Hard News by Russell Brown

The Tyranny of the Motor Camp

The two-hour Rolling Stones live show has turned into the home straight. First to 'Paint It Black' and then '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction', the masses on the slopes of Western Springs Stadium get to their feet and sway and clap and sing along.

Except, that is, for the people behind us, with their picnic blankets and whatever, who spend the entire time - all of 'Satisfaction' - reclining at virtually full length, throwing twigs at our backs and making whiny, pointed comments because we, like the people in front of us, have had the temerity to block their precious view by standing up at a rock 'n' roll show.

What kind of ninny behaves like that?

Things are, it must be said, pretty tight. On a balmy Easter Sunday, Auckland has turned on the mother of all walk-ups, and the general admission zone, reckoned in all the newspapers to be far from full, is verging on oversold.

We'd slogged up the hill from the main gate, worked our way around and just had to come down the hill in search of space. Unfortunately, all available space had been claimed by the angry middle classes, and even if they weren't currently using it, they certainly were not going to let anyone else have it. The spirit of rock 'n' roll had given way to the tyranny of the motor camp: We've been here for a long time, you know.

"I don't know where you think you're going to go when my husband sits down," declared one matron. "Perhaps you think you're going to sit on his knees."

Oh, irony. Right. I'm sorry people, but please take your mortgage-belt baby-boomer sense of entitlement and fuck off to the video store before scuttling home for a quiet night in. Yes, the small personal suburb you mentally set about yourself some time ago has been invaded. You've glared and refused to move as others moved down the hill, and glared all over again as the odd fool picked his way apologetically up the hill on an odyssey to the toilets. And now - the horror- people who haven't even been here as long as you are blocking your view by dancing.

Unlike the miserable support act Nickelback (who prompted the normally mild-mannered Russell Baillie to fume about "one bullshit power ballad after another") the Stones themselves were great. I had to dispel Jamie Oliver from my mind every time Mick gave it some chat, but Keith just peeled off those licks the way only he can, and for all the pyrotechnic hoopla, it was really just very good, simple rock 'n' roll.

In the end, the setting wasn't ever going to permit the Stones show to be a sublime experience. The reserved seating down the front was good for those who could afford it, and great for the promoter's bottom line, but it was really the major part of the problem.

The natural flow of a big concert is for the enthused and energetic to pour forward and boogie, while the rest of the crowd naturally finds its range. At the Stones, there were perhaps 8000 people kicking around in acres of space at ground level and 47,000 pushed back up the slopes. There would have been a second encore in it, but there just wasn't the atmosphere to bring it on.

The promoter insisted that there had been bigger crowds at the Springs, citing the Bee Gees' 75,000 in 1999 (actually, that was reported as 62,000 at the time), and I was at the Bowie gig where 80,000 people attended in the 80s - but that was before reserved seating. Trust me, I've done a bit of rock 'n' roll, and with the configuration in use on Sunday night, the Springs was basically oversold. At $100 a ticket, it simply wasn't good enough.

Anyway, nice to be back on deck and blogging: Easter deadlines and sheer exhaustion took me out of the game last week. I'll get back on the telecommunications tip tomorrow, but for now, Tim Selwyn (probably) stays the right side of suppression orders with The John Dewar File. No Right Turn rounds up the issues around the recent torture revelations here and here.

RobO at NZBC addresses Deborah Hill Cone's blogging story in the SST magazine.

Offshore, there have been a couple of amusing things written lately about the bedwetter bloggers of the right. Blogoland catches conservative radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt indulging in some particularly ludicrous chickenhawk self-dramatisation: interviewing a Time correspondent in Iraq from his personal "frontline" (that is, an office in the Empire State Building, New York).

And Firedoglake nails the pajamahadeen in the furious, hilarious Late Nite FDL: Fear and Loathing in the Nuttersphere. It's really worth reading. And face it, he reads Little Green Footballs so you don't have to.

Finally, a dramatic week on the Public Address Virtual Super 14 Leader Board saw Nick Jones stumble with a mere 33-point haul and Ross Hawkins and The Hood draw within range of the lead. Are we headed for a cracking finish?

PS: I have three freebies for HDU's show at The Studio in Auckland on Saturday night. If you want to go, drop me a line and I'll get your name on the door. We like to help. I, unfortunately, won't be there, because my honey's going Europe for the week …