It should have started with the police, if not a lot sooner. That was certainly the plan. As it was, I was ashamed that I was so far behind everyone else I knew. Already out of high school and hadn't done it yet. Hell, some of them had done it in 10th grade already (I was so jealous when they were telling me the details of the evening before in 7th hour yearbook). I even got a job my last summer to get some extra cash to pay for it. I was ready, I was due, and it was going to be the police or bust! I was going to see a Rock show already!!!
Never mind that I hadn't worked out the logistics of either getting said ticket nor traveling to st. paul for the show, but wills demand and I'm sure it would have worked out some way. Except somewhere between getting paid and getting to the bank, I lost the check. I was sure I had put it on the fridge, but it was not to be found. Look, look, looked for it, I did, high over hill and dale but no luck. That was one check that once written could not be cashed, alas. (a bunch of years later, when my folks were putting a new floor in the kitchen, my mom found the check underneath the fridge. The one place I never thought to look (I even looked in the coils behind the fridge, course in retrospect, underneath was a logical place to have checked). Ah well. Cashless (spare cash at least, my savings account for college was inviolate) I was unable to make that synchronicity show (not sure if it was met center or the civic center and sorta too lazy too google...best off to forget that first miss).
So perhaps it was more fitting that my first concert (and I'm not talking some goofball act that plays a lyceum at school, or any of the chorus/band/high schooley things I'd invariably gone to), first REAL ROCK concert was billy joel at the st. paul civic center in 1984 (I'm thinking spring, but again I'm too lazy too look it up). I'm pretty sure this was the innocent man tour, although the show seemed kinda heavy on Nylon Curtain songs (ok, ok, I best pull up the set list in a bit to refresh my memory). I was always a fan of Mr. Joel. One of my very first vinyl purchases was "The Stranger," closely followed by "52nd Street." The Joelmeister went way back, so when I first heard about that tour, I was pretty excited and drummed up some interested amongst my dormmates. Three other guys were interested enough to commit, so I counted out my pennies and circled the date tickets went on sale. (I'm thinking tickets were like $13 each or somesuch, but they might have been as much as $20. Whatever, I was going, damnit, I was going to a show.)
Now being the dork that I am, the day before tickets went on sale, I got all antsy and worried that we wouldn't be able to get tickets, so after fretting most of the day (a Sunday) I decided (against the advice of my dorm roomie, who was also going to the show, and probably every shred of common sense that I should have had) that I should go down to the civic center and camp out overnight for tickets. so I hopped a bus outside of my dorm on University avenue by the UofM campus (Minneapolis campus mind you) and rode over the civic center. I think I got there around 4pm and there was not a soul in existence. And believe me, I walked all over the place trying to figure out where the ticket booth was and where was the line I was sure would have been snaking outside at this point. (did I mention that it was winter---february-ish I'm thinking, although I could easily be misremembering that too). But whatevs, there was no line, and only one little lonely window that looked like it had any possibility of ticket sales the next morning. so I planted myself, popped open a book and settled in for the long haul. Around 6.30 or some the janitorial staff came by, scrubbing and buffing the floors (they were spotless already and I was totally fine with stretching out on their fine glassy finish). I'm sure they thought I was a) homeless, b) nuts and/or c)clueless, but to their credit, they kept their snickers to a minimum as they went about their business and left me to my solitude. And I do mean solitude.
Where was the line? what the heck....was I maybe a little aggressive in this line camp out? around 7.30, with nary another fan in sight I was having some second thoughts (third or fourth thoughts at that point in reality) and I gave Al (college roomie) a call. He still thought I was nuts and should just go back to the dorm and get in line in the morning. if we got shut out, we got shut out, he figured but I was adamant damnit, I was getting tickets. Except, it was pretty boring hanging out there all by myself and even though nobody had thrown me out, the security guard was eyeing me on every walk around. Finally around 8.30 he said, he was locking up and I couldn't stay in the atrium anymore. I said I was in line for Billy Joel tickets, and of course, he looked at me like I was b and c (mostly c I think in retrospect), and said he supposed I could start a line, but it was going to have to be outside and around the corner (I'm thinking it seemed to be a particularly windy corner too). Suddenly, those wise words from Al clicked in my mind, and I'm all like, ok. Time to head back to the dorm. Also, that is a long ass bus ride between st. paul and Minneapolis. I don't know what it's like now (yay a light rail and all) but it was after 10 before I got back to the dorm (to a couple sly smiles from my dormmates I might add).
But at least I got a good night's sleep before heading out in the morning to the Wax Museum on the west bank. And actually the line wasn't too long (in retrospect it was even shorter, but back then I was worried that the twenty people in front of me would take all the tickets). But the line moved well and other than some issues with me wanting to pay with travelers checks (ya, it baffles me to this day why I was going to do that), it sorted out (with a quick run back to the dorm and a mad rummage for cash) and I got our four tickets (Panka, Beddow, Al and I) and we were all good to go in a few months.
Our seats weren't too bad, off to the left of the floor and not too far up the rows. I think one ticket was just behind the other three, but I seem to recall a few empty seats so Al moved up to sit next to me. it's hard to trust my recollection of the show, because, although I've never been to another billy joel show, I've seen way too much live footage of him and it just all begins to blur. I do remember being bummed that there weren't more deep cuts from "The Stranger" and "52nd Street" (to say nothing of earlier hits), but I was more or less happy with the song list. "Goodnight Saigon" and "An Innocent Man" were highlights for me (especially interesting considering I was pretty indifferent to either song but they sure made an impression during that show) .
What I really do remember though, is he was (is) a total pro. He worked the crowd, he worked the band (take it away Liberty DeVito) he worked the keyboard, he hit all the right spots (even if he couldn't hit all the notes). At the time I pretty much thought he was on the back side of his career (and if you are looking at recordings, I was probably right), but in retrospect now, I realize he was pretty much at his peak when I saw him. Touring off his best selling album, still young enough to bring it, but experienced enough to work it for all it was worth. It was a fun show and although I've certainly seen a lot of shows since (and a lot of shows that had a deep and lasting influence on me) I'm still pretty happy that I got to see Billy Joel first.
Setlist (courtesy of Wikipedia so I claim nothing about accuracy, but this feels right)
1. "Prelude/Angry Young Man"
2. "My Life"
3. "Piano Man"
4. "Don't Ask Me Why"
6. "Goodnight Saigon"
8. "Leave a Tender Moment Alone"
9. "An Innocent Man"
10. "The Longest Time"
11. "This Night"
12. "Just The Way You Are"
13. "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant"
14. "Sometimes a Fantasy"
15. "It's Still Rock & Roll to Me"
16. "Uptown Girl"
17. "Big Shot"
18. "Tell Her About It"
19. "You May Be Right"
20. "Only The Good Die Young"
Oh yeah, I didn't get any merch.
And I finally saw the police when they toured again in 2007. (and it was good, maybe not 20 some years good, but good)