TAMPA — "One minute!"
The call from behind the ticket counter had Richard Perry nervous. He'd been at Amalie Arena for 17 hours, haven taken a ferry from St. Petersburg in hopes of snagging a single Paul McCartney ticket. At 59, he'd never seen McCartney. He might not get a better chance.
9:59 a.m. Five ticket windows were open. Perry fidgeted.
"I don't even want to tell those people back there," he said, patting his chest and gesturing to the line of 100 behind him. "I'm No. 1, and I'm panting."
In an age ruled by apps and bots and exclusive pre-sales, you might think the days of queuing up outside an arena to score a hot concert ticket are long gone.
Then again, not everyone is Paul McCartney.
From the moment it was announced, the Beatle's July 10 concert in Tampa — his first local show in 12 years — was going to be one of the year's most coveted tickets. And as anyone who's bought seats to a hot show can tell you, that means a stressed-out morning frantically working your phone or Ticketmaster.com, watching tickets seemingly appear and disappear before your eyes.
Amalie has seen fans turn up outside for Pearl Jam, Drake and Tom Petty, but physical lines are rare.
"Very few people come down to the box office anymore, just because there's so many different ways you can buy a ticket," said Kevin Preast, Amalie's senior vice president for event management, who was happy with Monday's in-person showing. "That was exciting. That made me feel a little more energized."
In 1990, McCartney's first local concert at the old Tampa Stadium sold its initial allotment of 60,000 tickets within hours. Preast was hoping this show would sell out a little faster, but remained encouraged that it was headed that way Monday afternoon. That will allow him to inquire about adding a second show on July 9, as McCartney did in Orlando in 2013.
"Hopefully, that'll be a conversation," he said, "not just a question."
By midday, only single seats remained at a hefty price of $280 apiece at the box office. That's a far cry from the cheapest seats at $40, a price point that very early Monday morning started to sound like a Black Friday doorbuster. The first fans in line said they were told Amalie would have only about 20 of those on sale. The most common price — the floor and most of the lower bowl and second level — was $280.
"Two-hundred eighty times two? I could go to Vegas for that kind of money," said Jan Ritola, 59, of Seminole, who ultimately passed. "I'm sad, because he's one of the few I've not seen."
Charlie Colletti, 65, drove from Land O'Lakes with instructions to buy six tickets, spending no more than $70 on each. No luck.
"Where'd they go? The line's not that big," he said. "Two-eighty was the cheapest seats I could buy? Nah."
June Armijo, 58, wanted a single ticket, but $280 was too rich. She settled for a ticket to John Mayer.
"He'll be classic in another 40 years."
Those working Ticketmaster from afar faced similar sticker shock.
Scott Davey of Land O'Lakes used his phone and computer to get standard tickets, and kept seeing pairs for about $500. Four times, he found pairs in his price range, but by the time he clicked purchase, he got a message saying another fan had snapped them up.
"I won't be going," he said. "Will have to comfort myself with seeing Tom Petty and U2 instead."
Many fans at Amalie winced and wavered, but most ultimately bit. When presented with $280 tickets in the 200 level, Jimmy Gres of Tampa, who turned 65 over the weekend, was stunned. But he felt he had to pull the trigger.
"I brought a thousand bucks with me, and I'm coming home with less than half," he said. "If it wasn't a 65th birthday thing … "
Is all of this worth it? Depends. Douglas Cook, 50, got to Amalie from St. Petersburg at 4:15 a.m. He has seen McCartney a dozen times and has camped out for tickets. In 1990, he was second in line for a show in Worcester, Mass., and got a seat in the front row for $28.50, close enough to get McCartney's autograph.
"I was right underneath the piano," said Cook, who was second in line here, too. "When he sang Hey Jude at the end, it was like he was singing at us. It was an incredible feeling."
Cook and his mother left Monday with 11 tickets — two from a pre-sale, three near the stage, and six cheap seats. Face value out the door: $1,700.
And Richard Perry, the guy who arrived Sunday evening?
At 10 a.m. sharp, ticket seller Sean Hoagland spun a tablet Perry's way. Floor 3, Row 6 — six rows back on the floor. $280 each.
It's a choice location, even for a single. An hour later, seats nearby were on Ticketmaster's resale site for $1,600 apiece. Perry, who works in construction, didn't hesitate, even though, as he said, "I ain't telling nobody what I paid for this." The transaction was over in one minute.
He paid cash.
Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.