Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Of Surprises, Ninjas, and Yellow Spotlights

I hate to disappoint anyone, but....the surprise I was talking about was actually for my girlfriend. A little suspense never hurt anyone, right?

On March 9th, she turns the ripe ol' age of 26, so I decided I would surprise her this year. For reasons I'm not going to go into, we wanted to go and see Coldplay's concert but couldn't really afford to go. It wasn't a terribly expensive ticket, per se, but money's been tight lately. Anyway, what better excuse to spend money than a surprise birthday gift for someone you love?

Originally, I had planned to be a total ninja about it. I had it all worked out: I devised a cover story so that she wouldn't make other plans for that evening. I dropped subtle hints here and there, not enough to figure it out but enough to say "ohhhhhhhhh!" when I finally handed over the tickets. Unfortunately, my plan was thwarted by tiny micro-organisms. No, not amoebas like last time -- germs! Stacey had a cold.

So on Monday, just after my girlfriend did everything she could to get out of my cover story, I was forced to spill the beans over a work phone. I couldn't really keep it up any longer; she was starting to get upset that I was insisting on a dinner out with my step brother when all she wanted to do was curl up into a ball and complain about how bad she was feeling. Regardless, I was still a ninja. She hadn't figured it out by the time I told her the-day-of and it was a total surprise.

It was amazing how quickly the show sold out after the tickets went on sale. I don’t normally like arena shows, but I sometimes make exceptions. I managed to find tickets okay, but they were in the nosebleeds and parallel with the stage. After less than five minutes into the opening act (a band called The Music, who were okay, but a strange choice to open for Coldplay), we decided to take a chance and find some better seats elsewhere.

Oddly enough, I've never done anything like that before. I'm sort of a put-up-with-stuff kind of guy most of the time. But the seats were just bad enough to make us migrate. I'm still not sure how we were able to pull it off. There were ushers and security everywhere, but somehow we managed to sneak around to a section facing the stage, get past security and slide into a new set of seats. Coincidentally, the seats we found were the same two numbers in the same row in section 328 -- when we started out in 308.

As The Music played on, we patted each other on the back for our ninja-like abilities. I'd definitely scam my way to better seats we sat there, we could feel the adrenaline, wondering what would happen if we were found out. They'd just send us back to our seats, right? Surely they wouldn't kick us out....

As it turned out, we were hoofed from our new seats just before Coldplay went onstage. Ironically, we had picked the seats of a couple of guys who had also gone looking for better seats, but they got hoofed too. We reluctantly found another two seats further back. Mysteriously, Ticketmaster didn't sell tickets for the top ten or twenty rows of the 300 section. No explanation why, either. Regardless, we were content that they hadn't. Although some of the fun of wondering whether or not we would be found out was gone, we at least had a clear view of the stage and could hear the music as clear as a bell.

And my God, the music. Coldplay is excellent as a live band. They played all of their best songs. Our only major complaint was that they didn't play for longer. Say what you want about Chris Martin's voice, he's the quintessential front-man. He dominated the stage, both when he was bent over the piano and when he was jumping around the stage like his underwear was on fire. Even for songs that normally wouldn't seem very energetic -- he infused them with such enthusiasm and spirit that you couldn't help but be amazed. I would recommend their live show to anyone.

Of course, the place went ballistic when all of the stage lights went bright yellow, filling the whole arena with a warm sunshine glow. Yellow may not be my favourite song by the band, but they gave their radio-listening fans what they wanted.

Chris also did his very best to speak in French for the audience's benefit. It was cute, but it made us wonder if international artists are aware that Ottawa is a bilingual town. Personally, I would have been happy if he had said an awkward "bonjour" and got on with what he really wanted to say instead of struggling over every second word when he was talking to the audience. Throwing the odd French translation into a few of their songs was a nice touch, though.

The only sore point for us was the under-aged retard sitting in the row behind us, who managed to get blindly drunk in the first two songs of the show and proceeded to scream along to every song at the top of his lungs. And the girls who were with him, who seemed more interested in talking loudly about the latest gossip instead of watching the show. But whatever, it's a concert, what can you do? We had the last laugh when the show ended and we watched the drunken meathead do a face-plant on the concrete riser. I couldn't help myself, applauding and shouting "way to go, assface!" when I saw it happen. I can only hope that he actually heard me in his inebriated stupor.

Stacey had a blast. We both did...all in all, a totally successful birthday present. And one more band scratched off our "must see" list.


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