The Saga of Going to See Paul McCartney On the Cheap!
I wrote a post recently about the crazy ticket prices for concerts nowadays. With the ever-increasing costs of going to a show, I’ll take this time to remember the best bargain (other than free) I ever got on a concert ticket.
It was 2014, and I had a business trip scheduled in Atlanta. I booked a room at the Omni Hotel, which I didn’t know was located next to CNN Studios and Philips Arena at the time. I wasn’t looking forward to this trip, as I was traveling alone and didn’t know anybody that would be at the IT Security conference I was attending.
Taking a quick flight from Detriot to Atlanta, I arrived at my hotel a little before 8:00 pm. Once inside, I noticed many people in the lobby and bar area wearing backstage credentials, like roadies would wear while working on setting up a show. I didn’t think much of it and decided to head to my room.
I stepped into the elevator, and a young couple asked me if I was in town for the show. I mistakenly thought they were referencing the security conference I was there for. I politely nodded my head and said, “Yes.” They proceeded to ask me where my tickets were. I paused and asked if they were speaking of the conference. They laughed and clarified their question, “No, we’re here for the Paul McCartney concert tomorrow night. Are you going?”
My eyes lit up like a kid in a candy store. McCartney? Here? Oh my God, what was I to do now? As I stepped off the elevator, I waved goodbye and thanked them for the information. Now, how was I going to pull this off? I had an awards banquet scheduled the following evening for 7:00 pm, with dinner and drinks that were supposed to last until around 10:00 pm. There must be a way to bail on the event, but I was picking up some sales awards for my company, and it seemed impossible.
Fast forward to the following evening. I was sitting at the banquet, and my gears started to grind on how I would leave without anyone noticing. Luckily, the awards part of the banquet and dinner were going on simultaneously, so things were moving quickly.
I started to believe everything was going to work out. I would be able to get to the show by 8:30. Only, I still had a couple of problems, I didn’t have a ticket, and now I was being asked by some of our business partners, who I had never met before, to meet them for drinks in the lobby and talk shop. UGH! I need to leave now if I want to make it on time.
I left the banquet, changed out of my suit, and headed to the lobby bar to meet the people who invited me. We talked for about 15 minutes, and then I just blurted out, “I don’t mean to be rude, but I am a MASSIVE Paul McCartney fan, and if I don’t leave now, I’m going to miss the concert. They laughed and told me to get going! Ok, one hurdle conquered.
I’m resourceful, so I figured I could find someone selling tickets near the arena. I left the hotel and took a short walk to the stadium. To my dismay, it was a ghost town outside. The show had started, and most, if not all, the scalpers had sold their tickets or were nowhere to be found. How was I going to get in?
Looking for any glimmer of hope, I noticed a smoking section outside the arena that was gated off. I started asking people inside the gate if they had any unused tickets. Nothing! Not one measly ticket. So there I was, outside of Philips arena, knowing that Paul McCartney was performing inside, and there was no way in.
At that moment, I saw a lady standing by a doorway checking people’s tickets as they re-entered the arena from the smoking area. I called her over and gave her my sob story, you know…The guy from Detroit is in town, a huge Beatles and McCartney fan, and NO TICKET! I asked her if there was any possible way that I could sneak behind the gates that outlined the smoking section. They were moveable, and I could easily slip in if given the opportunity. I just needed a friendly person to look the other way and keep quiet. She laughed and told me there was no way it would happen.
Rejected, I decided to circle the entire arena looking for anyone selling tickets. Once I got to the other side, I ran into a guy who looked a bit shady, but he claimed to have a couple of tickets. There was another desperate soul who needed one as well. This scalper asked us to follow him around the corner so that we would be out of the view of some police nearby. Out of desperation, I agreed, and we all went for a short walk. I asked how much the tickets were, and he replied, “How much you got?” I told him $50, which was the truth. He seemed stuck with these tickets, and the show had already started, so he agreed. Finally, I now had my ticket. The guy assured me they were legit, as I questioned him a few times about their authenticity.
With the ticket in hand, I ran to the entrance gate, knowing that the show had been going on for about 40 minutes, but there was plenty of time to catch a least another hour and a half if I was lucky. I got to the entrance and presented my ticket. FAIL! “I’m sorry, sir, this ticket has already been used,” the unfriendly attendant told me. “WHAT? Are you sure?” I replied. “Yes,” she told me, and she wasn’t very sympathetic either! So, I was out $50 (which I thought was a steal in the first place) and back to square one.
Well, not so fast! Nobody’s going to pull a fast one on me! I ran back to where I had bought the used ticket, and there he was, the crook who took my money. I ran after him, shouting that he had screwed me over. He stopped for a moment and let me catch up. I told him I wanted my money back or I would call over some police who weren’t too far away. Unbelievably, he grabbed some cash from his pocket, threw it on the ground, and ran off.
And there it was, $27; that’s what he threw down. It was better than nothing, but that’s all the cash I had on me, and time was running out. In one last desperate attempt, I went back to the smoking section. Most of the people had gone back inside, and only a handful were in the area. I looked to my left, and there was the lady I was talking to earlier. I called her over and told her about what happened with the scalper, and now she started to feel bad for me.
A pity party was what I needed to clinch the deal. I poured it on thick about how disappointed I was, and then it happened. She asked me how much money I had, and I told her, “27 dollars, that’s it”. She looked at me and then pointed to a ramp leading into the arena. Her boss had been standing guard in that area for a while. The lady told me, “When my boss leaves, you come through these gates, enter the door, and drop your money on the floor.” She couldn’t take the chance of being caught taking money from me.
This was getting real, and I patiently waited for her boss to go up the ramp, so I could slide behind the gates, open the door, and drop off the payment. With the plan in motion, the moment struck, and I moved quicker than ever.
And next thing I knew, I was, standing in the concourse of Philips Arena, and I could hear Sir Paul belting out Get Back! I entered the arena, found a vacant seat, and watched the last hour of one of the greatest shows I’ve ever attended. Yeah, I was alone, but I was also with around 20 thousand friends who call themselves Paul McCartney fans, which was enough for me.
Wrapping up, I wish I could have found that lovely lady and thanked her again and again for letting me realize a dream of mine, seeing a real live Beatle in person.
Tickets for that show were well over $200 each, and many were much higher. I got in for $27 (less the $13 stolen from me); That’s money well spent! I’ll never forget that night, and I’m glad I can laugh about it now, as chasing down that criminal wasn’t the smartest thing in the world, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat if it meant seeing Paul again!
Featured Image Credit: “Paul McCartney – Out There Concert | 140420-5732-jikatu” by jikatu is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.