How to Watch a Concert Like an Adult (and Like It)

If I could recommend anything to anybody at anytime, it would be to see a Coldplay concert. It is the most sprawling and best executed musical production currently in music. Critics sometimes scoff at its meticulous production, which definitely do make for fewer moments that feel “spontaneous”. That observation is a good one. It’s also categorical nonsense. One wouldn’t criticize a Broadway play when the actors stick to their lines. To see massive productions executed to perfection is thrilling. Watching the world’s greatest professionals perform at the height of their craft is thrilling. If you want to see an “unpredictable” version of Wicked, go to a high school production. I’ll take the best.

So despite seeing Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto tour before, despite having heard their live CD dozens of times, despite having seen hundreds of hours of YouTube footage of their concerts, despite having memorized their setlist, I went to see Coldplay again in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. What can I say? They’re very good.

Naturally, I didn’t buy my tickets on Ticketmaster. I waited and waited until an hour before they took the stage to snag a deeply discounted one. I paid 80 for what was a 200 dollar ticket. Which was awesome. (I don’t have 80 dollars to spend on concerts, but I’ve a cabinet full of Ramen for the next week I hope compensated for the purchase. YOLO?)

When the usher escorted me to my seat, I was stoked. It was sick spot, middle level, on the right of the stage. Then it hit me. The problem with seeing Coldplay in 200 dollars seats is that I’m surrounded by people who can pay for 200 dollar seats. Which is not to say that I don’t wish them the best concert experience of their lives. I’m a firm believer that everyone ought feel comfortable to enjoy the show in whatever way they feel compelled to see it. It’s just that these aren’t the kind of people I typically want to see a concert with.

For the past five years I have a moment at a concert where I ask myself, “Have I given enough? Am I leaving everything on this floor in the pursuit of music?” Upon hearing this question, I jump a little higher and pump a little harder. I let out a few yells. I need to feel like I felt everything on the floor. This wasn’t that crowd.

But if I’m honest, one of the more significant epiphanies I had in 2013 was that I’m ready to move beyond General Admission experience. I love concerts. I love live  music. I love fist pumping. I’m 23. I’m not ready to take my live music experience to Lincoln Center or lounges with jazz just yet. But I am ready to move past all the nonsense that used to excite me about General Admission concerts.

I wasn’t going to be in the front any more. I wasn’t going to curse at people for linking arms and hammering their way through me. Stupid kids on their cell phones taking shitty video. Kids yelling “Freebird!” I didn’t get to the show hours earlier and watch the openers. I’m over it.  I was intent on seeing a show from a seat, not have to worry about the view. I didn’t need to leave needing a gatorade, a slice of pizza and a wet towel to cool my forehead.

I went to this concert alone. Which wasn’t a problem. The first thing to do when attending any concert alone is to introduce yourself to the person beside you and ask “Have you seen [insert artist’s name] before?”

I was next to an older, slightly balding man smoking an electronic cigarette. he had an accent I didn’t ask about, although I did see him text in a language which looked like Hebrew. I asked him if he’d seen Coldplay before. He had not. I’d seen them four times before. I told him that I was a super fan. That I was hyped.

I’m not sure he’d heard a Coldplay record since Yellow. Which, again, is fine. If he wanted to casually observe, I hoped he’d leave feeling entirely wanting to enjoy Coldplay’s new music.  I apologized for the forthcoming chaotic energy I knew I was going to bring that I assumed would annoy him. He smiled slyly. He paused and said, “Feel free.”

As the minutes got closer to the it came clear that this would be my first adult concert.  People came back with wine. I was surrounded mostly by slightly older couples wearing their new Christmas sweaters from the GAP. It was all very nice. I was ready to accept a nice night of music.

Of course, Coldplay, the perfect band for this kind of crowd, had other plans. When the lights went down, they did what they’d done hundreds of others times and literally turned the arena into a relentless explosion of color and jubilation. Fuck nice. I was ready to rock.

To my surprise,  my Israeli felt exactly as I did. As I was shredding my air guitar, he came a sort of air-maestro. I’m not sure exactly what his moments were, but he was ready to go. We sang together. We Jaggered together. I’ve been to concerts where I’ve felt I was setting the tone for people around me to let loose. But this guy was forcing me to raise my game.

A few times, he sat. And a few times, I sat. I didn’t have to always be moving for the show to matter. I watched in silence at times. I was still mesmerized. Later in the show, the band moved to a platform in the crowd that was ridiculous close to my seat. I didn’t call out their names. I didn’t need to tell anybody that I’d touched Chris Martin. But it was a cool moment. For the first time as a Coldplay fan, it hit me: they’re getting older too. But they looked good. 375177_10151180369206053_854765770_n

The show as a success. Once the closer Every Teardrop is a Waterfall began, I did tell myself to empty the tank. And I did. As did my Israeli friend. We nailed it. At the end of it all, we shook hands. I thanked him for sharing that experience with me and he did the same.

So concluded my first night as an adult concert goer. And I learned a few things. One can get loose and still have an armrest. One can be bald and still move like a wannabe rockstar.  I don’t need to be close to feel a part of the whole thing. A man in Cole Haan might not rage as hard as a punk in Converses but that doesn’t mean experiencing  music isn’t as satisfying. Music isn’t at it’s best when it’s experienced by the youth. Whatever your age, commit to the moment. If wine takes you there, feel free.