July 25, 2015 was the night that I decided I am too old for lawn seats. Perhaps I’ve grown cynical with old age, perhaps I’m not as “fun” as I used to be, but by the end of Def Leppard’s performance at PNC Bank Arts Center on that warm July night, I was borderline miserable. And it wasn’t because the band was awful. It was because of my surroundings.
Due to the class action lawsuit where Live Nation settled a claim that they were charging fees in their ticket prices that were not disclosed, Mrs. Vie and I had the opportunity to witness Def Leppard, Styx, and Tesla for free on a nice warm Saturday night in July. I was excited by the prospect of seeing Def Leppard again. And this time they would be the headliners. I was less excited by the idea of having lawn seats, but as they say, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. These were tickets to a free concert with three great bands.
After some minor tailgating, the Mrs. and I headed into the concert to try and secure a decent spot on the lawn. We staked a claim in the middle of the grassy knoll, about halfway up the hill. Not a terrible spot and prior to Tesla, it wasn’t too crowded. I told myself that this was going to be all right. Unfortunately, I lied to myself, although I didn’t know I was lying at the time.
Tesla was the first act of the night and I was excited to see them once again. I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to see Tesla live a handful of times and I’ve always enjoyed their performance. I knew they were the opening act, so I was aware that their stage time would be short, but some Tesla was certainly better than no Tesla. They only performed eight songs. However, I thought they chose a good setlist that included some of their biggest hits. And when “Love Song” was played the entire audience was singing along with the band. I was overjoyed by the end of their set. Mrs. Vie, not so much. I think she liked “Signs” and “Love Song,” but she didn’t really care for the rest of Tesla’s performance. To each their own I suppose.
By the time Tesla had completed their performance the lawn was packed. With free tickets being given away that made sense. This was a hot show and one that a lot of people, myself included, probably would have passed on if not for the availability of free tickets. With the lawn filling in at a rapid pace, we started to feel the first issues of the night. Here’s the biggest problem with lawn seats---there is no actual “seat” so encroachment is rampant. In between sets, Mrs. Vie would need to use the ladies room and/or get a drink. Each time she went away she had to navigate through the crowd that was slowly getting bigger and tighter. Then she also had to navigate her way back. I was not able to go with her, because then we would lose our spot on the lawn altogether. And as I stated earlier, it was a pretty decent location.
As soon as my wife headed to the stands, people started creeping into our space. They would show up, see some empty space around me and try to nudge me away. They figured there were 4 or 6 or 7 of them and only 1 of me, so they could lay claim to my lawn space. It got to the point where I had to take a wide stance, spreading my legs as far apart as they would go and extend my arms to mark the spot. As people tried to take the area, I would politely inform them that my wife was on her way back and I would need just a little extra space for her. They didn’t care. They plunked all of their shit down, blankets, towels, whatever else they had, and plopped on the lawn leaving me with literally only the space I was standing in. It took all of my effort to contain my anger.
When my wife returned she looked at me questioningly. “These people felt entitled to take our space,” was the only response I could muster. Cathy stood in front of me for Styx and I just held onto her.
Styx was the surprise of the night for me. I’ve never seen them live and I wasn’t expecting much from them. I honestly thought that they didn’t fit this bill. They were the odd band out in my opinion. However, I’ve always enjoyed their music, so I was looking forward to hearing them. They did not disappoint. Styx came out with an energy that surprised me. They were tight, they were exciting, and they played nothing but their hits. “The Grand Illusion,” “Lady,” “Blue Collar Man,” and “Come Sail Away” were amongst the mega hits the band performed. And while they had a longer set time then Tesla, they were still the middle act, so their time was short. Styx performed 10 songs in all that clocked in at just under an hour. By the end of their set my jaw was wide open. This band was amazing! I noted that I had to see them perform again. To this day I haven’t, but not because I don’t want to.
After Styx performance, Mrs. Vie had to make another bathroom/drink trip. I did my best to hold what little room we had left, but as the stage was being set for Def Leppard, more people filled in the lawn. At this point there was a lot of bumping, shoving, and spilling of beer (on me) as people ran past to find a lawn spot or to locate friends. I felt like a sardine in an over packed can. The jostling and bumping of sweaty drunk people knocking into me did little to enhance my excitement for the rest of the night. I grew agitated. My personal space was practically eradicated and I was covered in smoke, beer, water, and other unwanted chemicals. On top of all that, my claustrophobia kicked in. It was then and there that I decided the lawn is no longer for me. Perhaps I had grown too old for the lawn, but I told myself from that point forward if I couldn’t get an actual seat, I was not going to attend a concert in an amphitheater.
Def Leppard was the final act of the night and I looked forward to their performance. I had seen them the year before when they opened for KISS and I thought they were magnificent. Expectations had been set and I told Cathy that she was in for a great time. Unfortunately, the band didn’t deliver as great of a performance as they had the year before. I don’t know if my surroundings played a part in my emotions, or if the band was better at opening shows than closing them, but I did not get the same overall vibe from watching Def Leppard the headliners as I did from watching Def Leppard the openers.
They started strong with three of my favorite songs and I felt that we were in for a great finish. But as their concert wore on, things changed. The sound wasn’t as crisp for the later songs as it was for the earlier ones. The band seemed to lose their energy about halfway through their set. And the quieter songs became near impossible to hear over the buzz of the lawn. I can’t blame Def Leppard entirely, they weren’t the ones talking over the songs, but the overall experience just lacked from the year prior. It was a disappointment to say the least. And while I did get to hear my favorite Def Leppard song (“Hysteria”) and they closed strong with “Rock Of Ages” and “Photograph,” the magic of the night had already dissipated.
At the end of the evening there was a key lesson emphasized. Sometimes you get what you pay for. And when the cost of goods is nothing, the expectations should be set at the same level. Free isn’t always the best price to pay.
Edison’s Medicine (Man Out Of Time)
Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)
Modern Day Cowboy
The Grand Illusion
Too Much Time On My Hands
Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
Rocket Man/Bohemian Rhapsody/(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay (covers medley)
Come Sail Away
Rockin’ The Paradise
Def Leppard Setlist
Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)
Let It Go
Two Steps Behind
Bringin’ On The Heartbreak
Let’s Get Rocked
Pour Some Sugar On Me
Rock Of Ages