Monday, October 19, 2009

A Tale of Two Concerts

Woo-hoo! Second post of 2009...

U2/Muse, Cowboy Stadium, Arlington, TX, October 12, 2009
Allman Brothers/Widespread Panic, Center, Dallas, TX, October 16, 2009

I’ll be up front about this – I bought the U2 tickets because (a) I knew that by the time the concert rolled around, the hype machine would be in full force and I’d be wanting tickets anyway, and (2) they had some upper level tickets for $35 each.

I bought tickets for the Allman Brothers concert happening later in the week because (a) I’ve never seen the Allmans live, and (b) Widespread Panic was opening, and I’ve always had some curiosity about Panic.

Thirty bucks for parking at the U2 concert? Yikes… I was pretty miffed when that popped up on the Ticketmaster screen, but I went ahead and clicked it anyway. But once the date rolled around, it was nice knowing which lot we’d be parking in. I had experienced Texas Stadium traffic at a Pink Floyd show and a Cowboys game, so I was expecting the worst, but we got into the lot at Cowboy Stadium very easily.

As for getting to Center (stupid name… I still call it Starplex), I’m a pro. I learned a long time ago that you just go right on past the first Fair Park exit on 30, and take the second one instead. That little trick kept me from sitting in Radiohead traffic for 3 hours last year. Except it didn’t work this year… In my eagerness to see the Allman Brothers, I completely forgot that it was Texas/OU weekend at the State Fair of Texas. For those of you unfamiliar with Texas/OU weekend, it’s a little like Mardi Gras without the boob flashes and parade. In other words, just a lot of really drunk people everywhere you look.

Back at the U2 concert, we were in our seats by 6:45, and had already purchased t-shirts and a bottle of water. We were the picture of efficiency, and ready for the promised 7:00 start time on the tickets. Muse didn’t take the stage until 7:45.

Fast forward a few days to the Allman Brothers show, and we were stuck in traffic at 6:45, even with my super-secret quick route. Seems like other people knew about it as well… Paid my $10 for parking, got the car in a spot, and started walking to the amphitheater. About halfway there, 7:00, and I hear the crowd roar. Widespread Panic took the stage right on time. Finally got to our seats around 7:15…

Back at Cowboy Stadium, Muse is playing, and the whole thing sounds like mush. There’s no treble or mids in the mix, and it sounds like when you’re at a stoplight next to a car playing the stereo too loud. At least they have the video screen and light show going a bit to keep me from getting too bored. Everyone around me sits quietly in their seats. A few of them have alcoholic beverages, but they seem to be far from drunk.

While Widespread Panic is on the stage, I feel like I’m back at a Phish concert. Everyone around us is dancing and grinning like a maniac, having a great time. These aren’t the smooth, choreographed movements of someone trying to impress others with their moves – these are the jerky, seemingly random movements of sheer joy and ecstasy. The sound mix for Panic is fantastic. The lead guitarist is astounding, and the bass player is making me feel like the lamest bass player ever. The music is tight, the sound is great, and people are dancing their asses off…

Elsewhere in the time/space continuum, Muse finishes their 45-minute set, and frankly, I’m kind of glad. By the end, I could somewhat hear the singer’s voice, but it still sounded like someone had thrown a bunch of bass players into a blender. We sit quietly and wait for U2.

Back at Superpages, Panic finishes an amazing 2-hour set, and I’m actually a bit tired from dancing so much. Some very drunk people from down the row come down and start talking to several people about a ride they hated in the State Fair. One woman drops most of her beer onto the floor, and doesn’t seem to care. We sit and watch the drunk people and wait for the Allman Brothers.

At the U2 concert, Larry takes the stage and the crowd roars. Meanwhile, in my upper level seat, most of the people stay seated, clapping politely.

The Allman Brothers take the stage, and the Superpages crowd is on their feet, starting their herky-jerky dances again. The only people not dancing are the ones trying to get their joints lit. Can you say contact high?

The sound is better for the U2 part of the concert, but it’s still not perfect. Still sounds muddy and bass-heavy, and I’m a fan of bass. The first half of the U2 set is all about their fun party music. The second half seems to be focused on social justice and, to a point, spirituality. Several songs into the U2 set, I’m tired of sitting, so I stand up and dance a little. There are a few people on the row behind us standing, but most folks are sitting, staring intently at the stage below.

The Allmans sound great, but I’m not looking forward to battling this stoned crowd in the parking lots, so we stay until 11ish and head for the house.

Comparing U2/Muse and Allman Brothers/Widespread Panic doesn’t seem logical at first. It’s a definite apples/oranges scenario, but of course, that’s not stopping me. The U2 show was a spectacle. It was like going to the circus – you’re watching all of these things in front of you, but there’s a disconnect. At times, we were impartial observers. I kept wondering whether or not the members of the band were having fun, or if it’s just a well-paying job for them. I couldn’t tell by looking at their faces on the video screen.

At the Allman Brothers/Widespread Panic show, the band members looked like they were having a blast. It felt like the audience was an integral part of the show, pushing the bands on to do new and different things. It’s the difference between watching TV, and doing something in real life. They were both great shows, but only one was a true rock concert.


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