I think I have better luck (or maybe just so much more practice) scoring tickets to these special shows that sell out basically in seconds than most folks because I got lucky once again.
I got a Live Nation text alert a little after lunch last Thursday (November 12) saying Jeff Lynne's ELO would be playing Irving Plaza in NYC the following Friday (November 20) and presale was at 4pm that day.
It turns out the presale was for member's of the fanclub who had been sent a password and it took me about 15 minutes to guess it (it was "alone".) The new album is called "Alone in the Universe" so it probably shouldn't have taken me that long to guess, but by the time I did, whatever pre-sale ticket allocation was set aside had sold out. So I would have to try the next day at 10am during general onsale. I didn't hold out much hope. It would be while I was at work and Ticketmaster is blocked by my job (I have no clue why, I don't think folks are sitting on ticketmaster all day instead of working) so it would mean trying to get them using my iphone which never works well for these mad rush on sales.
The capacity for Irving Plaza is 1025 according to their website (I mention this not only in regards to how tough it was to get tickets, but how this affected the experience of the show). The ticket limt for this show was two per person - figuring maybe 200 went during pre-sale at best there's 800 left, so at 10am, out of the thousands of fans/scalpers trying to get them, the first 400 will get through.
I knew I would try, but made myself ready to be dissapointed.
10:00am comes and I pop in my 2 ticket option and wait until the window comes up asking if I'm a robot. I click no and the window with 12 pictures comes up telling me to click on the ones that contain a dessert and the goddamn pictures are so small on the iphone and wouldn't blow up that I'm guessing that I see a dessert and not a mountain range. I evidently guess correctly and about 45 seconds in I get exactly what I expected - "There are no tickets available."
So this is when you keep trying for about ten minutes and pray for bad luck for others. I have no problem doing this because I've been the person who has had great tickets pop up for a show, only to lose them because of either a time out or lost network connection. Well about 4 minutes later my prayers are answered and two tickets someone else lost became available and I got them. There was no tiered ticket pricing. All tickets were $65 (plus $15 convenience charge) and general admission.
I was stoked! I'm going to see ELO in more or less their first concert in America in decades. My buddy Kev is a huge ELO fan and it's possible he had the best orgasm of his life (don't tell his wife) when he learned of the news and was told to free up next Friday night.
Friday, November 20 arrives and Kev and I hop on Metro North after work. Get to Grand Central, hop the subway, get to Irving Place and the line to get in is down the block around the corner, but it's moving fast. Basically under the marquee, there was security checkpoint first then ticket scan and you're in.
The tickets said the doors were 6:30 so the show would probably start 7:30 or 8:00. We had our tickets scanned at about 7:10 and went inside where you then walk up a flight of stairs to the main floor and Holy Shit!
Now, we know the show is sold out, but I've been to plenty of sold out shows at Irving Plaza and we know we're not there late...there was still a line a block long continuously being let in after we got in, but again Holy Shit...it was SO PACKED.
We soon learned why. A couple of reasons actually
First no one with standard general admission tickets was allowed upstairs in the balcony (unless maybe this was fanclub? But you know all the fanclub folks are skipping that option and are as close as possible). So pretty sure this was VIP only. Usually one side of the balcony is roped off for VIP and sometimes both, but even when that happens, there a pretty large area in front of the upstairs bar behind the soundboard where you can stand and watch the show. But no dice tonight.
Next if you're on the main floor facing the stage, on the right there's a ramped up section which is sometimes VIP and again that was roped off too.
So a major amount of floor area is roped off and there was so much room in there...oh to be one of the beautiful people...
Lastly and probably the biggest issue, I stated before that the soundboard for Irving Plaza is front and center of balcony upstairs. Tonight, evidently that was not good enough, so they gated off I'd say a 10' x 20'x area in the small main floor for I assume ELO's personal soundboard. 200 square feet that would normally be open to the folks that paid $80 for their tickets was now used up and the other available areas locked down.
EVERY INCH of the main floor was packed right back to the bar to the point you couldn't get into the main floor area at all, so let me show you this video below during "Sweet Talkin' Woman" to give an idea of how a lot of us had to watch this show. This was the best spot we could eventually find.
Yep...We had to stand in the hallway to watch the show. And you're probably saying, "Aw that looks like fun...those drunk singing folks are having a blast." I'll admit I agree with you it was fun for a while, but not for every song of the set. Oh and don't let me forget the best part, when during the last song or two, security came through yelling at everyone to move it closer to the wall by the packed in main floor doors because they needed a clear path at all times (I'm not sure why this became important 10 minutes before the show ended).
So being a roll with the punches kind of guy, you kind of have to say fuck it and think I'm here and I'm lucky to be here, so let's talk about the band and the show itself.
The stage was already set and lit when we got there, so we could tell there almost definitely wouldn't be an opening band and that was correct. The lights dimmed at a couple of minutes after 8:00 and the current 12 piece version of Jeff Lynne's ELO hit the stage with "All Over the World."
About a minute into this song was when you heard the following two comments which everyone in attendance either said or heard at least 17 times throughout the night:
"(Choose from "Damn!" "WOW!" "HOLY CRAP!" etc) Jeff Lynne looks exactly like he did back in the day" (which often would then lead to discussion of guessing how old he is...according to the all knowing source of truth Wikipedia, he's 67 - turning 68 on December 30)
As well as "His Voice/The Band sounds exactly like the record" Which he/they did.
The setlist for the night was basically (almost) all the greatest hits ("Do Ya" being the one biggie that was missing) plus four songs from the new album which basically sound like all the old hits.
In case you haven't see it elsewhere, here's the full setlist:
All Over The World
Turn to Stone
When I Was a Boy
One Step at a Time
Don't Bring Me Down
Sweet Talkin' Woman
Can't Get It Out of My Head
When the Night Comes
Ain't it a Drag
Rock 'n' Roll Is King
Mr. Blue Sky
Super quick encore break:
ELO's version of the Chuck Berry Classic "Roll Over Beethoven"
Time show ended 9:27pm! We actually were able to hop on the subway and catch the 9:47 train back up North. Home on time to catch "Murder She Wrote". Earliest show ever in NYC!
I usually don't read about shows I attended until after I write about them, but this one couldn't be avoided today. From the review on Rolling Stone online by Rob Sheffield to everyone on Facebook on the Jeff Lynne page all I read were words like "Magical," "Incredible," "Greatest show ever."
I'd say it was simply "Really Good." I'll probably receive hate comments for saying that, but it being that it was a perfect live band greatest hits duplication of the studio version of songs (so basically you'd never say "Oh man, you like that song...you gotta hear it live!") along with instead of being in the full mix of the crowd but with the main floor outsiders, I didn't really feel any electricity in the air that I did at the other special gigs that were super hard to get tickets for and in some cases in arenas (ie. Patti Smith closing night at CBGB or one of the three 2013 Rolling Stones shows).
But it was "really good." I'm glad I finally got to see them and I hope for all my friends that wanted my extra ticket that they do a US tour next year so they can go. The overall audience reaction was fantastic and appreciated. Jeff Lynne looked like Fonzi with his leather jacket and all the thumbs up he did between songs through out the night.
I heard many people talking of traveling from as far away as California and outside the country to see this show. I bet for them this was the "greatest show ever" and hell, that's awesome for them.
Click on any of the photos to supersize them.