Listen to good music and keep dancing like nobody is watching

Editorial & Opinion, Wednesday, March 5, 2008

In February, I attended the Tom Cochrane and John Mellencamp concert at the Steelback Centre, along with 4,700 of my closest friends from Northern Ontario and Michigan. I’ve since ranked it in my top five favourite concerts of all time, however not everything was rosy like little pink houses.

As usual, I had floor seats. Part way into Cochrane’s set, he launched into one of my favourite songs. I jumped up to dance. Before the song was over, I was tapped on the shoulder. Security told me to sit down. I “mentioned” that this was a rock concert and got back to dancing.

Tap, tap.

“Someone has complained and you have to sit down,” I was again informed.

Grrrrrrr. I knew I was going to have to sit down, but wasn’t ready to sink like a sunset. Luckily the next song was a ballad (which I would have sat for anyways). The couple beside me from Detroit was shocked I’d been told to sit and kept encouraging me to get up and dance again. My mind was racing. Why on earth were the complainers sitting in floor seats? The bowl seats have unobstructed views. Or why not simply buy the DVD and enjoy it sitting on the couch in their living room?

I firmly believe in living life as fully as possible, in line with sayings like “dance like nobody’s watching.” Perhaps I’ll have to change that to “dance like nobody’s going to tap you on the shoulder and tell you to sit down.”

To me, dancing is part of a concert, but I’m open-minded and tried to experience the concert their way. I sat as still as a statue through White Hot. I didn’t even tap my toe because that would inevitably spiral into shoulder and head bobbing, hip wiggling, and bouncing out of my seat to dance. I made it through the song motionless, but I wouldn’t do it again. When the next guitar chord announced another big hit I climbed over my husband to dance in the aisle.

Tap. Tap.

“You can only stay here until someone complains,” I was informed apologetically.

For the last number of Cochrane’s set, Life is a Highway, the whole floor exploded to their feet in a sea of movement. The crowd stayed dancing or swaying throughout Mellencamp’s phenomenal performance. I felt vindicated by the crowd’s energy, but I still had a bad taste in my mouth.

Not as bad as the taste a colleague of mine was left with when she went to buy a soft, hot pretzel at intermission. When she asked why none were ready she was told: “It takes seven minutes to cook a pretzel and what if they go to waste?” She left empty-handed, choosing not to wait seven more minutes in line.

Which brings me to another line-up, the beer queue . . . why not pre-pour more beer? Or, divert some of the luxury box money for purchasing two freestanding beer taps/stations like they use at larger venues to minimize line-ups?

Perhaps I am beginning to answer one of my own questions as to why so few people were dancing during Cochrane’s performance – they were gearing up for the long wait for a hot pretzel or cold beer and were too preoccupied to dance!

Before the luxury boxes are constructed, it would also be beneficial to my fellow floor-seat patrons to replace the cold, uncomfortable, metal fold-up chairs at the back with more of the blue plastic chairs. To add insult to injury, the fold-up chairs are lower than the blue plastic ones, further limiting your view while the crowd is seated.

One other gripe I’ve heard is regarding a policy banning patrons from leaving the building until intermission. Concert-goers are still admitted throughout the first act, but I was told police were called to deal with one person’s early smoke break at the Blue Rodeo show. Perhaps Steelback’s management is part of the anti-smoking movement? Regardless, the policy needs better explanation and I was unable to get an answer prior to print.

Recently, the Steelback received a much-deserved nod in the form of an award nomination. I don’t think that anyone would argue that the above are anything but growing pains expected in the first year of operation. The Steelback Centre is an excellent venue and Trevor Zachary is booking some terrific talent. We should all be thankful and proud.

I will continue to support live music in the Sault (and dance) be it at the Steelback, Lop Lops, the Fall Festival, the Algoma Conservatory, or at Beer, Bratwurst and Beethoven, because the city would be a sad place without good music. As to why I will always dance, Mellencamp says it best: “Your life is now.”

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