By JAMES HART and JOHN SHULTZ - The Kansas City Star
Date: 11/27/01 22:15
Minutes before the Kemper Arena doors were flung wide for thousands of U2 fans Tuesday evening, most of the scalpers in the whipping winds outside still hadn't found what they were looking for. For the Irish band's die-hard supporters, the quest was far too easy.
The scalpers and the hard-core vigil-keeping fans at the front of the general admission line had one thing in common: They were both fairly dumbstruck by the hundreds of stragglers still able to snag tickets only an hour before the show.
It put a crimp in the scalpers' business and left a handful of U2 disciples wondering why they had slept outside in the previous night's 20-degree chill. It also suggested an answer to why the band, one of the world's biggest concert draws, had not hit Cowtown since a 1997 stop at Arrowhead Stadium:
Kansas City just doesn't flock to U2.
Although about 14,500 showed up, that was at least 1,000 short of a sell-out. At the front of the line, fans who have traversed the country following the band spoke of three-day camp-outs and heavy competition for prime standing room at other venues.
Mike Wood came from Tahlequah, Okla., to get a good spot in the general admission area, and he came early.
Wood showed at 5 p.m. Monday, buffalo skin blanket in hand, and met up with Wisconsin native Jim Desgarennes. Aside from that, it was largely lonely at the front until business picked up around 6 a.m. Tuesday.
"I was expecting a much bigger turnout early," Wood said. "We were out here all night, but it was worth it."
Below the Gate 1 entrance, a platoon of increasingly irate scalpers hustled to catch each passing body, just to be sure.
"Oh my God, how many do you need?" one excited scalper shot back to a casual query about his pricing.
The going rate was face value -- $45 for general admission. Aside from a few people seeking trade-ups to better seats, business was slow.
The low turnout did not disenchant scores of fans.
"It's great," Dan Smith of Des Moines, Iowa, said of smallish Kemper Arena. "It's like getting to see one of the largest bands in a clublike setting."
But many, in a fit of hindsight, wished they had brought their jackets.
Sharyn Harley, in long-sleeve T-shirt and jeans, huddled with similarly underdressed fans.
"We just thought, `OK, it's crunch time,"' said Harley, who traveled from Newton, Kan., to arrive at 1 p.m. "We traveled light."
The weather was freezing -- as in the scientific sense, at 32 degrees. Factor in the 12 mph wind, and it felt like 20 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
The underdress was the one thing U2 fans had in common with the Linkin Park fans crammed in front of nearby Hale Arena -- a crowd that was younger and smaller and that had kept shorter vigils.
Why no coats?
"Because we're stupid," answered a shivering Madison Garcia as she huddled with friends in a hundreds-deep crush waiting to get into the concert by the rap-metal band.
Two shows at nearly adjacent settings is uncommon, but the arenas' manager, Deb Churchill, said juggling two events is something that had been done before without serious trouble.
"We have more than ample spaces down here," Churchill said earlier in the evening. The managers, however, did contact police for help directing traffic, and had urged the audiences to arrive early.
Parking, for the most part, went smoothly, with a dozen lots, quick lines and $10 parking spots. Some traffic tie-ups were reported around Interstate 670, and traffic was rerouted around the West Bottoms.
The only traffic some fans at Kemper Arena cared about was of the foot variety -- specifically of passing band members.
The die-hards lined up behind barricades, aiming for a glimpse of U2. Singer Bono and guitarist The Edge passed through earlier in the afternoon, and people such as Nicole Chaikin of Leavenworth were praying for a second look. She had been there since 3 p.m.
Chaikin -- two sweaters, no coat, also shaking -- wanted them to autograph the liner notes from their latest disc, but settled for standing within 10 feet of them. "I got a glimpse of them," she said.
Her next goal? Bon Jovi. "I've just got to see Jon (Bon Jovi) and Richie (Sambora), and my life is complete."