LINE OF THE NIGHT
So I’m wandering the Forum floor, looking for Lisa and Brooks, and I run into Dave. He’s just upgraded a young couple from the cheap seats to the first five
rows. They’re giddy, in a state of disbelief, and I say I want to go on his next mission, into the stratosphere, to rescue some more real fans.
Dave’s eyes light up, we get ready to ascend the stairs, but we can’t lay our hands on any more tickets. They’ve all been given away. All five front rows
have been populated.
So Dave asks if I want to meet the band.
I say no. This is always a waste of time. Something for the mental scrapbook, something to whip out to show others what a hotshot you are when really the
band has no fucking clue who you are. But Dave said Chris knew who I was. Thinking this was possible, since Chris’ best friend, the fifth member of Coldplay,
had said at dinner that Chris reads everything about him, takes the temperature of Coldplay fans, even in chat rooms, I agreed.
So, we enter the bowels of the Forum and Dave tells me to wait a second, he wants to go into the dressing room first.
Upon emerging, Dave says Chris is going to come to us, that we should sit in the "Family Room" and await him. And we’re doing so, catching up on the band’s
history, its decision to do the iTunes commercial, which at first the band was reluctant to do, and a small black man enters and he and Dave strike up a
conversation. Does he need a bottle of water? No, he’s afraid he’s going to have to pee during the show. Feeling the exact same way, I mention this and when
this gentleman turns to look at me I realize it’s Kanye West.
I’m stunned. He’s absent all the attitude, all the chutzpah paraded in the press. He’s nice. He’s gentle. And he’s young. I can’t believe how young he is.
THIS is the guy everyone believes is such a terror?
After talking for a while, we decide to venture into the band’s dressing room ourselves. Where Dave introduces me to Chris, who looks at me like he’s never
heard of me before. Feeling like every other dumb ass loser, I pipe up that I’m the one who writes the newsletter. Ah, the nod of recognition. Chris is
introducing me to the rest of the band. I can’t believe they’re so calm before the show, I wouldn’t want to hang with unknowns minutes before going on stage.
And then, Kanye asks my last name…
And I start telling Chris not to listen to the critics. To just do what he wants. That the haters have an agenda. And Chris tells me he doesn’t hate anybody,
not even Bill O’Reilly.
I’m making no headway here. Chris Martin is just too nice.
So I decide to switch subjects. I decide to get into it with Kanye. I start talking about Bonnaroo.
And Kanye says to me: I DON’T TAKE THE HIGH ROAD!
MARTY, ET AL
That’s the first recognizable face I saw in the corridors of the Forum. Marty Diamond and ultimately his New York Paradigm team. And after discussing dogs,
finally meeting up with Dave Holmes, we go to have dinner.
Which is quite a spread. The lamb chops were best. But I couldn’t resist the desserts. A pecan pie and some chocolate concoction that was perfectly sweet.
Dave told me about the festival he’s doing north of the border, just east of Whistler, Pemberton. How they’ve already sold in excess of 35,000 tickets, are
in the black.
And we get into a discussion of V.I.P ticketing.
That’s when Dave and Marty tell me about their solution. The aforementioned upgrade. They leave the first five rows blank and install real fans. And they
were right. Because during the show, these people were animated, they stood, and those who bought their tickets from StubHub behind them remained seated.
Still, I thought that V.I.P. was best, because the thing most people want is A ticket. Price is secondary. Which Rapino confirmed, but I’m getting ahead of
myself. With so few tickets actually for sale, and the inability to get a good one, the fan feels fucked. And, speaking of being fucked, it was $22 to park
at the Forum. The band and the promoter get none of this, but they do end up getting hated for it. Can’t we get everybody on the same page?
And Marty told of telling one of his acts to cut extra lights, a truck and personnel to save money on the road.
And then we discussed Mt. Everest, and the Live Nation team entered the room.
Nick Masters was telling me that home construction had finally caught up with Glen Helen. I’m taking his word for it, the last time I went there, in 2000, to
see AC/DC, I felt lucky to emerge with my life.
