The boyfriend had gotten exclusive early access to seats for last night’s Barbra concert through his AMEX, and the Ticketmaster operator told him our seats were in the “front row”—and given the price he paid for the damn things, he could have reasonably expected they might actually be in Barbra’s lap. Being a Disciple Of Barbra, he was positively giddy with excitement over the promise of at-her-feet proximity. But when we got in the United Center last night and the usher pointed us toward the end of the arena farthest from the stage, we quickly discovered we were merely in the front row of the built-in ring of seats along the arena floor—but thousands of people away from the actual stage. I could almost hear his hopes fall. And it broke my heart. Fuck you, Ticketmaster.
But the concert was fabulous and her voice sounded great and the orchestra was big and impressive and wonderful and Il Divo, who sang with her and on their own, was spectacular. Except for their español version of “Unbreak My Heart,” which has to be one of the most godawful pop songs ever written. Barbra’s costumes were a little iffy—she managed to channel both Liza with a Z and Cleopatra before the evening was over—and the roses all over her stage looked like they had been arranged by a frat boy. But otherwise, I have to say my first diva concert ever—unless you count not-quite-famous Whitney Houston circa 1987 in Iowa City—was thoroughly delightful.
My favorite moments were her powerful “Somewhere” from The Broadway Album and “Music of the Night” (which I’ve always secretly liked even though it’s by Andrew Lloyd Webber) from Back to Broadway—both backed up in wall-of-sound glory by Il Divo—and her more poignant “Children Will Listen” and “Smile (though your Heart is Aching),” which was her final encore.
And even though we sat in front of an ear-splitting whistler, our seats gave us a clear view of the stage—and of a guy a few seats down who jumped up and down like a schoolgirl with a spider in her panties when Barbra launched into what was obviously his favorite song in the entire known universe. And the boyfriend is going to divorce me when he reads this because even though I quizzed him on the name of the song this morning as we walked to the train, I’ve already forgotten what it’s called. It’s something about a rock. Or maybe Iraq.
Our transportation to and from the concert was equally memorable. We took a bus there, and as soon as we sat down, two warm, cuddly grandma-types sitting across from us saw our tickets and asked us where we were sitting in the concert. They swooned repeatedly and loudly when we told them we were in the front row. (Remember: Ticketmaster LIES, and at that point we still thought we were on our way to enjoy the concert in the actual front row.) Then they kept talking to us. One was a retired teacher from Arkansas. The other was one of her former students from Missouri. At one point our conversation turned to the other events that go on in the United Center, and the boyfriend and I found ourselves discussing sports on a bus with people from two different red states. Then they started swooning over how Barbra had stayed at Rosie’s house and how Rosie had reported she’d slept on Kelly’s side of the bed, so we figured our grandma-types weren’t red-state homo-haters after all. Then they swooned over Hillary and Bill and I started wondering if maybe they were red-state lesbians—which could be a pretty cool ornithological term, when you think about it—but then one mentioned her son and once again my gaydar had completely failed me.
After the concert, as we looked for the end of the mega-huge line to get on a bus back to the Loop, we ran into two women I’d done theater with in Iowa for the decade I lived there after college. So we rode in with them and met up with some other Iowa friends who’d come to Chicago with them but didn’t see the concert, and the boyfriend and I took them to the only 24-hour diner we know of in downtown Chicago, where we gorged ourselves on midnight goodness and high-fived over the sweeping defeat of the Republican House.
Note to Bush, Rove, Santorum, et al.: Now you know what a real moral referendum from voters feels like. And at this writing it looks like the Democrats are going to take the Senate as well, albeit by the slimmest of majorities—what you people have historically interpreted as a sweeping statement from the populace, even when you've reached your tipping point via the Supreme Court. But I’m hoping your long, dark, corrupt, self-serving, hateful reign is over. And when you go to sell tickets to your next blame-the-gays fundraiser, I’m hoping you use Ticketmaster.