I had the wonderful experience of seeing Paul McCartney in concert at Bankers Life Fieldhouse last Sunday, July 14. Like all big events in my life I don’t feel like they are complete until I write about them. The following multipart blog is about my experiences.
When The Beatles landed in America in February 1964 and appeared on the Ed Sullivan show I was just nine years old. There was so much hype leading up to the event that it became a must-see television show. I was at my Grandma Osterman’s that Sunday night like we were most Sunday nights in those days for family get together and generally a poker game. But everyone gathered around the television to watch this new group perform. My dad says he was so fed up with all the hype he refused to watch. He just went in the other room. I don’t really recall what I initially reaction was to the music. But in the weeks and months that followed I became a Beatles fan just like millions of others.
On September 3, 1964 the Beatles performed two shows at the Indiana State Fair coliseum and of course the local hype for the event was extensive. Film clips were shown on all the local news stations. It wasn’t until I was just researching this event that I learned that The Beatles stayed at the Speedway Motel about a mile from my house.
Of course I was much too young to attend that concert. As far as I recall “The Beatles” as a group never returned to Indiana. I was always disappointed that I never got a chance to see them live.
Paul McCartney however has played shows here in Indianapolis in the past but I always figured the tickets would be expensive and hard to get. I don’t really recall when he was here before or the reasons why I didn’t go. I guess it just seemed like if it wasn’t really the full Beatles it would be a letdown of sorts. I also expected he would play mostly songs from his solo albums or with his new band Wings. While some of those songs are pretty good and have become classics, they still aren’t as important as original Beatles songs.
But a few months ago when I heard that Paul McCartney was coming back to Indianapolis to play Bankers Life Fieldhouse I decided perhaps this was an opportunity to check an item off my bucket list. Even if it wasn’t the full Beatles it would still be an experience worth having. Also my decision was influenced by a number of TV shows I had watched recently regarding Paul McCartney and The Beatles. One of them was a documentary called “The Love We Make” which followed Paul McCartney around New York City in the days after the 9/11 attacks as he prepared a benefit concert for the 9/11 victims. It was filmed and directed by Albert Maysles who had previously done a documentary about the Beatles when they first came to America. He also made several other famous documentaries such as “Grey Gardens” and “Gimme Shelter“.
I had also seen McCartney perform on several other TV specials including the documentary about Billy Joel called “Last Play at Shea” and a documentary “George Harrison: Living in the Material World“. He also performed at the benefit concert for hurricane Sandy. Back when he was first touring with Wings it seemed like he was trying to promote his new music and put the Beatles behind him. The more recent shows contained more and more Beatles music and that made it all the more interesting to see him.
The Pursuit of Tickets
Tickets for the upcoming concert at Bankers Life Fieldhouse had already been on sale for over a week when I finally made up my mind to try to get tickets. I really didn’t have much hope that any would be left but I did know the policy was that they do not sell handicap seats to non-handicap people until the last minute. The seats that I wanted would be high in the balcony opposite the stage which for most people would be considered some of the worst seats. However because my head doesn’t turn very well, seats along the side of the arena aren’t very good for a concert for me. They’re great for basketball and hockey but not concerts. Last year I had seen Barry Manilow at Bankers Life and even though you’re pretty far away they always have video screens at concerts these days so it was really an enjoyable experience.
I clicked on links on Ticketmaster requesting one wheelchair seat and one companion seat. I didn’t know who would go with me but I figured I wouldn’t have any problems finding someone to go considering this was Paul McCartney. Usually I ask someone to go with me before I try for the tickets but I did want to get anyone’s hopes up if I couldn’t get them. Much to my surprise and pleasure, within a few minutes I had emails confirming that I had to tickets to see Paul McCartney at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on July 14, 2013!
My first call after that was my good friend Judy Chapman. “What are you doing on July 14 this year?” I asked her.
“I don’t know that date sounds familiar… Isn’t that the date of the Paul McCartney concert?”
“In fact it is… Do you want to go? I’ve got tickets!”
Of course she said yes. She went on to say that she and her daughter Anne had thought about going. However they were on vacation in New York seeing Tom Hanks and Nathan Lane in Broadway shows when the McCartney tickets went on sale. Anne had considered buying tickets for Judy for her birthday which was in June. She would have to buy them from a ticket broker and it was just too expensive for two tickets. I sort of felt bad that I didn’t get three tickets instead of two but I was so surprised I got two to begin with.
In the end, Anne got to go anyway. She went to a ticket broker and got a single seat on the left side of the arena about five or six rows up from the floor. She never said what she paid for the tickets but I’m sure it was quite a bit. Those tickets aren’t cheap from the box office and you add on the ticket broker fees it’s got to be steep. So even though we weren’t able to sit with her, we did ride down to the concert and back with her. She was also in a good position to take some phenomenal photos which you will see further down this blog.
I was willing to pay for Judy’s ticket but we negotiated a compromise. She bought my ticket for my birthday which was July 12. I bought her ticket for her birthday in June. It seemed like forever as we counted down the days to the big event.
