For some, tickets to Neil Diamond's not-really-even-close-to-being-sold-out New Year's Eve performance at the Pepsi Center may seem like a viable gift option for the music lover who has everything -- or a really expensive, ironic gift for the malcontents among us. (A simple Charlie's Angels lunch-box might do the trick.) But for most who toil in the world of local music, the cost of admission is likely to prove slightly too formidable to justify an evening with Diamond Neil. Listen closely: Amid the umpteenth broadcast of the "Little Drummer Boy" and the naughty giggles of kids who've peeked at their Christmas presents, you can hear the sound of a chorus of automated bank tellers telling customers about their newest overdraft charges. And think about it: Do you really want to be surrounded by a mob of 18,000 (if promoters are lucky) people who think an evening with Diamond Neil is the most appealing way to usher in a new year, or the end times, whatever the case may be? If it were me holding the reins for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Diamond gig might be a good place to start rounding up the damned. Only after a stop at Barbra Streisand's Vegas gig, that is.
Below are suggestions for how you might avoid the Neil urge and spend all of that holiday cash in smarter, less disco ways. Merry Commerce!
These seats were selling for $100 before promoters realized the date was approaching faster than ticket orders. They're in the third balcony, highest from the ground and farthest from the stage (also known as nosebleeds). You're likely not to be able to tell Neil from a Furby at that distance. For this money, might we also suggest: 26.2 bottles of Stetson cologne (for the real man in your life), or one prime ticket to Emmylou Harris's performance at the Boulder Theater on the same night. (See "And the Emmy Goes to...," page 83, for more incentive.) For just $5 more, you and your closest monster-loving pal can ring in the new year covered in simulated Gwar-puke: The band can be counted on to rant, rave, salivate and spew unidentifiable goo into the wee hours at the Ogden Theatre, where tickets are $35 each. And that's something to raise that champagne glass to. Just keep it covered and away from the stage.
These tickets are in the second balcony and the lower regions of the third balcony. You might be able to make out Neil's hips swaying to "Sweet Caroline," but it sure won't be you he's looking at when he tears up. This is still clearly binocular country. For this money, might we also suggest: 300 peanut-butter Santas (99 cents each, in packs of three, from the good people at Walgreens) or thirty waterball photo frames, nifty little snow globes into which you can insert photos of loved ones, pets, or even Neil himself. A steal at three for $10. You can also catch a buffet and a set from local Irish all-stars the Young Dubliners for $100 at Evergreen's Little Bear, or pick up two tickets to the Fillmore's New Year's Bash with Leftover Salmon with Sam Bush, John Cowan, Peter Rowan and the Tony Furtado Band. Drop into the Golden Nugget Country Disco next door for a little post-concert entertainment, where you're likely to see someone singing Elvis songs karaoke-style on the dance floor, and $100 should cover a round for everyone inside: Nothing says 'Happy Holidays' like a cold round of draft beer. You and four friends could also afford to swing on by the Mercury Cafe, where $19.99 will gain you admission to the dance hall and a performance from Red Hot Mama Cathy Burns & the Allnight Band.
In this price range, tickets are slowly getting closer to the stage. But a balcony is a balcony, folks, even if it is the first of three. For this money, might we also suggest: 9.92 pairs of Dearfoam ladies' fleece slippers from Mervyn's, in a wide assortment of colors and patterns, or 10.4 colorful Christmas tins of assorted fine confections from Whitman's candy company. You can also pick up a pair of tickets to go see Sonia Dada and Nicholas Tremulis on New Year's Eve at the Fox Theatre in Boulder. Since tickets are $52.50 each, you'll have some cash left over for breakfast the next morning. Which is more than we can say for the balcony-dwellers in Diamondland!
Tickets in this range are scarce, but if you happen to come across one, it'll land you somewhere in the first rows ascending from the ground floor, where, say, Caesar might have sat after he threw the Christians to the lions. Neil will be clearer in this range -- almost as big as a Ken doll. Your fellow fans will also be more fervent in this vicinity: You might even find yourself squinting from all of the light refracting off the rhinestone jewelry adorning those seated near you. For this money, might we also suggest: 45 copies of the Cat Fancy 2000 wall calendar, or twenty copies of Making a Living in Your Local Music Market, the second edition of the smart and business-savvy tome from University of Colorado Denver music scholar Dick Weissman, published by the Hal Leonard Publishing Company. The 304-page book, a veritable manual on making the most of your musical environs, is available in local book stores for $14.95, or online through Amazon.com for $12.71.
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Should you pluck down cash for these tix, you will no doubt experience a joy known previously only to those who step on the NYSE trading floor for the first time. Five hundred dollars, American, will allow you to sit in the back rows of the floor in front of the stage bearing Mr. Neil Diamond's personage. For this money, might we also suggest: six 900MHZ cordless phones made to look and sound like Harley-Davidson tanks, only $79.99 each at Radio Shack. For this much cash, you can also impress the bouncer at the 15th St. Tavern (not an easy guy to impress, mind you) by paying the way for 62 punk-rock fans to experience the joy, the bliss, that will be the Boss 302 New Year's Eve reunion show -- admission is only $8 at the door, and you can bet the band will rock much harder than the Diamond Dogs at the soda center. You could also opt to pay for 31 entrants to the Tavern and buy the beer the rest of the night. The Down-N-Outs open the show. Should you prefer to greet the apocalypse while swinging to something a bit less bangy and a little more twangy, you and fifteen amigos could shuffle on down to the Gothic Theatre for the New Year's Bash with Slim Cessna's Auto Club and the Kalamath Brothers. Tickets for that hootenanny are a scant $31.25.
Finally, tickets in this range will allow you to gaze directly into Neil's saggy face all night long. No, you don't get a helicopter ride to the venue, but you do get valet parking and an invitation to pre- and post- Neil parties. A giant among bargains. For this money, might we also heartily suggest: A 32-inch big-screen Sony TV from Sears for $799.99. Or a Kenmore refrigerator, good for things like keeping yourself fed, also from Sears for $999.99. Tickets to Europe. A semester of college. Six months' worth of groceries. A new car stereo. The entire Beatles collection (including rare bootleg and studio cuts, videos and possibly even a Lennon lithograph). You could take a limo to every event listed above. For the price of one ticket, you could also record an eight-song CD at a variety of local recording studios (Alley Studios, Morningstar Recordings and Mountainworks Studio, to name a few; average studio rate per hour is $40, and most producers recommend that a minimum of three hours be devoted to recording each track). For the price of two tickets, you could have 1,000 copies of that same recording pressed and shrink-wrapped in a colorful package by a local company like V-U Recordings (contact Eric Eaton at 1-888-637-4336) and have it out to your friends and the music-buying world in about three weeks. And, perhaps the biggest reason to think twice before laying down the Visa number for ol' boy Neil: At $12.95 a pop, $1,000 would buy Chia Heads for you and 76 of your closest friends. And that's a Happy New Year!