Ticket blunder leaves crowd in cold

Lines for Keith Urban warm up once inside

Crowds wait in the cold outside Huntington Center before Keith Urban’s concert because of a problem with credit-card readers.
Crowds wait in the cold outside Huntington Center before Keith Urban’s concert because of a problem with credit-card readers.

Blame it on paperless ticketing, a strategy designed to fend off scalpers that backfired Sunday night and left thousands of people shivering outside the Huntington Center in the frigid night air waiting an hour or more to get inside to see Keith Urban.

The Wi-Fi system used to scan concertgoers’ credit cards went down just 10 minutes before doors were supposed to open at 6 p.m. and it wasn’t back online until about 45 minutes later.

The result was long lines snaking from the Huntington Center on Huron Street and Jefferson Avenue all the way down to Madison Avenue.

People were crowded shoulder-to-shoulder at the main entrance and were packed into the will-call ticket office waiting to get inside.

And they weren’t happy.

“People shouldn’t have to go through this,” said a Toledo man who asked that his name not be in The Blade.

He had a torn Achilles tendon, but had to go to the concert because the tickets he bought for his wife were on his credit card.

“I love the Huntington Center, but I’m not going to go through this every time.”

Steve Miller, the downtown arena’s general manager, said he understood the frustration, but the problem was with the vendor who provides the scanner used to identify tickets purchased on credit cards. With the paperless system, a person buys his or her tickets on a credit card and then uses the credit card as a “ticket” to get inside.

It is designed to prevent scalpers from buying multiple tickets and reselling them for a profit, and Mr. Miller said Urban’s management requested that all 5,500 tickets for the lower-bowl area and floor be sold that way.

“We’re very sorry for what transpired. We did the best we could to get the system up and running as soon as possible,” he said, adding that it was tested at 4:30 p.m. and worked fine.

The next step is making sure it doesn’t happen again.

“We’re going to sit down and find out what went wrong so we can prevent this in the future,” Mr. Miller said.

By the time opening act Little Big Town hit the stage at 8 p.m., the 7,351 people at the show seemed to have warmed up and gotten over being angry about the delay.

The four-piece band’s 50-minute set was tight and crisp, featuring a dramatic version of “Your Side of the Bed,” that segued into a pummeling version of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” which showed that the band’s roots are more than just country.

Urban sidled onto the stage unannounced a little after 9, dressed all in black, and scooped up a banjo and launched into an instrumental jam.

His music in a live setting is far more pop-rock than country and his stage presence skews more toward Jon Bon Jovi than George Jones.

He also is a phenomenal guitar player and entertainer who can take an arena and turn it into an intimate party setting by virtue of his charisma and stage craft, without ever sacrificing the music to gimmicks.

Contact Rod Lockwood at: rlockwood@theblade.com or 419-724-6159.