Yesterday I went to the Erasure concert at the Hard Rock Cafe here in Orlando. My friend Steve and his wife came down on Saturday, along with our friend Chris (who I hadn't seen since high school, 20 years ago, GH0D I feel old) and his girlfriend.
And because of how the venue is laid out (a big open floor without seats), we ended up FRONT ROW CENTER, simply by virtue of being among the first people through the gate.
Before the show we met some awesome people in line- Bailey and his boyfriend Tony, also from Orlando, and Melissa and her girlfriend Melia (i think that's how you spell it) who came up from Fort Myers for the show. During the show Bailey and Melissa ended up fighting- almost coming to blows- when Andy (the band's front-man) threw a towel into the crowd and it landed between them... Andy saw them fighting from stage, told them "Don't fight", and threw a second towel down, finishing the rest of the show without one, squinting at times because of the sweat dripping into his eyes.
And during the show I met another person that I thought was rather cool- the woman standing next to me on the other side was named Darlene (which is the name of one of the songs on Erasure's newest album.) She had been to the Tampa show on Friday with her husband, and was back at the Orlando show for more. She kept screaming "Darlene! Darlene! I'm Darlene! Please play Darlene!" between all the songs, and when the show ended without their playing the song she looked like she was going to cry... I tried to explain that (1) the set list was fixed and couldn't really be changed mid-stream, and (2) the band were wearing earpieces, and while they could hear the crowd, they probably couldn't tell what they were saying... I suggested next time she bring a piece of paper with "Please play Darlene" on it, and hang that on the front of the rail, so the band can SEE it instead of not being able to HEAR her... and maybe they can add it to the end of the show or something like that.
Anyway. I had never seen a concert from right up front before- I'm used to seeing concerts from the middle or toward the back of the floor, where you're fairly close but have to peek around other peoples' heads to see what's going on on stage, or from way in the back where your seat(!) is elevated to see over the heads, but you're so far away you can't really see much without bringing binoculars or something. I had always seen people jockeying for front-row tickets, but I figured they just wanted a chance to touch a hand or something- I had never thought about how much better the view was. It was literally better than anything you might see on a professionally made DVD of the show.
Another thing that struck me was the instrumentation. Most bands have a few guitars, a keyboard or twenty, a drum set, and maybe somebody playing a saxophone or something depending on the music. The total instrumentation on stage last night was a small MIDI keyboard and a PowerMac laptop, and an acoustic guitar that Vince played for two of the songs. Pretty much the entire show was sequenced off of Vince's laptop, with one part played by hand on the keyboard (and that not even for every song- I noticed a few songs where Vince basically hit "play" on the laptop and let it run, drinking a Heineken, without touching the computer or the keyboard at all.)
What I wouldn't give for a copy of that laptop's hard drive...
Another nice thing about being in the front row was being able to see the performers' faces during the show. And not just Andy squinting from the sweat dripping into his eyes- they had three dancers on stage with them, one of which was the black woman who sang backup in the "Breathe" video. The first few songs you could tell they were dancing to some very precisely laid out choreography, but as the show went on you could tell they were loosening up and having fun with it- and you could tell that they genuinely enjoyed doing the show.
The one disappointment was that after the show, Steve wanted to get the set list which had been taped to the stage in front of us, and the security guy made us get back away from the stage before they could get the attention of one of the roadies to ask for it. Oh well- it was still a truly awesome show, and getting "front row center" made it one of the best shows of my life.