Nick said business was good. Especially in San Diego, which had been soft the summer before. People want to come to shows. And, they’re doing innovative
marketing, like 4-Packs.
And then Michael Rapino entered the room.
I tell you, Rapino can give Steve Jobs a run for his money, when it comes to the reality distortion field. They’ve both got their routine down so well, and
deliver it so smoothly, that you can’t see any holes. You’re closed.
Rapino says Live Nation’s not for sale.
But I asked him how many times his mentor Michael Cohl had sold his company.
But Rapino said Cohl was gone.
Their goal is to have a trust relationship with the artist, and allow them to maximize their revenue by selling a ton of different products.
Like with Nickelback… The label could no longer say no. That had been the problem, the label wouldn’t approve anything. Now you could sell/give away a
t-shirt with the music, with a ticket. All the revenue flowed into one pot, it was good for everybody.
And it’s all about the Website. Collecting e-mail addresses and maximizing revenue.
Michael brought up some things I couldn’t believe. Like giving regular customers better service, i.e. better tickets! He spoke of personally answering
customer complaints. Told how sometimes the customer was right, had thought of things he and his team had not.
This was not your father’s music business.
But Live Nation is still dependent upon acts. And Rapino said that wasn’t their focus. They were a buyer of talent, not a builder.
At least he was honest.
I’m hanging with the manager of Depeche Mode. I’m telling him they should play the Super Bowl. How it’s a perfect fit. They’ve got the audience and the NFL
needs the edge. And Rick Rubin appears. And then Kanye. And then Jonah Hill. He and Kanye high five. It’s like the cliche…does everybody in showbiz know each
And it’s not until ten minutes into the show that I realize I’m sitting next to Eva Longoria and Tony Parker. These people, if they weren’t famous, you
wouldn’t stare. But since they are, it’s hard not to.
Eva fell asleep in the middle of the show. She and Tony left early. But Rick didn’t. He was nodding his head, he had his hands in the air, just like
Point is, THE AUDIENCE LOVED IT!
I could break the show down in detail, but that’s not the point. You pay your money, you want to have a good time. Coldplay delivered.
The highlight was an intimate, almost acoustic set, right in front of me, on a lighted floor. They were playing live, no tapes, no hard drive, they get props
And then, two-thirds of the way through the show, they ran up to the rafters and performed a two song truly acoustic set, including "Yellow".
There was production, white hanging balls with projectors inside… No one was going to complain he didn’t get his money’s worth.
I saw Mark Burnett in the Forum Club, wearing a scarf. He may be a zillionaire, but he was out of his element.
And Kate Bosworth… Fewer lip injections and more meals and I might be interested.
Zach Braff was casual.
Yes, the stars came out. Because the band’s that big and it’s L.A. The haters are those who can’t get in, those who love bands that can’t draw.
It’s supposed to be an event. Your adrenaline is supposed to pump,
you’re supposed to feel fully alive. You’re supposed to connect with the music, listening to it in so many environments in your life and finally hearing it
LIVE! FEELING it live.
This is an experience that can’t be stolen. You can’t see it on television, not at a movie theatre. Can one have sympathy for record labels singing the blues
after they purveyed mindless, evanescent crap that only looked good in those media, sucked live? To make it today, you’ve got to be able to play, you’ve got
to be able to sing. You’ve got to be able to touch people’s lives.
It’s not Doug Morris’ world, it’s Michael Rapino’s.
But most of all, it’s Chris Martin’s.
You dream of making it. You work harder than anybody else and your prayers are answered. It’s hard to stay on an even keel. And when you feel that hit of
adoration as the lights go down, the curtain goes up and you start to sing, you know there’s no place you’d rather be. With the audience with its heads in
the air, singing to the heavens the songs you wrote. That are part of their lives as much as their parents and significant others. There’s power in this
music, that’s why these musicians are stars. Not because they’re gossiped about on TMZ, not because they’re written about. It all comes down to the music. A
critical mass of people love Coldplay’s music. And that’s what it’s all about.