I saw the Rolling Stones in Chicago at Soldier Field in the summer of 1978. In fact, the show was on July 8, 1978 -- 7-8-78. I don't know how much I paid for the tickets, but I do know that it was a general admission show and that the Stones were the closing act on a full day of rock music. It was a perfect Chicago summer day - no clouds, no humidity - just plenty of sunshine and plenty of man-made and natural additions to the mood.
Fast forward a mere 35 years. Tickets went on sale today, April 8, 2013, to see the Rolling Stones on the tour stop in Chicago as they celebrate their 50 years as a band. They are playing Chicago's United Center on May 28, May 31 and June 3. When my forgetfulness waned tonight and I actually remembered what I meant to remind myself to do, I went to Ticketmaster.com to try to buy two tickets to one of the shows. The best I could do: two tickets behind the stage for $450 each. Yeah, that's right $450 to listen to the Stones from behind the stage, although you have to figure there'll be big screens set up so you can at least virtually see them. And, albeit the atmosphere for a Stones show is like nothing else, still, it's just hard to justify spending all that money when there are so many other things...
But, in 1978, at my age then, there were no such worries about whether or not to spend the money on tickets. There were no other things more important than going to the Stones show that summer. It was going to happen no matter what it cost me. Hell, I was working every day at the deli, I could come up with the $15 or $20 or whatever it was.
Today, Ticketmaster is offering up several ticket "packages" for those who can afford such things and feel the need to spend money that way. For example, you can purchase the Hospitality Package, at $2000 per ticket, and receive a VIP entrance to the United Center, a pre-show buffet dinner with wait staff service, an exclusive merchandise item, and more. Or, for the more frugal, you can opt for the Tongue Pit Package, at $1750 per ticket, and receive a seat on the floor of the United Center, in the "Tongue Pit" together with early entry before the "general public" (heaven forbid), exclusive merchandise, and more.
While in 1978, you paid for and received your general admission ticket. Period.
At the shows at the United Center this Spring, a ticket-buying customer will get probably two hours of Stones music which is better than most two hours of anything you can see from today's artists. But, in 1978, the general admission customer received a day-long music festival on the Chicago lakeshore, pre-Soldier Field spaceship. If you had a 1978 ticket, you got 4 acts for the price of 1 - Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Peter Tosh, Journey, and then the Stones.
The fun didn't start with the music at Soldier Field. At the then-known-as Conrad Hilton Hotel on South Michigan Avenue, we prepared for the long day ahead most of the night before. Then, at 4 a.m., we got in line outside one of the Soldier Field entrances, waited for the sun to come up and then waited for the doors to open. At 8 a.m., we raced to our seats on the west side of the stadium facing the stage.
There, I enjoyed what I still consider one of the top two concerts of my life (The Clash at the Aragon in 1982 is the other), helped immensely by the nap I took during the Journey portion of the show. No offense to Journey, or Peter Tosh, or Southside Johnny and the Jukes, but the Stones tore it up and I couldn't tell you much about the other bands. They were there, and they made some noise.
My memory has gotten a little cloudy over time, but I'll always remember that show in 1978 for the innocence, the pure joy, the freedom it felt like to me and for the rock and roll.
35 years later, it's still rock and roll. It's fun to reminisce and it's nice that YouTube exists today to see it, at least, to some extent again. I don't know if I'll get to one of the 2013 shows at the United Center. I'd like to go, but I won't feel too bad if I don't. I'm sure the Stones will be great and put on a show that no one will forget.
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