I attended the Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band concert in Kansas City last weekend. It was the 11th time I’ve seen them since 2009. Back in 2018 I wrote about enjoying his Broadway show. I would have gone to his concerts in my earlier days had I known I would enjoy them so much.
Because of COVID-19, it was big news that he would tour in 2023. This tour is pricey. I know. I am a bit sheepish to say that I paid more for a ticket than I thought any right-thinking person would. I paid $570.48 — $435 for the ticket and $135.48 for the service charge. If you had asked me how much I would have been willing to pay, I would have said something like $250. How did this happen? The best I understand is that it was a combination of impulse buying, the fear of missing out and the panic of auction buying.
When I heard last summer that Springsteen would be in Kansas City, I immediately got online and registered for a lottery that would make me eligible to purchase tickets. I had plenty of time to repeat “your limit is $250.” Advertising for the lottery stated tickets were as low as $75. I received an email that I won the lottery and would be eligible to purchase a ticket. I assumed this meant that a ticket spot had my name on it and that all I had to do was to logon, select a ticket, give my financial information and wait for Bruce to get to KC.
On July 12, I logged on and immediately saw all the ticket prices that were already marked off. I started to scout around for the lowest price and the instant I selected one, I received a notification “Sorry. Another concertgoer bought that ticket.” So, I searched on. Higher and higher I went. I clicked faster and faster. There were some tickets for $800 and more that disappeared as soon as I accessed them. I wanted to see Bruce. I clicked faster. Up over $1,000.
Finally, my good judgment kicked it and I thought I should check the secondary market. Within minutes, with my pulse still elevated, I found two tickets for $435 each. Forgetting my self-imposed ceiling of $250, I felt like I was a winner. What a deal — only $435 compared to the official site that now had tickets going for $1,000. I was in.
I wanted to see Bruce. I provided the necessary credit card data. I impatiently clicked on the service charge in information, in small print and signed off. Two tickets for $1,140.95. I put the date into my phone. I didn’t look at the transaction again until last week when I almost passed out. What? Who would spend $570 on a concert ticket — even for Springsteen?
Buying the tickets seven months ahead of time apparently reduced the sticker shock. I never would have walked in on concert day and charged more than $500 a ticket. Fortunately, I had a week to forget how much I paid for the tickets and just reviewed some of the E Street’s music and recollected how awesome, inspiring, overwhelming a Springsteen concert is.
Last week’s concert matched my memories of the 10 previous concerts. T Mobile Center was rocking with 19,000 fans of all ages, but mostly people who probably used their Social Security check to purchase a ticket. The rolling energy of a Springsteen concert is an experience. Pumped up by a band of 20 musicians and singers, and plenty of amplifiers that hit 100 decibels much of the night, the music reverberates in your chest.
The setlist was a good balance of old and new. Springsteen’s concerts are like a stimulating seminar, listening to his songs at home, or with headphones waiting for a bus, are like reading the class assignment alone beforehand. Knowing I was going to hear him, I re-read Louis Mazur’s “Runaway Dream: Born to Run and Bruce Springsteen’s American Vision.”
Listening to the Kansas City concert, I realized how Springsteen’s recordings follow a life cycle of a young rebel to a senior citizen. Springsteen’s work is now less political, more reflective of a man who is “The Last Man Standing,” the last survivor of his first teenage band. He appreciates the meaning other’s have created for him in “I’ll See You in My Dreams.” That’s nice; that’s how it should be.
So, did I pay too much? Oh, it was a great concert. Compared to the current average ticket price for “Hamilton” and knowing that a Taylor Swift concert ticket is about $225, my first instinct not to pay more than $250 was on target.
Was $570 a ticket a wise investment? No. It was about half a typical mortgage payment for one-night’s entertainment. I figure the $435 base ticket price was near the average ticket price for that concert, the $135 service change seems exploitive. When I think about it, twice the price of a Broadway play doesn’t seem unreasonable for a Springsteen concert — a limited experience of a musical genius who won’t always be with us. If I have the chance, I will attend another Springsteen concert, but I hope I don’t use the secondary market with a steep service charge.
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David Webber joined the MU Political Science Department in 1986 and wrote his first column for the Missourian in 1994.