It should have been as quiet as a temple, pin-drop conditions for a Hall of Famer to pluck out a somber acoustic song for an intimate crowd of just under 2,200. John Mellencamp was a big star on a small stage, and a sold-out Friday crowd at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater had paid ample bucks — my ticket was $130, about 12 rows up — for the intimate opportunity.
But as soon as the 59-year-old Hoosier, suddenly alone on stage with nothing but a guitar and his Fonzie haircut, started singing the incandescent Save Some Time to Dream, a wide assortment of morons, dopes and related loudmouths in the crowd started hooting and hollering as if a wet T-shirt contest had just broken out. "Yeow!" "Johnny!" "Blaaarrghhh!" And so on.
I don't get it. At all.
Surprisingly, Mellencamp, whose nickname is Little Bastard for a cantankerous reason, didn't unload on the shocking rudeness. He simply said, "If you're waiting for a song, just be patient. It'll probably come up."
And he was right, mixing captivating new stuff with the MTV classics, shifting from acoustic to a cappella to full-throttle rock. And yet, that still didn't quell a rambunctious crowd. Every time he went quiet, select buffoons in the audience started mooing.
And it wasn't just vocal rudeness. In front of me, merlot was dumped on a woman's head. A fed-up fan lashed out at two men teheeing: "If you want to talk, the (bleeping) lobby is out there!" A constant procession of beer runs and subsequent restroom relief had people standing up, sitting down, standing up.
Good lord, my Skittles-addled preteen daughters were less restless during a recent trip to the cineplex than the well-heeled nabobs at Mellencamp.
I'm all for people going to concerts and having a grand old time. And I'm certainly not a teetotaler; if I hadn't been on the clock, I would have knocked back a few myself. But if you spend major moolah on a rare chance to see a beloved rock icon in a sparkling venue, why would you want to ruin it with constant chatter, loser shoutouts and endless urinal salutes?
Here's a little tip: I love that Ruth Eckerd Hall allows adult beverages in the concert hall for pop and rock shows. (The Mahaffey in downtown St. Petersburg and the Straz Center in Tampa have the same policy.) But if you're sitting in the middle of a row, you'd best bring Depends. The rows at Ruth Eckerd are long and tight, and if you're anywhere near the middle of the hall, you have a sublime view of the stage but a looong walk to get another brew. No one minds if you take the Excuse Me Stroll once, twice.
When Mellencamp played full-band versions of The Authority Song and Check It Out, I was happy to see people rocketing out of their seats. Some people hate the standers, but I don't. I'd never yell at someone dancing and soaking in the show.
But when you start deliberately ruining the concert for other people — not to mention hinder the artist from doing his or her job — that's another thing. You're not being cool, you're not being remotely funny. You're being a first-class chowderhead. And the rest of us think you should just stay home.
Sean Daly can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at tampabay.com/blogs/poplife.