The older three children and I got back from Birmingham last night. We had made a quick trip over there to see the American Idols Live concert. I had made mention on this blog that the older girls were dying to see the show, and one of you wonderful readers surprised us by sending tickets in the mail. Thank you thank you thank you! When Buster heard about it, he decided he wanted to go too, even though he had not shown any interest in the show. But, you know, he didn’t want to be left out.
Before my review of the concert, a few observations of how concerts have changed since my concert-going days. Allow me to set the scene for you. I have been to many different acts of many different genres, including:
Guns ‘N’ Roses
The Manhattan Transfer (Twice. Once at the W.C. Handy Jazz Festival in Florence, AL and once at Chastain Park in Atlanta.)
The Swingle Singers (Twice. One was a “Basically Bach” show at Samford’s Reid Chapel, the other a Christmas show at the BJCC Concert Hall.)
Cleo Laine and John Dankworth
Whitney Houston (The opening act was Kenny G. Let the pillorying begin.)
Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorm? (Probably one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. No lie.)
The thing is, the last time I was at a real concert was probably 1992 (I think that was the Eric Clapton one), which, incidentally, was also at the BJCC Arena. (When did they stop calling it the BJCC Colosseum, and why? Discuss and give examples.) Here are the changes I noticed that have taken place in those intervening 15 years:
- Short Attention Span Theater – I’m familiar with the Jumbotron screens from Braves games at Turner Field. What I was not ready for something playing on the screen the whole time. Before the concert started, they were playing music videos by Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry. (BTW what is up with all that eyeliner, Chris? You’re only a star on the cheek away from Paul Stanley. Only you don’t sing as well as Paul Stanley: sorr.) They had snippets of interviews with the singers. They had commercials for theT-Shirts and other items for sale in the lobby. One kind of kool thing was that they flashed a number on the screen, and you could send a text message to that number and have your message displayed on the big screens. During intermission, the music videos, interview clips, commericals, and text messages started up again. There’s something to be said for the anticipation of waiting for a concert to start. Do people really need to have “screen time” 24/7?
- Fun Lobby Activities – As far back as I can remember, there have always been people selling t-shirts, posters, programs, etc., in the lobby before and after concerts. What I did not expect were the sideshows. They had a TV Guide “Red Carpet” area set up where you could pose for pictures. They had a lighted dance floor where dancers were offering to teach concert-goers the steps to various dances (none in our group would agree to give it a try!). There was a karaoke area, which I feared would not stop once the concert began (fortunately, they did cut off the last would-be karaoke diva right before the American Idols started singing). All in all, it was a very, VERY family-friendly atmosphere. The crowd was pretty much the same crowd you’d see at the Ringling Bros. Circus: lots of parents with their children. Even grandparents with grandchildren.
- Slow Songs – Nobody lights lighters anymore. They wave their illuminated cell phones. I thought that was just plain weird. It used to be that even people who didn’t smoke would bring a lighter to a concert so they’d have something to wave during the slow songs.
- Prices! – Thanks to our dear reader, we did not have to shell out the ticket prices, but they were steep. Alec Harvey in the Birmingham News mentioned that the BJCC Colosseum (yes, yes, I know, ARENA, but I will always call it the Colosseum) was only half full and wondered if it was because there was not a finalist from Alabama this year. I wonder if it could be because the cheap seats were $37.50! Good seats were $66.50. And it’s not like the American Idols, who were amateur real people nobodies just like you and me only a few short months ago, are pulling down salaries like, say, Bono. Also, a small soda was $3.25. A hot dog would set you back $2.75. I didn’t even look at how much beer was, since even when I am at my most caffeine-induced alert state, keeping up with three children is difficult. But if a large Coke was $4.00, I imagine a beer was $6.00. I got the children glow sticks (they don’t have lighters, much less cell phones, to wave), and those were $5.00 a pop. I didn’t ask how much the tour programs were, especially since TV Guide had placed a free program on each seat (smaller than the tour program they were selling, to be sure, but a program nonetheless).
- Corporate Sponsorship! – I’ve already mentioned TV Guide twice, but the big sponsor of the evening was Pop-Tarts. This is not the AmericanIdols Tour: it is the Pop-Tarts American Idols Tour. There were giant displays advertising new Pop-Tarts Splitz in the lobby. Inside the arena, there were spotlights shining the Pop-Tarts logo on the crowd. There was a man dressed as a giant Pop-Tart walking through the crowd and dancing with people. After the concert, they opened up those big advertising displays in the lobby and gave out free Pop-Tarts. We each left with a two-pack of Chocolate/Vanilla Pop-Tarts Splitz.
All in all, it was a very fun experience, but the intensely TV-ized, commercialized aspects of it made it a much different experience from what concert-going used to be. To be sure, pop music concerts have always been commercial affairs, but now everything is so over the top and in your face.
Next time: the review of the concert itself, and who Birmingham went wildest for (it was not Jordin).