent general admission queues all around the building, we found ourselves right at the front of the crowd, next to the stage.
I should clarify that when I said we had good spots at concerts in Britain, we were anywhere between 5 and 30 rows of standing bodies (invariably tall bodies) back from the stage. That counted as good. But for Imagine Dragons last week, we were in the second row. We were close enough for the singers to sing spittle down on us. It was exciting, if not entirely hygienic.
An extra bonus was that the floor wasn’t sticky. At concerts in Britain, beer is served freely in flimsy plastic cups and is frequently spilt. In California, where the drinking age is 21, there was no alcohol in sight.
And despite the arena being full by the end, when we left, we just left. Whenever we departed from the O2 arena or Wembley Stadium in Britain, we knew we’d be inching our way out of the venue car park for at least an hour before we could drive any faster than 3mph. Here, we drove straight out of the car park and off into the distance.
I don’t know what caused last week’s experience to be so much easier than in Britain. My only theory is that Americans haven’t mastered the art of queuing yet. Thank goodness.
A video of the last song from Imagine Dragons’ main set: Radioactive