Just A Week
You Can Go Now
By Australian Couple
On my recent visit to Bangkok, my Taiwanese/American girlfriend and I had the good fortune to get invited, gratis, to the opening night of "The Eagles" concert on October 15. We had just arrived in Bangkok the previous night, and while I was calling around arranging some business meetings, one of the concert promoters asked if we'd like to attend. This was at about 6 PM, with the concert starting at 8. And having never been to the "Impact Arena" before, or even knowing where it might be located, we were concerned about even arriving in time. After jumping into our best "smart casual" outfits, we asked the concierge at the hotel if we could get to the Impact Arena on the Skyrail. After a laugh, he said "no, long taxi ride" and summoned a cab for the ride to wherever.
Traffic wasn't as bad as I would have expected on a Friday night, and we could see the Arena from the freeway. While there was a long queue of traffic going into the parking area, the organization for taxi drop off and pickup looked well thought out, and we were dropped in front of the arena.
In the lobby area, we were greeted with numerous stalls advertising various products, most at an ear-splitting volume. We located the ticket office and found the comp passes waiting for us. In the most expensive section, 'natch. I found out later that the top ticket price was over 9000 baht, so apparently a very expensive night for the Thais.
The section where we were seated was clearly an area where the promoters, BECTero, had put all their comps. While not on the main floor (and not where you would ever put comps), we were in a terrific position, especially considering that an American touring sound company was running the show. Virtually everyone around us was Thai, and while many were of the same generation as us (where the Eagles were well-known their first time around), most looked grossly out-of-place at an American rock concert, which was clearly their first. Overdressed middle-aged women and uncomfortably dressed men were packed in this section.
The first hint that things wouldn't be "as normal" however was when the ever-present background music was turned off, and what I assume to be the Thai national anthem was played over the sound system, as the audience all stood. This task completed, everyone sat down and the background music resumed. However 8PM went by, then 8:15, and no moves for the band to come on stage. This seemed odd to me, but shortly thereafter the reason became clear. A large entourage entered the arena to a smattering of applause which grew louder as the audience recognized the contents of the entourage. It was, I am told, Thaksin and wife, and assorted children/hangers on/security. All went backstage to meet the band, and all filed back into the hall to take their seats some 10 rows back on the main floor. As soon as they hit their seats, lights went down and the show began.
Mercifully, it wasn't very loud. As my job is in a related field, I abuse my hearing more than enough on my own. The show was a first rate American rock and roll "hall of fame" show, just not at the usual ear-splitting volume. I don't know if this is the norm for The Eagles now or not, but we were very grateful.
The audience however was just as amusing as the show on stage. There were a certain amount of what were probably expat Americans and other westerners who clearly knew "how to groove" to the music. Many were on the main floor near the stage, and their antics were very visible to the audience. Many of the Thais near me spent a lot of time pointing at, and discussing the antics of these audience members and seemed more interested in them at times than at the show.
The Eagles were never able to get the audience to really "rock and roll", even as guitarist Joe Walsh was unleashed during the second set. This was clearly a downside of the Thai experience. On the flip side, most of the audience wasn't singing the lyrics along with the band, something I find especially annoying at concerts. As audience members further back on the main floor would try to run up to the stage during a "favorite" song, they were greeted by plainclothes military police protecting the government guests in the 10th row. In some cases these police would violently grab young women and hurl them back – and I clearly could see machine guns displayed at least twice. As this concert occurred just a few days after some major Muslim incident in the south, perhaps this wasn't normal procedure. On the other hand, I wouldn't expect that the Thais would have a "normal procedure" for protecting dignitaries at a rock concert.
At then "end" of the show, the band did the obligatory shout of "Goodnight Bangkok", and departed from the stage. At that point, virtually everyone in my section began a dash for the exits! I realized that the concert wasn't over – and anyone with a modicum of knowledge about The Eagles would know that the concert wouldn't be finished without a rendition of "Hotel California". This was where I decided to 'draw the line' about the Thai ignorance, and I stepped into the aisle and blocked everyone in my section from leaving. One really aggravated 50 year old Thai man kept shouting at me, "concert over, concert over". And I kept saying "not yet, after Hotel California"! He didn't seem to understand, but finally the band came back out and played – Hotel California.
A second and final encore "Desperado" was played. By then, the 150 or so people in our section were waiting for us to tell them it was OK to leave. We turned and started out, and the Thai man who was yelling at me before stopped me and said "Hotel California" with two thumbs up.
It was one of the oddest entertainment experiences we have ever had, however The Eagles were terrific.
It must have been hilarious when you blocked the exit!