One wrench almost got thrown into the works… My dad had been having problems with swelling in his feet. After several tests the doctors concluded that an aortic aneurysm that they had been watching for many years was probably throwing off microscopic blood clots causing circulation problems in his feet. They scheduled his surgery for Friday, July 12 (my birthday) just two days before the concert. We weren’t sure what kinds of restrictions would be placed on him. Our typical plans for concerts would have him driving us to the Fieldhouse and dropping us off at a special handicap entrance and then picking us up afterwards. It makes it much easier than finding a parking place. However since Anne would be with us, Judy could drive, drop us off at the handicapped entrance, go park and then meet up with us.
As it turned out dad was in good shape after his surgery. He wasn’t supposed to do anything too strenuous so Judy and Anne did the work of loading me in and out of the van and operating the van lift. Dad just did the driving.
Judy and Anne came to my house early and brought some McDonald’s for dinner. That gave us plenty of time to talk and get caught up on recent events. Then we packed up and headed for the concert.
I was a little bit concerned if the security measures had changed. I have a large leather satchel on the back of my wheelchair where I carry raincoats, medicine, and air pump for my inflatable seat cushion, and other miscellaneous items I might need an emergency. Typically the screeners just look in the bag and look in people’s purses and camera bags but changes in NFL policy now say that you can only carry clear bags of a particular size. If that carried over to other venues it might be a problem.
The only change I noticed however was that the security screening was now done outside the handicapped door. In the past I seem to recall the screening being done indoors right before we got on the elevator. I suppose doing it outdoors is a better idea considering how crowded the lobby can get. Someone with malintent could do a lot of damage in the lobby.
We had arrived plenty early because we weren’t sure what traffic was going to be like especially considering Indiana Black Expo may have been having events downtown as well. But we didn’t have much traffic going in.
There was a long line for the elevator that took a while to get through. When I went to see Barry Manilow and got there early, they did not let people on the elevators or into the arena itself until about one hour before the concert. Fortunately they were letting people in plenty early this time.The three of us went to the upper floor where my seats were and immediately began looking for a souvenir stand. I bought a T-shirt and a program. I haven’t bought souvenirs at a concert in 20 years because the prices are just so outrageous that this was something special and I had to have souvenirs. It was $40 for a T-shirt and $30 for the program but I didn’t care. I offered to buy Judy a coffee mug but she said no thanks.
The wheelchair section was either the same one I was in for Barry Manilow or it was one right next to it in aisle 216. However much to my surprise there were two rows of folding chairs in the level area at the front edge of the upper balcony. Our tickets said “Row 2”. If we were going to have to sit back in the second row from the edge with people sitting in front of us, there was no way I was going to be able to see. I was really worried and was going to be really pissed if we were stuck behind that other row. Fortunately Row 2 was the front row. The usher said “We don’t even do this area for Pacer Games. This is only because it’s a sellout”. They removed a couple of the folding chairs in the front row and we parked my chair right against the railing. Judy took her spot next to me on my right. Judy asked “Are you where you want to be?” She was probably referring to the position of my wheelchair. I replied very enthusiastically “I’m EXACTLY where I want to be” and I smiled really big. I wasn’t talking about wheelchair position. I was talking about being at a Paul McCartney concert with her.
Up until the concert started I was still a little bit worried someone was going to say “No wait a minute… You’re supposed to be back here.” But fortunately we were where we were supposed to be. The folding chairs in back of us were sold. Able-bodied people eventually showed up behind us but they stood up through most of the concert.
Anne left us and went to take her seat. After she got there we exchanged phone calls to figure out where she was and managed to spot her. We waved back and forth at each other. She had great seats.
We got out my program and look through it a little bit but the lights were very dim and it was a little bit difficult to see. Included in the program was a pair of cardboard red/blue 3-D glasses because some of the images in the program were 3-D. By the time you put on the 3-D glasses it was way too dark to see the images at all. That would have to wait until I got home.
We reached in my wheelchair bag to get out my camera so Judy could get familiar with it. We turned it on and something started blinking. I had her show it to me and just as I recognized it to be the low battery indicator, it shut itself off. We tried turning it on again and it would blink for a few seconds and shut down. Dad had just replaced the batteries before we left but one of them must of been bad or didn’t take a charge. I was going to have to rely on Anne to take photos for me. We told her over the cell phone that she was going to be our sole photographer for the event. I was so happy she was up close and had a really nice lens. She was going to get better pictures than I would’ve ever gotten.
Over the PA system they started playing music little bit louder than I would’ve liked for a preshow time period. It seemed that it was a variety of different artists doing covers of Beatles songs. I liked the music but it made it hard to talk before the show. Judy kept checking her watch and I kept asking the time as he got closer and closer to 8 PM.
Judy went out to get us something to drink. Unfortunately it was Pepsi set of Coke. I didn’t care. I was exactly where I wanted to be.
Precisely at 8 PM the lights dimmed slightly and images began projecting on two video screens to either side of the stage and a different track of music started playing. It was really starting to happen. The concert had begun!
To be continued…